May 30, 2003

COMITY COMEDY

Bush-GOP ferocity alters American politics (E.J. Dionne, 5/30/03, Washington Post)
President Bush's signature on his big tax cut bill Wednesday marked a watershed in American politics.

The rules of policy-making that have applied since the end of World War II are now irrelevant. A narrow Republican majority will work its partisan will, no matter what. Democrats, at least until 2004, will have the grim satisfaction of being a relatively unified opposition that will suffer just enough defections to fail at the finish line.

Until now, Congress was a forcefully independent branch of government. Presidents as diverse as Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Clinton and even Reagan could not count on automatic support from members of their own party in the House and Senate.

Only President Lyndon B. Johnson had the power to see his programs to passage largely unscathed. And he had that power for only two years, 1965 and 1966, when Democrats enjoyed 2-1 majorities in both houses.

With a very slim congressional majority, Bush would have been expected to seek genuine compromise--under the old rules. But Washington has become so partisan and Bush is so determined to push through a domestic program based almost entirely on tax cuts for the wealthy that a remarkably radical program is winning despite the odds against it and lukewarm public support.

This is a shock to congressional Democrats, most of whom came to political maturity under the old arrangements that placed a heavy emphasis on comity and the search for the political center. In all the years when progressive interest groups and foundations were attacking partisanship as a dismal force in politics, conservatives such as presidential adviser Karl Rove, antitax activist Grover Norquist, Tom DeLay and, yes, Newt Gingrich, were building a great Republican machine. The new tax bill is a monument to their success.

Faced with an administration intent on moving the political center to the right, Democrats are torn between old impulses and a recognition of the new order. This week, Democrats were by turn patting themselves on the back for their own unity and acknowledging the new world Rove, Norquist and Co. have created.

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Oh my stars and garters..that's just hilarious. Don't we all pine for the days of bipartisanship and comity when Democrats ditched the South Vietnamese and the Contras, despite the pleas of Republican presidents and the congressional minority, and all those other non-partisan moments.... Posted by Orrin Judd at May 30, 2003 10:53 AM
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