Fallout From the Clinton Capers

A bleak outlook for the Democrats

The elections of 1998 look to be bad news for the Democrats and worse for the country.
Democratic prospects were never very good this year. Midterm elections historically are unkind to the party in power, especially a party like the Democrats whose low-income supporters are less likely to make it to the polls without the big stakes and bigger hype of a presidential contest. And this year, continuing to be lacerated by questions about their fund raising in 1996, Democrats have been painfully circumspect and much less successful. The Republican advantage in campaign funds, always substantial, has become startling. Even a major victory on the Democratic side has its irony: The unions, still the party’s best donors, defeated a California ballot proposition that would have limited their ability to make political contributions, but in doing so, they spent millions of dollars that otherwise might have found their way into Democratic campaigns. The shortage of money has added to the Democrats’ difficulty in persuading attractive potential candidates to run for office: In Colorado, for example, Representative David Skaggs not only declined to run for the Senate, but decided to retire from the House. Concentrating their resources on the competitive House races that might give them a majority-an outside chance at best-Democratic strategists effectively allowed dozens of Republican incumbents to be returned without...

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About the Author

Wilson Carey McWilliams, contributed regularly to Commonweal. He taught political philosophy at Rutgers until his death in 2005.