The white-haired Hess was born one month after Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated. In his lifetime, the Democrats, even with opponents in the White House, have controlled the terms of the national debate over what a "modern government should look like. "When I came to Washington in the mid-'50s as a Republican," Hess explains, "we were the permanent minority party. We had accepted the tenets of the New Deal, but we were basically saying we can do it cheaper and more efficiently. We really were a me-too party."
Today, the morning after President Clinton delivered his 11-minute tax-cut-proposal speech, Hess is animatedly accusing the Democrats of becoming the "me-too party." The potential for a major realignment in American politics is fine grist for the city's class of professional pundits and political scientists. But Hess is equally excited about another development: Congress' ascendancy. "What has happened is incredible because of the degree to which it was produced by one person, Newt Gingrich," says the 61-year-old political scientist. "For the first time in our lifetimes, we are reverting to the system the Founding Fathers set up in the Constitution--co-equal branches of government. We have two competing agendas."