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tv   John Lawrence The Class of 74  CSPAN  March 17, 2018 7:00pm-8:03pm EDT

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wow, who knew a book about congress would attract such a crowd. welcome, i'm bradley graham co-owner of politics and pro along with my wife melissa and behalf of everybody. thank you, thank you so much for being here. so, so part of the story that had we're here to mark today does involve a chapter in the history of congress. told by john lawrence and his new book the class of '74 but another part reflects john's own journey and a sort of completing of the circle for him that goes back in the 1970s john earned a ph.d. of history at berkeley. but instead of pursuing a career in academia he ended up on capitol hill as a staff member in the house of representatives. he spent 38 years there.
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really initially for number of years for congressman george miller california and then the final eight years he served as chief of staff to nancy pelosi. when he left the hill a few years ago he return to academic tract teaching at the university of washington california center and writing a book that draws on his long experience in congress. he arrived on the hill with the members of the class of '74. and outlasted nearly all of them. [laughter] but he chosen to focus on this tbrowp not because he coincided with it. as he'll explain for fully in a minute that was a special class. elected it in the immediate aftermath of the "watergate" scandal is they constituted one of the largest infusion of any
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faces in the house in modern political history, and entered congress amid high expectations of major institutional reform. showing he has what it takes after all of this time to be a careful methodical, clear minded historian, john examines the record of what the class of '74 achieved and what it didn't. and he draws several lessons for our current times from the experiences of the 94th congress. praising are the book of review called it, quote, a compelling account of a vital era are and, quote, an essential work of con depressional history. please join me in welcoming john lawrence. [applause] thanks brad and thank you to all of you for -- for coming tonight.
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i really -- really appreciate it. i want to thank you for i know this is saturday night and many of you probably have something better you might have been doing but i'm tremendously grateful that you came to this talk. i want to mention there are few people who are here first i want to acknowledge my family and thank deborah and my brother sid. [applause] for coming -- okay. >> talk a little more closely -- >> also -- i'm glad there are a lot of people but i can't tell if lauren is here. but lauren sharpe my agent was going to be here, and i want to thank her for stick with with me throt this very long process. and i can't tell which of my colleagues here i see i was in the back there.
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my very good friend a terrific political scientist who was here, and if i missed anybody i apologize. in particular i want to thank there are members of the class who are here and i want to them in particular bob carr henry waxman. coin, marty russo phil sharpe, phil sharpe, and i'm not sure if there's -- day evans and his wife is here. i'm not sure if there is anybody else and i particularly thank them and about 40 other members of the class other members. staff people, house officers, who participated in the research that went into this book. the interviews that i did with them really provide a great teal of the original intellectual material that informs the stories and the message of this book. and i'm tremendously grateful
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for them for sharing what are humorous story or o poignant stories they're consistently thoughtful stories and there are a lot of them that are -- that are recorded in this, in this book. there are many i'm not going to try to tell stories here or read the book because you can do that on your own. but i do want to just say that, it's it the power of these individual stories that cut through what is sometimes very complex congressional history, and congressional procedure and explain what working in that institution is -- all -- i want to acknowledge his another class member. there's a terrific story here that mardy shared with me. mardy from chicago, first time he as a candidate met the formidable mayor of chicago. richard daily did not go as mardy would go.
