“I can see it very directly going back to 1994 and Newt Gingrich,” Conrad told C-Span in an interview. “He had a view, to take over the House of Representatives one had to bring down the institution and things have never been the same since.”
The retiring senator was critical of political partisanship saying, “The problems that I believe are very clear, is that we spend too much time trying to seek political advantage –partisan political advantage. Too little time focused on solving the country’s problems. And I’m sure that had a role in my decision as well.”
“I really came here wanting to do big things and wanting to work on solving problems. And there’s been much less an emphasis on that lately and much more of an emphasis on how you get over on the other guy. I understand this is a team sport and I understand this is a competitive environment we’re in. But at the end of the day if we’re not solving problems - it’s pretty empty. ”
The reporter then asks Conrad, “Can you during your 26 years trace the trajectory of the partisanship and explain what you think some of its roots had been?”
“I can see it very directly going back to 1994 and Newt Gingrich. He had a view, to take over the House of Representatives one had to bring down the institution and things have never been the same since,” Conrad replied.
“That’s not to say things weren’t very deep faults on the Democratic side, because there were,” the Senator continued, “There was an arrogance of power that had developed and in part, the Republicans reacted to that – but it has set off a chain of events and a dynamic here that is very unhealthy.”
In 1994 the Republican Party gained the majority of seats in House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. The party focused on the reforms laid out in it’s “Contract with America” that Newt Gingrich helped to create before becoming House Speaker.
Conrad was first elected to the U.S. Senate in North Dakota in 1986. He announced in January of last year that he would not seek re-election to office in 2012.