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The Class of '74: Congress after Watergate and the Roots of Partisanship, John A. Lawrence

Reviewed by Timothy P. Nokken

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The 1974 midterm elections provided the perfect conditions for a Democratic wave, namely, voter discontent with the war in Vietnam and the Watergate Scandal. It was against this backdrop that 76 freshmen Democratic representatives were swept into the U.S. House that year. Most accounts categorize the “Watergate Babies”—a term they dislike, hence the more appropriate moniker “the Class of '74”—as a group of liberal firebrands defined by their strong antiwar sentiments. While some clearly fit this description, John A. Lawrence’s account recasts the Class of '74 as a group of reform-minded representatives whose elections resulted in a generational change in Congress. Lawrence draws on his years of service as an adviser to resentative George Miller (D-CA), one of the stars of the Class of '74, and for Nancy Pelosi. He parlays this experience into a rich study based on personal experiences, as well as interviews with nearly 40 members of the Class of '74. The result is a highly readable book, full of valuable insight that provides a deeper, more accurate assessment of the group’s successes and shortcomings.

The most notable feature of Lawrence’s account is its deep treatment of the preferences and motivations of the Class of '74. His narrative portrays this class of representatives as more ide

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