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it might. there's a terrific story about jim from michigan who later became the governor of gab and then ambassador to canada when -- speaking on behalf of many of his classmates who were tremendously frustrated that they weren't able to do more went up to tip o'neal at that point majority leader an said maybe you could lead a revolt against karl albert. that didn't go so well and then the book, the book starts request just a great story. involving tom downy from new york who was the youngest member of the class. and his encounter on the house floor with bill from pennsylvania. who had been in congress for two years by the time tom downy was born, and you can imagine how that went. it's it the opening story in the book. the value of these -- of these stories and many, many more that are in the book are -- are just so tremendous because they give you the motivation why these people which has been
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largely misunderstood it goes into the actions they took as members of congress and so much of this i have to say would be lost to history without their sharing these stories with me and -- and the book that is resulted. it's a very important time as brad said i think to study about congress and i think people are interested in, in learning more about congress. we're -- looking a lot like some of the earlier periods of congressional history in the 1950s and 1960s that help motivate some of the member in the class in 1974 to run for office. you see congress really abandoning a lot of its constitutional responsibilities backtracking on years really decades of a bipartisan effort to reassert congress as a coequal branch of a government to claw back some of the authority and some of the powers that have been lost to the executive branch. a failure to legislate even on issues that have brought public and bathroom support just incapacity institution to function of failure to conduct
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independent oversight of the executive branch one of the fundamental reforms that came out of the 1970s. and then unreasonable difference to executive branch where -- the congress should instead be taking initiative too many ways i feel the congress is beginning to resemble what joe clark senator from pennsylvania referred to in the 1960s as the branch of government. and hopefully this book and -- other efforts that are underway including books by many members of -- several members of the class are are going to help, help stimulate a new generation of people who come into, into government run for corning, and that's a very imrat if gratifyig development that we have seen. it's not easy to study congress and not many historians do it. when i was at berkeley there were not many studying con congressional history most are written about presidents it's a lot easier to write books about presidents. all of their papers are in nice
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ordered libraries named after them. it's really easy to find them and in just this year -- i mean there are new books about, obviously, there's new book about barack obama. but there are new books written about franklin roosevelt and books a new book about james buchanan. there's a new book about chester a. arthur. there's a new book about miller fillmore i have a warm feeling it is my jug bin in high school named for him but really -- [laughter] in 70 years of the prize for history in the pulitzer prize history there's never once been a book given an award for con depression congressional history so books about presidents, slavery about labor which my field was. we've had a book actually one pulitzer prize for the history of cigarette but nothing on congress and i -- i think that helps describe the
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difficulty of writing about, about this institution. so why did i bother doing it? [laughter] well, first of all i felt that my combination of both academic training and decades of working in congress gave me some specific insight. and my friendship with many of these members gave me the opportunity to sit down and gatt er their thoughts and gather their stories and their recollections an their analyze in way that frankly offer might not have had the opportunity to do. i felt that there was a necessity also because of the way in this which lass has been written about a distinguished political scientist in town, a great pundit said this is most class of the 20th century. now, i want to be very clear, this book is not ab homage to the class of 1974 it looks at their record. it look at what they accomplished it it looks at
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their historical significance. there are times in which i'm clarifying the record there's time at which to show the record and in recollections they were critical of their own behavior and that shows up mr. car. but -- [laughter] the real problem they started off with and -- is this. if you reads about the class of 1974 the one thing that you probably know is a, they're called "watergate" babies and number two they came to washington and threw out o three chairman and after that it disappears into a gray fog we don't know very much else about them. robert who was historian of the house of representatives wrote a 500 page book on the house of representatives devoted less than 1 page to the class that called the most sequence cial class of the 20th century. now the class admittedly difficult it is a large group of people it was unusual group of people o in many respects toby a
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member from connecticut said we were young. we looked weird. i can't even believe we got elected and that does -- that does -- that does explain some of that. and they also didn't always get very strong reviews from the congressional leadership which is in some ways is not surprising because in some ways they were very critical of congressional leadership. "tip" o'neill in his autobiography said these guys they never -- they never did anything politically. they never, they never licked any enhave they is lope or o walk precinct they never stuck flyers underneath automobile windows and republican ares were even less sympathetic they one republican lead they were wild and down right rude it gets worse and immature. the fact of the matter is that's not true. that's not true and as with much historical study you have to get beneath the simple characterize
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and find out what the actual historical record and actual record was this was a diverse class of people. it was not just a group of young -- anti-establishment activists. it included it's true people who came out of untraditional politics. but they came out of politics nevertheless. the consumer movement. the peace movement. the civil rights movement the the womens rights moment there were small business men and even a house painter. but there were also lieutenant governor, there were mayors, there were legislative leaders like coin from state legislatures and, in fact, about the same proportion of people who have served in elective office as in the rest of so one of the -- misunderstanding and misconception of the class was that it was a less experienced group of political people. i would argue in the book there are quite a sophisticated group many elected and many who had fought political battles in other -- it in other o environments.
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but they were subjected to withering criticism for not accomplishing more than they did by the middle of 1975 now keep in mind they have been in office at that point six months. they were called failures. because they had come to washington and they had not changed the congressional institution and they had not passed back log legislation which had been incapable of passing in the congress for months for years and some cases decades before hand. so one of the points i try to make really clearly in this book is that -- it's true that they were a different group and many respects they were an impatient group. they were impatient with objectionism of the congress in they were impatient with elitism that they encountered they were impatient with a institutional and that unusual feeling of impatience interpreted as hostility to institution itself but that is not the case.
