How can you tell when the Republican revolution has moved into its postrevolutionary phase? When the G.O.P. troops start talking about mammograms. Whether or not Newt Gingrich is re-elected as Speaker, the movement he led is turning toward the sensitive center, borrowing from Clinton's family-friendly campaign playbook to prove that a G.O.P. that once fought accounting battles over CBO-VS.-OMB numbers really does have a heart.
The idea isn't totally new--everyone from Gingrich to Bill Bennett to the self-anointed compassion queen Arianna Huffington has tried to peddle it. What's significant this time is that some of this softening has slipped into the Republican canon. In the baby-steps department, the Republicans have discussed using the fiscal savings of one bill to help pay for breast-cancer screenings, for instance. But they are also likely to promote bigger proposals, like health-insurance protection for the first six months of unemployment, educational reforms to benefit the disabled, and Superfund toxic-waste cleanup. One congressional group, the Renewal Alliance, which includes such Republicans as House Budget Committee chairman John Kasich and Senators Dan Coats and John Ashcroft, will meet for the first time this week to push a menu of compassion-loaded programs, including flextime, charity tax credits and enterprise zones. Says Kasich: "How kids get educated, how families are doing, how our environment is doing, medical care. Those are the issues we should be pushing."
Conservative commentator Irving Kristol has derisively labeled this approach the "feminization" of politics, but members of Congress are not so dismissive. Some have taken away the lesson from the presidential campaign that voters won't go along with shrinking government if leaders sound mean while they are doing it. Besides, argues Ashcroft, voters do make a distinction between, say, restraining the growth of the federal bureaucracy and providing a helping hand to workers in an insecure economy.
Some Republicans even plan to be nicer to Democrats. After the election, House majority leader Dick Armey was on the phone congratulating about 30 Democrats. Democrats are also being asked by committee heads like Ways and Means chairman Bill Archer to join in on, say, transportation-tax bills, at the outset. "If a Democrat's name is on a bill, it sends a signal about caring," says a senior G.O.P. Senate staff member. Now ain't that sweet.
--By John F. Dickerson