chapter  11
42 Pages

Putting the 104th Freshman Class into Perspective

The secondary literature (newspapers, nonacademic journals, and magazines) provides images of the 1994 Republican freshmen consistent with this project’s research findings. This consistency prevails across the New York Times, Congressional Quarterly Weekly Magazine, Business Week, and similar sources where high-quality reporting is the standard. These sources indicate that during the 104th

Congress the GOP freshmen were so driven by a sensed policy mandate that they took considerable risks to advance their policy agenda. They sought to build class coherence on behalf of their perceived mandate, and used Contract “principles” to find guidance for their actions (Hook 1994). Members on the right flank of the 104th GOP freshman class were exceedingly wary of Washington, and generally remain that way as 105th sophomores. During their first term, many of the freshmen were perceived by journalists to be “suicide bombers” and “true believers who behave as if they have nothing to lose.” An influential minority was depicted as “petulant

in their refusal to compromise,” as manifest in their determination to stick by their original failed wish to eliminate several Cabinet departments (Henneberger and Gray 1997; Weisman 1997c). Some members of the 1994 class still insist that the real mistake with the GOP’s 1995 partial government shutdown is that House Republicans did not preserve the shutdown until Clinton capitulated (Doherty and Katz 1998). However, most of the class wishes the shutdown had never occurred, and desires to avoid similar incidents in the future.