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this is a group of people that came to washington very committed to working in the institution. they did not come to washington with the notion of destroying institution or destroying government or diminish public. but rather rehabilitating government because government was fundamentally important for them to achieve the goalings, the social, political, with economic, and international, goals to which they were politically devoted. and, in fact, if you look at their voting record notwithstanding the criticism, therm among the most loyal people to the democratic leadership and then to the democratic president who is elected two years later jimmy carter of any group within the congress. they voted as a block -- consistently with the leadership. one of the orr points that's it really important, though, in evaluating the krit are schisms that is typically been made is that they're faulted for not being more, more aggressive as reformers. and not accomplishing more as
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reformers. it is very important to remember that -- which i think is largely misunderstood they didn't come to congress for the most part. with the intent of reforming congress, as i talked to -- dozens of these members, and i asked what motivated you to run for congress in the first place. they did not site the need for -- reforming the seniority system or redistricting power among the sub committees or changing motion to recommit. that was not the reason. they were not aware of the earlier reform efforts for most part and jimmy roosevelt group or julia hanson select committee or dick bowling select committee or the extensive reform proposals of the democrat study group. they didn't know about that. that wasn't their motive for running their motive for running over and over i found as i talked to they will was to wednesday the war in vietnam that was why they came to washington. and within four months with, they passed a resolution in the caucus offered by bob carr that cut off fund for war in vietnam. and so by their standards they
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were quite a successful group. let's remember what that, why they felt so strongly it be that. they dime washington at a time when the -- public criticism, the public attitude towards government was extremely negative. they came in the wake of "watergate," "watergate" hearings, resignation, the investigations, the resignation and then the surprising pardon. they came after years almost decade of horrendous divisive work in vietnam. they came at a time as congress was just beginning to claw back some of the u powers that had abandoned during the presidency during most of the mid-20th strig and they had passed the war powers resolution in 1973 and the budget and empowerment control act in 1974. they had -- they had, in fact, tried to pass more extensive reform to make
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the institution more responsive one. they had mass passed legislative reform act in 1946 and 1970 and passed sub committee in bill of rights in '73 but a huge back log of reform that had not occurred before this group -- had arrived and, in fact, the major efforts in the early 70s is select committees of recreate under julia hanson under dick bowling failed and they failed in large part because although the democratic caucus tends to late 1950s increasingly had a liberal tinge to it congress was pretty much controlled by qeivetive coalition that was the coalition of southern democrats which is the reason the democratic wases dominant party and controlled congress for 58 out of 62 years between 1934 and 1994. it was the reason that i'm sorry in '32 and '1934 i'm not a
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political scientist. the -- they were abel able to squelch and most of the reform rules that would have reformed the house and democktized the house and it was by the reverence to seniority system which gave -- itself a reform which gave chairmanship based upon how long you were aloof if you have a pulse you remember the chairman. and the notion there was to -- to award on passionate basis to not just agree with the speaker who was -- who was able to win support from the committee on ways and means that -- that committee assignments. it was an independent way but as time changed and people lived
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longer evolved into a system that awarded that branch, that region of the country that where people were most likely to be reelected and that was one party south so by the time the mid-60s rolls around, the chairmanships are disproportion nail gnatly in the handle of southern conservatives in some cases voling 75 to 85% time with republicans. and so you had this enormous tension growing within the democratic caucus between -- this seniority system which held up legislation at the full caucus increasingly sympathetic towards towards passing, and to this much of what was happening was difficult for average person to discern people don't remember there were not, there was not television coverage you couldn't go and flip on television to see what was being debated on the house floor but also things like written committee reports and -- and markups held in secret so
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they wouldn't record a vote in the committee as whole house, through most of the and so congress was a pretty closed -- process. pretty elite process. dominated by group that increasingly was out of o -- outout of touch and out of step with very group that was the majority the democratic caucus. and then -- reenforcement awhen the class of '74 backed in the room. 40 picked up 49 seats. 96 new democratic, 76 new democratic members 93 altogether, and they were able to accomplish the reforms that are discussed and documented in the book. one of the other things i talk about is a political atmosphere in the political culture of the 1970s, and i think it is really important to --
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to it's important part of the book because it is overlooked and misunderstood in terms of the environment in which this class in the 94th congress was operating. 70s and mid-70s was marked by a significant revival of conservative politics it is often overlooked because the democratic victories were so dramatic in con depressional elections in '74, 76 they were ratified and, in fact, those losses were significant for the republican party. it took the republican party now there were republicans who were -- predicting that as the south became more democrat, more republican as conservatives moved from a -- from the traditional support of the democratic party to it a reviving republican party in the south, that the tray are ject rei was that democrats would lose southern seats and the committee, the parties would become on greater parody.
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and -- and that is, in fact, what was occur and large minorities obscured that movement for a long time. it took them, it took republicans ten years from the "watergate" election to return to where they were at that time. so they lost so many seats that because of the benefits incumbency and reportionment and a lot of guys were pretty good politician and learned how to get reelected it took republicans until mid to late 80s just to get back to where they were in 1972 and, of course, during that period of time, these developments in conservative politics emerged. the rebirth of a southern republican party that will, that moved closer and closer to parody that which, of course, is they became closer became a constant competition a greater competition as a younger generation republicans anticipated that by
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differentiate themselves and taking more extreme positions they were able to, in fact, compete for control, and fran has written where really important book on -- on this which i strongly recommend to you if you're in majority which she talks about that constant competition as fueling a lot of -- a lot of fueling a lot of partisanship and ranker that's come to characterize contemporary politics and saw partly as a result of independent money that was -- opened by the campaign reform act of financing act in 1974, that huge growth of independent money outside the controls of the partyrd the control of more ideological and west collaborative individuals that were driving more extreme politics. the revival and grassroots e e n yell call and grassroots political on behalf of more extreme groups and something i talk about in the book a lot which is the -- emergence of political issue
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that really have deep cultural basis to them so we're not just arguing here about -- higher education act orb the housing act or about strong culture in some cases religious significance to them, and one of the argtds i make in the book is that as you get into those arguments whether it's guns or abortion or -- nuclear freeze or whole series of these issues it just becomes harder an harder or to compromise because you're compromising arranged matters of principle. not around splitting the difference which is typically the way collaborative legislating -- occurs. some of the these reforms that we think of as having open the institution, had those unintended consequences that occasionally sneak in to political developments. i mentioned special interest money. obviously, the idea that expand ing role of tax and 1974
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turned out it have a slightly different impact than people thought it was going to but even reforms that the class helped to support had the same effect and i should reiterate this point, most of the reforms that this class is credited with having promoted and having -- having put into place we're not -- ones that they developed. that they proposed these are reforms that the been generated by people like david obi or o people like don frasier on or bowling and phil burton and this class came and able to provide crucial acts but they didn't devise those reforms. those rferls were helpful in sense of opening up the institution. they put some real -- checks on to the seniority system they did throw out o three chairman and interestingly, many of the other chairman got the message another half dozen retired that congress. and so -- by the time the next congress begins, well over half of the committees in the house of
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representatives have new chairmans. a lot more responsive and some were thrown out. but other it shall of the reforms had over o the longer term some dubious effects. so for example, one of the major improvements that was made was power was decentralized great or power given to sub committees that allowed more people to serve as sub committee chairman that allowed issues to come up in sub committees and more than the full committee so more players had the ability to put issues on the table a lot of issues that class members brought to congress. that had been stifled with that had to do with energy or comiewrm affairs or public health or air quality. or childrens policy or disabilities these rshes that had been squelched by conservative chairman now there was a venue in sub committee where is they could hold hearings. these hearings were very often being televised.
