Republican strategists have been quick to dismiss
the significance of the
Democratic victories during this November's elections. Republican pollster Whit
Ayres declared that they "tell us almost nothing about the likely election
outcomes a year from now." But the off-year gubernatorial elections in New Jersey
and Virginia--held in the first year of a new president's term--usually tell us a
great deal about where American politics is headed. For four decades, elections
in New Jersey and Virginia have accurately registered changes in the relative
national strength of the two major parties. In 1989, for instance, Democrats
swept the two states, foreshadowing the Democrats' victories in 1992. In 1993
The populist movement lasted barely two decades, disappearing by the turn of the last century. Yet the movement's themes have continued to esonate in American politics. Politicians with sharly divergent agendas-- from Jimmy Carter and dRonald Reagan to Jack Kemp and Tom Harkin-- have evoked the legacy of populism. Bill Clinton called his campaign platform "Putting People First" and accepted the Democratic nomination "in the name of all those who do the work, pay the taxes, raise the kids and play by the rules." Once in office, he has continued to sound populist notes, warning that his economic program would take aim at the "privileged elite."
In the summer of 1998, Jesse Ventura, who was running for governor of Minnesota on the Reform Party ticket, wanted to obtain a loan from the party's national headquarters to pay for political advertising, but he couldn't get the national organization on the phone. National Chairman Russell Verney later explained to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "The Reform Party really does not have an office. We have a virtual office."