Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Moment That Made Gingrich

In our textbook and on this blog, we have discussed polarization in Congress.

On May 15, 1984, Congressman Newt Gingrich (R-GA) confronted House Speaker Tip O'Neill (D-MA) on the House floor over O'Neill's reaction to Gingrich's criticism of Democratic foreign policy. The speaker's remarks became intemperate and Republican whip Trent Lott (R-MS) moved that the speaker's word be "taken down," that is, ruled out of order. On the advice of the parliamentarian, the chair agreed, the first such rebuke for a House speaker in nearly two centuries.

The confrontation with O'Neill made Gingrich a national political figure: a hero to conservative Republicans and an object of anger for liberal Democrats.