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that legislation began to move through the congress and develop public support and that was all great. but it also meant that more people had a chance to prp and more opportunities for offer aing amendments and as we move to another reform, which is television coverage, there's -- the offering of amendments becomes a -- an act of political theater. not to easkt but vote against their political leadership or vote against their constituency and the rise of the divisive issues that becomes a lightning point in -- in congressional development over -- over that time. so i want to be very clear, though, on this, on this point i'm not arguing that the class in 1974 caused partisan isship. that's not the -- argument here but saying reform
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of the context i've been discussing served to -- allow these more divisive more partisan -- themes, issues to find a way into the political debate where an earlier era along with much more popular issues that had been squelched might not have been subjected to as much -- debate in the congress. the book in summary shows a class that is more, that was more diverse. it was more complex. it was more nuance than the history to this point and the context for the and for our contemporary politics who look at where some of these roots were -- took place. it was, an incredible period of time for the, call it a hinge
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point in history something changed. the nature of the institution changed. the sense was people many the institution to change to public debate and to raise issues and to force issues into the public discussion. and to the congressional calendar change and he used a phrase he called it a groir time and i found this speech that tim gave back in late 1975 where he said that it was a new era he said it wassen era that would emphasize openness and non systemic use of power addressing not material wants but moral aspirations as well. so maybe it didn't work out quite that way. and enthusiasm or even june on
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votes that he had demonstrated in early reform eflts once they got around to voting on legislation they began to vote in more desperate ways as reflecting their own ideology and constituencies, so there wasn't that same, that same l level of unity. but it's it interesting. when an effort was made in 1976 to roll back a reform, to say you know maybe we've gone too far and too many republican for republicans to make us vote on really negative -- dangerous politically vulnerable topics. and there was a caucus meeting i found these notes i don't think it has ever been reported before where george mil who i worked for four years got up and said you know proposal was to increase number of votes that it would require to get a recorded vote from 20 which is pretty easy to get a recorded vote to 36 and miller got up and he said you know what -- that's just the wrong thing to do. i understand we have to vote on really unpopular issues but you know what someday, imagine, we
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might be in the majority in the minority. [laughter] and -- maybe we shouldn't quite make it so difficult for minority to participate but that's the price of democracy. and -- because of the near maples support of members of the class of '74 that proposal to make it more difficult to offer amendments was voted down i should point oi out they revisited that few years later and did increase number because things did did get out of hand. but for the moment, they statistic with the reform -- they stuck with that reform agenda. so in closing, what is the bottom line in this book? reason i think this book is timely i think it is important. i'm glad publisher decide to e release it when they did is i think it has ability actually two rebuild public confidence and institution that isn't doing very well right now. it shows what activists can do. when they come into this institution. even if they know that institution has traditionally
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been resistant to change and inwilling to address important public issues. it's not the same many many respects and i get into questions as other wave elections because they did come in very much with this notion. that they were going to change the institution and change it back so that congress was an aimpressive product arive -- responsive institution to -- to the public it had been and force the congress to address the issues that they believed was -- was so important and doing that they were also going to to reassert as coequal branch of the government and cease back the power that that had been lost. certainly a lesson that we immediate to seek today where we're listening to -- speaker of the house and -- others in the congress to say well wait for the president. god help us to sending us whatever he wants that's not l role that congress is supposed to player, and that was the message and that was the lesson i think that, that the class of
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1974 delivered when they arrived in washington. so -- i remember once, that we were at a town it hall meeting out in california and miller was giving talk to -- to retirees at i think it was rossmore retirement home and what he had been doing and votes had been and inside news, and after he talked for about as long as i've talked, he said -- are there any questions and one of the elderly gentleman stood up and said yes what time is dinner so knowing full well you may have other things to do i'll stop for questions and answers. [laughter] [applause] if you have questions i would ask that you come over to the microphone and -- if possible and ask is your questions from there.
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>> hi, joe. >> so john i think a lot of people here are hoping for a moment us class of 2016 we hope they'll all read will have read already your become what to you think and you've touched on it ong. what do you think are main lngszs that they should draw from the book if there was such a class of 2018? >> assuming they win -- [laughter] because there's going to be it a class of 2018. you know, i think that most important lesson is to -- is where there are few that are critical in terms of success. one is, is to be disciplined about the objectives you know, there is a great need in congress to discipline yourself not to be off trying to do everything at the same time to prioritize. another i think which is really important and to this, this class of '74 was really good at was getting to know the members.
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getting to know your each other. one of the first things that they did was to form an organization called the new u members u caucus, and they met regularly. tip o'meal said why did they meet for seven years u they weren't even new members anymore and next class didn't form a new members caucus interestingly. but -- it anybody served in congress knows those are crucial to regaining trust and not just talking to poem that you agree with but people you don't necessarily agree with, and -- and i think that those -- those are among the things thint that class will have to do. >> other questions with -- uh-oh. [laughter] >> what what happened afterwardw
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many got beat in 1976 which was a democratic year but i would imagine drop off then how quickly was the dropoff gradually a lot of people to feed into next -- subsequent elections. i think the last member of just retiring this year and -- i was interested in the class of a young housing lobbyist and spent a lot of time with the gentleman right there, and so i'm wondering what can did they all go home or did they stay around and lobby, or o -- [laughter] w457d to them all? >> that follow-up issue criticized by veteran legislatorses spending a lot of time thinking about how they would win their reelection. as though the more senior people didn't worry about how they were going win their elections.
