The result was a resounding Republican victory, with House GOP leader Newt Gingrich's "revolutionaries" seizing control of Congress. Limbaugh for his work as the Republicans' "national precinct chairman" was made an honorary member of their House caucus.
In the following years, the Republicans successfully pressed for more and more "free trade" and more deregulation (aided and abetted by Clinton and other pro-corporate Democrats). For instance, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which knocked down the Depression-era wall built to separate Main Street's commercial banks from Wall Street"s speculators, was backed by Clinton's Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers and was signed by Clinton.
The rapidly growing right-wing media, which added Fox News in the mid-1990s, expanded exponentially during the Clinton era. But liberals and progressives continued to ignore the widening media gap, somehow hoping that the mainstream press might reverse its rightward drift and resume its more serious role during the days of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate in the 1970s.
Though Clinton did succeed in reducing the ranks of the America's poor and amazingly eliminated the Reagan-Bush-41-era budget deficits even creating a surplus the media asymmetry insured that Clinton's Vice President Al Gore would have a difficult time keeping the White House in Democratic hands.
By then, the New York Times and the Washington Post had joined the fun in distorting or misquoting Gore's words to make him into a delusional braggart. It was clear to nearly every working journalist that the smart career play was to trash Gore and to fawn over Republican George W. Bush.
To make matters worse for Gore, some on the American Left decided to show their pique over the centrist Clinton-Gore policies by backing third-party candidate Ralph Nader, who adopted the slogan that there wasn't "a dime's worth of difference" between Bush and Gore.
Still, the American voters, by a narrow margin nationally, favored Gore over Bush. However, in the key state of Florida, a combination of voting irregularities and Nader drawing off Democratic votes gave Bush a tiny lead that he was able to protect by getting five Republican partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court to shut down the state recount.
Once in office, Bush pushed through more tax cuts weighted heavily to the rich; he also advocated policies of "self-regulation" for the energy and other industries; he appointed cronies and incompetents to key jobs, such as Michael Brown to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency and later Christopher Cox to run the Securities and Exchange Commission.
After ignoring warnings before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush restyled himself as a tough-guy "war president" who bought into the grandiose neocon vision of remaking the Middle East through U.S. military force and "regime change." In 2002, he quickly diverted the U.S. focus from the unfinished invasion of Afghanistan to the neocon war of choice, Iraq.
By the time Bush's eight White House years were up, the United States was reeling, with a collapsing economy, a massive loss of good-paying jobs, a shrinking middle class, a decaying infrastructure, worsening economic inequality, tens of millions of Americans without basic health coverage, a record federal deficit, and two open-ended wars.
When inaugurated in January 2009, Barack Obama faced the biggest collection of crises for an incoming president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933. Obama's first actions sought to stabilize the financial markets, stop the sell-off of stocks and reverse the economy's shedding of jobs.
Rather than challenge the status quo too aggressively, Obama sought to reassure the Establishment, both in terms of domestic and foreign policies. To the dismay of some progressives, he kept on Bush's Defense Secretary Robert Gates and appointed hardliner Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State.
Obama then struggled to pass a $787 billion stimulus measure to create jobs, though he was aggressively opposed by the Republican Party and elements of the media.
For instance, as the stock market continued to slide in February and March, commentators on General Electric's business network CNBC trashed Obama. Jim Cramer blamed Obama for "the greatest wealth destruction" ever, and Rick Santelli came up with the idea of Tea Party protests.