As the 1992 presidential elec- tion approached, Americans found themselves in a world transformed in ways almost unimaginable four years earlier . The familiar land- marks of the Cold War—from the


“As we look ahead into the next century,

leaders will be those who empower others.”

Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates, 2007



Berlin Wall to intercontinental mis- siles and bombers on constant high alert—were gone . Eastern Europe was independent, the Soviet Union had dissolved, Germany was unit- ed, Arabs and Israelis were engaged in direct negotiations, and the threat of nuclear conflict was great- ly diminished . It was as though one great history volume had closed and another had opened .

Yet at home, Americans were less sanguine, and they faced some fa- miliar problems . The United States found itself in its deepest recession since the early 1980s . Many of the job losses were occurring among white-collar workers in middle management positions, not solely, as earlier, among blue-collar workers in the manufacturing sector . Even when the economy began recover- ing in 1992, its growth was virtu- ally imperceptible until late in the year . Moreover, the federal deficit continued to mount, propelled most strikingly by rising expenditures for health care .

President George Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle easily won re- nomination by the Republican Party . On the Democratic side, Bill Clin- ton, governor of Arkansas, defeated a crowded field of candidates to win his party’s nomination . As his vice presidential nominee, he selected Senator Al Gore of Tennessee, gen- erally acknowledged as one of the Congress’s strongest advocates of environmental protection .

The country’s deep unease over the direction of the economy also

sparked the emergence of a remark- able independent candidate, wealthy Texas entrepreneur H . Ross Perot . Perot tapped into a deep wellspring of frustration over the inability of Washington to deal effectively with economic issues, principally the fed- eral deficit . He possessed a colorful personality and a gift for the telling one-line political quip . He would be the most successful third-party can- didate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 .

The Bush re-election effort was built around a set of ideas tradi- tionally used by incumbents: expe- rience and trust . George Bush, 68, the last of a line of presidents who had served in World War II, faced a young challenger in Bill Clinton who, at age 46, had never served in the military and had participated in protests against the Vietnam War . In emphasizing his experience as presi- dent and commander-in-chief, Bush drew attention to Clinton’s inexperi- ence at the national level .

Bill Clinton organized his cam- paign around another of the oldest and most powerful themes in elec- toral politics: youth and change . As a high school student, Clinton had once met President Kennedy; 30 years later, much of his rhetoric con- sciously echoed that of Kennedy in the 1960 presidential campaign .

As governor of Arkansas for 12 years, Clinton could point to his ex- perience in wrestling with the very issues of economic growth, educa- tion, and health care that were, ac- cording to public opinion polls,


among President Bush’s chief vul- nerabilities . Where Bush offered an economic program based on lower taxes and cuts in government spend- ing, Clinton proposed higher taxes on the wealthy and increased spend- ing on investments in education, transportation, and communica- tions that, he believed, would boost the nation’s productivity and growth and thereby lower the deficit . Simi- larly, Clinton’s health care proposals called for much heavier involvement by the federal government than Bush’s .

Clinton proved to be a highly effective communicator, not least on television, a medium that high- lighted his charm and intelligence . The incumbent’s very success in handling the end of the Cold War and reversing the Iraqi thrust into Kuwait lent strength to Clinton’s implicit argument that foreign af- fairs had become relatively less im- portant, given pressing social and economic needs at home .

On November 3, Clinton won election as the 42nd president of the United States, with 43 percent of the popular vote against 37 percent for Bush and 19 percent for Perot .


Clinton was in many respects the perfect leader for a party divided be- tween liberal and moderate wings . He ran as a pragmatic centrist who could moderate the demands of various Democratic Party interest groups without alienating them .

Avoiding ideological rhetoric that declared big government to be a positive good, he proposed a num- ber of programs that earned him the label “New Democrat .” Control of the federal bureaucracy and ju- dicial appointments provided one means of satisfying political claims of organized labor and civil rights groups . On the ever-controversial abortion issue, Clinton supported the Roe v. Wade decision, but also declared that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare .”

President Clinton’s closest col- laborator was his wife, Hillary Rod- ham Clinton . In the campaign, he had quipped that those who voted for him “got two for the price of one .” As energetic and as activist as her husband, Ms . Clinton assumed a more prominent role in the admin- istration than any first lady before her, even Eleanor Roosevelt . Her first important assignment would be to develop a national health program . In 2000, with her husband’s adminis- tration coming to a close, she would be elected a U .S . senator from New York .

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *