Modern Era

Modern Era
Although President Bush's popularity had soared to record levels with the U.S. victory
in the 1991 Gulf War, it began to fade as Americans turned their attention to domestic
matters, particularly the weakening U.S. economy. In the 1992 election, Democratic
Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas defeated Republican President Bush.
President Clinton succeeded in enacting several of his campaign promises, but was
unable to pass the one that many considered the most important -- national health
coverage. This and a number of political blunders resulted in growing public
disillusionment with Clinton. The Republicans gained control of both the Senate and
House in 1994 for the first time since the election of 1952.
In the election campaigns, Republicans had promised to implement a "Contract with
America." However, when Republicans tried to keep their promises by cutting domestic
spending, President Clinton vetoed those cuts. He vowed that he would never accept cuts
in Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, or education. These vetoes resulted in
the shutdown of the federal government on two occasions in 1995-1996. The American
public blamed the Republicans in Congress for these shutdowns. Thus President Clinton
was on his way to re-building his political reputation. In 1996, he easily defeated
Republican Robert Dole to win re-election.
Early in 1998, however, a scandal erupted when President Clinton was accused of
having had a sexual relationship with a White House intern and then lying about it under
oath. For the remainder of that year, Clinton was under investigation by Independent
Counsel Kenneth Starr. At the end of the year, the House of Representatives impeached
Clinton, with almost all Republicans voting to impeach and almost all Democrats voting
against. President Clinton's trial before the U.S. Senate in early 1999 ended in his
acquittal on all charges.
The 2000 presidential contest was between Vice President Al Gore, the Democrat, and
Texas Governor George W. Bush, the Republican, whose father had preceded Bill
Clinton as president. Although Gore won about a half-million more popular votes
nationally than Bush, the Electoral College vote was much closer. A bitterly contested
legal battle over Florida's votes ensued. There, the two candidates were separated by
only a few hundred votes. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered Florida to stop recounting its
votes, thereby handing the presidency to Bush.