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and they had a lesson a precedent with a very large democratic victory that was one of the reason ares that johnson was able to secure passage of so much of his great legislation and then in 1976, and 1966 bolt fell out, and they didn't lose majority but they did lose -- many, many seats. so they were, they were schooled from the outset in the need for maintaining very close constituent relationships. there's a whole chapter in the book called before you save the world you have to save your seat. which is all phil burton line. that, that, you know, go home. use news newsletters a lot of them proved effective use of technology really new intervention like fax machines, they had mobile, mobile offices that downy develop to drive through their districts. there were very aimpressive about looking at --
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their reelect maintain both the political side. and they were hopeful as they glout closer to the collection to hold their losses to -- no more than 15 and, in fact, picked up and they picked up so they didn't lose they were two defeats and one of them was ethics issue that -- that probably didn't have a lot to do with politics and another was -- was just one of the seats that was very marginal but the amazing was the did durability t by 84, 82 half of the class is gone, though, now that sounds terrible. but you know, francis will correct me it is not as long as people think. certainly not as long as people who want termly the. so there were quoit a number who
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stayed around into early 90s or a lot who because of the mache of the sub committee system became sub committee chairman and would be able to play very effect legislative careers than they might have otherwise been able to. thank you for the question. congressman russo. yield the floor. >> i didn't realize you were that funny you're series when you work in george's office. one of the reasons we were so motivated -- to get reelected is because in our first meeting of orientation, the senior members were telling us look to the left. look to your right. two of you aren't going to be here. so 74 reelected because new members of caucus we would spend time figuring out what's the best way to contact to win and some in republican district no one expected to win over 55 they
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never thought you could win again so that new member's caucus we would meet and talk about how can coto that and interesting thing -- that people may not realize is that we were, we had 292 democrats at the time and we remember winning vote with over 150, 106160 votes so where were votes coming from so it was ron's class and dave's class, second and third -- the second two years and four years before uses, were ones who tried reforms but they needed more votes. >> right. so i'm glad you spelled my name good because o'neal got it wrong and glad to be here. i think it's a great book. >> thank you. thanks. >> can i tell them marty spelled his name mary russo and marty told me eve day spoken to me over last five years you spell
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my name and this is a guy's name you want to spell right now. [laughter] hey, john i appreciate the fact that you have afterward here describing the outcome of everyone's life and in the class very useful. >> thank you. >> speaking to someone who worked in the campaign in 1974 and state of iowa, and u four new members and two under senate as you said a lot happening in that time and war powers act and new budget legislation you have many things to shift sol of the balance of power for executives to legislate i. but what are thingses in the plel arena which changed so much particularly since the 80s and beyond is campaign financing and at that time financing it was critical but the scale was so different. can you talk a little bit about what fund raise aring what that was like for this clses and what lessons you can learn from that time? >> it is really a different world there are people elected in this class -- who -- who bob edgar with a few u
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thousand dollars. i mean it was just a completely, it was a completely different world. partly great shock to win at all. in your district nobody since the 18 -- ever -- [laughter] like ever. that's a long time, and so -- people yeah are people were able to win seats. with small resources but as the -- court decisions really undercut the impact of campaign of 1974 and, of course, the -- court decisions and cuts and citizens unite and others have simply shredded any hope we have the -- and, in fact, when people ask me as they do my students do. and others -- what do you think is the biggest
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problem? and i really think money is the one that worries me the most because it now has a constitutional overlay that makes it much more difficult to impose the kinds of restrictions that we had hoped we might be able to do in '74 and some subsequent efforts. but -- >> korea, it is a long time john. [laughter] i want to share on campaign finance and campaign spending limits, with i want to share with a group that in oregon, in '74 -- the state legislature had previously passed the year before, a -- a series of limits on various seats statewide, state, as well as federal. it didn't hold up in the -- in the courts. but it for that one election season. in my race, in the first congressional district, i could
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not spend more than 75,000 dollars in the primary and in 75,000 in the general. nor could my o opponent. and the amazing thing is -- that my opponent a supreme court justice two years later he and i talked and we both agree in our -- dotage that -- the people at time were noless informed than they were, in fact, they're probably better informed. because of the way that the -- funds were husband and used rather than attack ads with money. i should make one confession. i was -- >> now you make it it. thanks. [laughter] i -- i didn't want to it shall it took very, verying strong legislative leadership to pass
