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To understand the partisanship and bitterness of American politics today, you have to consider what happened in 1994. Steve Kornacki, National Political Correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, steps back from the Big Board to tell the origin story of the 1994 Republican “revolution,” the midterm election when the GOP took the House majority for the first time in four decades. It was set in motion by Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, who — over the course of 15 years — pushed Republicans in a direction of confrontation and conservatism. Steve talks with Newt’s allies and adversaries about backroom strategy sessions and dramatic battles on the House floor. As yet another midterm threatens to upend the political landscape, Kornacki hears echoes of 1994 everywhere. Follow now and join Steve Kornacki through all six episodes, out October 31st
Newt Gingrich’s political rise was anything but certain — a northerner in a Southern state, a historian prone to grandiose commentary. It takes him three tries to win a seat in the House of Representatives. But even as a freshman in 1979, his aim was clear: Defeat the Permanent Democratic Majority. Steve traces Newt’s origins and shows how the freshman congressman launches his first battle, with an attack on what Gingrich sees as corruption in Congress.
Episode 2: The Newt Show

Episode 2: The Newt Show

2022-10-3150:238

In the early 1980s, Newt Gingrich starts recruiting Republican congressmen to his cause. They form the Conservative Opportunity Society and take advantage of a new cable channel, C-Span, which lets them circumvent the traditional media to spread their message to voters. And they confront Democrats with a fervor that old-school Republicans find distasteful. But when — in 1984 and 1985 — Newt and his followers inspire two angry showdowns in the House, their more staid colleagues start to see value in this new, confrontational style.
Newt Gingrich begins to climb the political ladder. He takes charge of GOPAC, a group that makes cassette tapes to train Republican candidates. He wants to nationalize elections, to teach Republicans nationwide to campaign with the same conservative message. And the GOP has a new ally to amplify their message, radio host Rush Limbaugh. When, in 1987, Gingrich starts to go after the Democrats’ leader in the House, Jim Wright, it’s with the blessing of the old guard of his party. They even reward him with the Number Two spot in GOP leadership. Gingrich doesn’t stop there. In 1990, his next target is the Republican president, George H.W. Bush.
Episode 4: False Spring

Episode 4: False Spring

2022-10-3141:275

We enter the era of President Bill Clinton. In the 1992 election, Democrats win the White House for the first time since the 1970s and enjoy solid majorities in the House and Senate. They seem poised to deliver on an ambitious agenda. But scandals start erupting on a regular basis. By June, Time magazine publishes a cover naming Bill Clinton “The Incredible Shrinking President.” And by August, Republicans are crowing about a bruising battle over Clinton’s budget. Republicans will now tell voters that Democrats are the party that supports the largest tax increase in history. This is the contrast Gingrich has spent his whole career trying to create — and it will catapult him towards the role of House Speaker.
We’ve made it to 1994. In September, House Republicans gather on the steps of the Capitol and sign the Contract with America. It’s a carefully-worded list of bills they promise to bring to a vote as soon as they win the majority. Election night arrives, and the Republican sweep is decisive. Democrats are completely thrown by the size of the loss — and start searching for answers. And in January 1995, Newt Gingrich’s biggest moment finally arrives: The Democrats hand over the gavel, and he becomes Speaker of the House.
Episode 6: Aftershock

Episode 6: Aftershock

2022-10-3151:237

Newt Gingrich’s glory lasts for about six weeks. Once he’s the center of attention, the majority of Americans don’t like what they see. He makes missteps as House Speaker, and by 1999, he has resigned and left Congress. But today, his legacy has far outlasted his time in the House — and he’s still making waves. How should we understand his impact on politics today? As the U.S. deals with partisanship, gridlock, and anti-Democratic forces in the Republican Party — how much credit or blame does Gingrich deserve? Steve talks with three longtime political observers: John Podhoretz, Eleanor Clift and Susan Page.
After releasing the first six episodes of The Revolution we heard from our main character: Newt Gingrich. It turns out he had listened to the show and when he got through the last episode – the one where we convened a panel of journalists who covered him while he was in the House to debate his legacy – Newt decided to weigh in. So Steve Kornacki made the trip to Northern Virginia to get his thoughts on the 1994 Republican Revolution and American politics since.
Comments (7)

C Cornwall

Really enjoyed episodes 1-5. Steve did a great job researching the material and presenting Gingrich as the catalyst for the big change the R's needed to begin their insurgence of Congress. I thought episode 6 spent too much time with the same panel of commentators. Although they had good insight into the time and to Gingrich, I would have preferred a wider range of opinion. Overall, well done.

Nov 3rd
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Staci BAMS

Yellow is the new Red

Oct 31st
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Staci BAMS

What a yellow bellied coward he is.

Oct 31st
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Staci BAMS

rush limbaugh flamed very ugly fires that will reverberate far too long. I post this on the Eve of midterm elections 2022. Hope history does not repeat itself.

Oct 31st
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grodhagen

Everyone, please, please seek out the Bluegrass song "Gingrich the Newt" by the Austin Lounge Lizards and listen. It's a humor classic. They provide a perfect description of the odious amphibian.

Oct 31st
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