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What I Saw at the Decline of the Revolution

The Republican revolution has degenerated into an orgy of self-aggrandizement.

A couple of months ago, I called to shoot the breeze with a friend who books guests for conservative radio and television shows. "What are you doing tonight?" he asked. He explained that the guy he had scheduled to appear on a California radio show had canceled at the last minute and he needed a replacement. "What's the topic?" I asked. "They just need somebody," he laughed, "who's gonna bash Clinton."

Like many of his peers in the Republican revolution, my friend sincerely believes that conservative policy ideas will help the country. But the political war machine that employs him doesn't ask him to sell those ideas, much less that the ideas prove helpful. It asks only that he feed the right's appetite for enemies.

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A year ago, Newt Gingrich and his band of guerrilla freshmen were riding high, having taken Congress after 40 years in the minority. But, like so many revolutionaries before them, they found governing harder than grousing. The citizenry balked at their attempts to close the government, shred pollution laws, and shift the tax burden from the idle rich to the working poor. After campaigning against the Democrats' abuse of power on behalf of special interests, the new Republican regime changed the players but escalated the game. These photos by Larry Fink, taken on the campaign trail and at the 1996 Conservative Political Action Conference, capture how the latest purported revolution has degenerated into a smug orgy of self-aggrandizement.

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