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that campaign finance limitation. i was house majority leadser who helped pass that plop the fact that i ran again, ran for in congress one year later is merely coincidence merely. but i agree with you. what biggest problem in the country i think all of my colleagues here most people here and i know you john feel. the problem is that we've to a great extent turned our lawmakers into telemarketers and ricky said that on 60 minutes in a wonderful interview he gave. and it's -- it's just got to stop somehow. i don't know how. but it really is the number one problem. [laughter] someone did did ask about -- one of the earlier questions about, in fact, it was one member of the class uh-uh but i should point out there's a big asterisk next to the name. he was elected from minnesota that he left congress in 1980 he
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came back 32 years later, the longest interim of any, of any member of congress in history and he's just announced that he's not going to run again so at the end of this congress. at the end of this year will be the first time since 1975 that there are no members of the house class of '74 in house of representatives. >> john. congratulations on the book. and great talk. i was wondering if you could speak as a historian you mentioned some of the leadership on both the democratic and republican side had less than flattering comments about the class of '74 and you also said that the it shall class of '74 things were attributed to them that didn't necessarily were necessarily their goals in interviewing the members of the class of '74 without necessarily putting former members of congress on the spot did you find their assessment or recollections of their goals or their activities differed in substantiate ways from the
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historical record? >> no. i think that they -- i think that again, i would constantly ask them why did you run? what was your motivation for running? rein i was i was stunned on -- i have a whole chapter in the book about the republican let me mention that for a second but how king thely vietnam was mentioned. you know, a lot of people think these guys ran because of "watergate" but they made their decision to run when it was at a reasonable early stage mostly in the early, lit '73 even early '74 we don't get into impeachment hearings until summer of '74, the -- the resignation is in august of '74 the pardon is in september of '74. they had made their decisions already. that wasn't -- that wasn't the reason they were running. they were running overwhelmingly. they were running because of -- because of vietnam. there were some people there was gary myers and berkeley and people who felt you know other people just been there too o
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long. we need some new faces. but -- overwhelming i found that issue was -- it was vietnam. i would say about the republicans they'll say, the reason that i talk mostly about the democrats is not because i worked for democrats or o i'm a democrat it's just that he has reforms were through the democratic kaws cuss. they were not done on the house floor. if they had been -- if there was effort to pass changes to house floor then that conservative coalition would have blocked they will but, the democratic caucus, they were able to pass legislation because of the infusion of the class of 1974, in fact, caucus became empowered somewhat briefly where -- the whricial members bite entire caucus to vote in certain ways on legislation once it got to the floor and that didn't hold up very well or for very long there was a lot of push back
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that that was taking a step too far but i have this whole chapter on republicans and even on republican side. there were a lot of people who felt that they were -- coming here as reformers. and several of them as -- chapter describes regret they have no opportunity to play a significant role because of all a of the this work was being done within the democratic caucus, of course, regardless of how -- how positive inclined to reform they were, they had no role to play in the democratic kaw u cuss as republican members and many of them ends up not staying around very is long because they felt on one hand they couldn't prp as fully with democratic u caucus as they might have wanted on certain issue but they felt a hard group outside of congress but you can it shall quickly becoming the most -- most aggressive part of the -- part of the republican party, and what's interesting to note
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about that group that they identified their leadership as the problem just as many people in the democratic caucus identified their, the democratic leadership is the problem. they viewed the republican leadership as too cautious as too willing accommodate this particularly too locked into notion that they were a permanent minority and could not challenge for the majority. in fact, in -- in october or sepght of 1994, so we're only talking ab few months from -- the time that their elections held that results in the first republican majority in 40 years in the house of representatives a book is published by two conservative political scientists from california that says, the permanent republican majority and -- only at the last minute they added a question mark. that publisher i don't think i don't know if it is very well but it was quickly out of precinct. yeah. >> like any great -- [laughter] like any great book or movie, with do you have a sequel in
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mind about the -- about the staffers who came in with the class of '74 and what, with and what happened with them and what they did with that experience? >> i think the staffers do. i'm not planning on -- i'm not planning on -- on doing that. you know, it was -- i'm not sure that staff group was any different than other people who stuck arranged for a long time. there are people who for office and people who went off into -- into activist clauses or into law firms which are not same thing. [laughter] anybody else, a question. the question is can this institution be saved? >> i really appreciate your asking that question karen and here's the apes and let me just
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start with the reface i know this is going to send a little bit self-serving and yngt mean it that way. i mean -- i'm speaking purely as a historian. [laughter] in this -- in this case. all of the problems in terms of the dysfunctional of congress i think are accurate but facts but not driven by my ideology. but i would reminding you have to go back nine or ten years and you have what even the most serious krit arics of contemporary congress call most successful congress of the last 75 years. and i would -- i would make the point it is not just -- the first two years where stars align similar to the way they did in '64 and way they did in -- in '74. in terms of large congressional majorities but at the last year of the bush administration you had people working on a collaborative they didn't like
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each other or want to do a lot of policy together. but faced with enormous national chris sis on the verge of election the congress was able to work on a bipartisan basis to address -- the fiscal crisis. congress was a able to traces health care they were able to address the -- the aftermath of the financial services institutions they were able to pass surplus bills and pass most progressive energy legislation in 25 years. that's an institution that was very functional. and there's nothing institutional about the congress that is changed which changes the people who are running the institution. and so when you yo say is there hope yes there's hope and not saying only hope from in in dems but most of a lot that was done was done with republican support historically in terms of good positive legislation. but -- it very much efnghts the question of who, who you're sending to washington and i think one of the major
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differences for example, between the class of '74 and subsequent wave elections is 1994, 2010, te guys as i mention in any talk they did not come to washington to destroy washington. they came to make government work to it see it as a fundamental smiewtion but i think that's a majority difference with people who you've seen arrive in those subsequent wave classes where they viewed washington as the problem, and they don't have a huge investment in maintaining either integrity it or operaibility of the congress so i think it really comes down to question of who is -- who is in charge and what their objectives are if people are in charge don't care if congress gets a bad name buzz they don't feel invest in the institution to begin with then you have a very hard tile having a productive -- or o responsive congress. >> hi. katz thy. yeah. >> congratulations and thank you
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so much for writing this book. i think it's really going to be an important book in this time. >> thank you. i have a fairly incoheernght question about -- but kind of looking at your long career, and poem you've worked with looking as an activist a question about your relationship between movement and soft the inside politics. >> uh-huh. >> so what would you say to young or even not so young activists who are kind of -- up and resisting now? what's the relationship to congress? how do you think about that process? >> well, you know, i always -- sorry. the relationship between young activist advice might i give to them in their relationship are to electoral politics may be more generally and i always tell my students that there's a difference between activism and politics. activists are --
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dooskt is telling you what i think and politics is getting you to agree with me. and those are two different skills but i think they're both important skills but i don't think every activist should work in a political campaign i don't think that only root for social change or political change is through elective politics. where i think there's -- and activism into a political process which had is inherently a collaborative profit. you're going to encounter poem who have just as much commitment to their points of u view as you do. and so simply saying it ladser as i used to say to george miller sometimes doesn't necessarily convince anybody. you know, you -- you so partly it is -- bringing people from activist organization or activist movement into the process not to be diskowrminged because they're not going to get everything they
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want. but -- on part of politicians welcoming them realizing them that apartment of your responsibility as elected official is receive that message and then your job is to translate it into policy. sometimes that creates friction. it did with every major piece of legislation i work withed on that's the nature of the business if you can't do that. you're in the wrong business. but -- i really do believe that -- that, you know, the -- that the single most encouraging thing that i -- that i see going on is young people activism because i'm not sure if i were young many circumstances that i would draw conclusion that it was a useful, you know, commitment of my time to go getting into politics when i see politics rejecting so much of what i -- what do you want to do and i think of this in students if you're 18, 19 years old most of your -- mature years you've seen nothing but dysfunction. you've seen nothing but --
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but ranker and partisanship, and -- and that's a very disturbing situation. and yet when i did a poll with my students at the university of california, here in d.c., after the last election, and before election have you few were and i asked and -- less likely to get involved in politics and one single one of them said more so i find that incredibly i look at the response of the students in florida or i look at -- people inveinsably tremendously encouraging and i think one of the most important messages of this book -- those of us in politics that that political system will respond with the the right splux with with the right people moving into office and key is to make sure that people who do care about our issues make that
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personal commitment to get into politics ors at least to vote to make their -- make their -- their views known. thanks. i have an announcement this is acquisitive group and you have bought us old. we're sold out of john's book so we'll get more copies so if you would like a copy, please stop at our information desk and we'll order one for you because john is local we can easily get him later to autograph it. for those of you lucky enough to have books john will be up here signing. form a line that goes that way to help our staff but folding up your chairs. thank you very much. [applause]
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