Bipartisanship In Ermine and Epaulettes

by digby

As we sit anxiously on the eve of the election, wondering if it's possible that this dark, frustrating Bush era is really coming to a close, I thought I would take a little wander back in time and see what the gasbags were saying after the 2000 election. I particularly loved this:

Bush sent Cheney to Capitol Hill on the day Gore conceded to start building coalitions. The Vice President- elect met separately with moderate and conservative groups--and both sides came away pleased and reassured. Conservatives hear a big tax cut coming. Moderates believe education reform and prescription drugs will be the priority. One faction or the other is getting played, but it's impossible to tell which side.

On one point, at least, the Bush message has been remarkably consistent. Bush told TIME--and Cheney has told Republican leaders--that he will not settle for a scaled-down version of his campaign agenda. The man who predicted a decisive victory now argues that scratching out a win in the closest election in a century equals a mandate. He wants it all: education, a prescription-drug benefit, tax cuts and private Social Security accounts. "The reason I will be able to deliver an Inaugural Address," Bush insisted in an interview with TIME, "is because of the positions I took, the cases I made."

Moderates see such remarks as Bush's opening song, the overture that comes before the inevitable compromises. "There's going to be a new world order in the Senate," says Maine Republican Olympia Snowe. "We can't always get our way. We don't have the numbers." But conservatives won't let him off the hook. Republican strategists who helped shape Newt Gingrich's Contract with America are launching a new group called the Issues Management Center. It will wage an ad war designed to pressure Bush to stand up for a conservative agenda of issues--tax cuts, school vouchers and Social Security privatization.


On Capitol Hill these days, each competing bloc defines bipartisanship in a different way--and no one yet knows precisely how Bush defines it. Does he mean recruiting a few Democrats to decorate conservative Republican policies? Democratic leaders call that the "politics of pickoff" and vow to fight it with the kind of party discipline that can stop a bill in its tracks--especially in the Senate, where the Republicans need 10 Democrats to shut down debate and force a vote. "After two decades of hardened partisanship in the Senate," says Al From of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, "I just don't see 10 Democrats jumping over to the Republican side on any significant issue."

I guess we know how that went.

I don't know what will happen this time. But regardless of the mandate, I would be shocked if the Republicans adopt the same capitulating strategy that the Democrats did after that stolen election. It's not in their nature --- and they are still well practiced in the art of obstructionism and opposition politics. More importantly, as Krugman points out in his column this morning, those who are left in the Republican party are extremists:

Larry Sabato, the election forecaster, predicts that seven Senate seats currently held by Republicans will go Democratic on Tuesday. According to the liberal-conservative rankings of the political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, five of the soon-to-be-gone senators are more moderate than the median Republican senator — so the rump, the G.O.P. caucus that remains, will have shifted further to the right. The same thing seems set to happen in the House. Also, the Republican base already seems to be gearing up to regard defeat not as a verdict on conservative policies, but as the result of an evil conspiracy. A recent Democracy Corps poll found that Republicans, by a margin of more than two to one, believe that Mr. McCain is losing “because the mainstream media is biased” rather than “because Americans are tired of George Bush.”

And it's obviously a long way from them believing that Americans are tired of conservatism. They will keep fighting.

Now, the villagers are already saying this is a victory for the "center-right" and are becoming apoplectic at the idea that the dirty hippies are coming to town to trash the place, so there will be very strong resistance to anything that doesn't look like centrism and bipartisanship. With the villagers' track record I would hope that a new administration armed with a mandate for change would be smart enough to ignore them.

After all, these are the people who said things like this:

FINEMAN (11/27/01): So who are the Bushes, really? Well, they’re the people who produced the fellow who sat with me and my Newsweek colleague, Martha Brant, for his first interview since 9/11. We saw, among other things, a leader who is utterly comfortable in his role. Bush envelops himself in the trappings of office. Maybe that’s because he’s seen it from the inside since his dad served as Reagan’s vice president in the ‘80s. The presidency is a family business.

Dubyah loves to wear the uniform—whatever the correct one happens to be for a particular moment. I counted no fewer than four changes of attire during the day trip we took to Fort Campbell in Kentucky and back. He arrived for our interview in a dark blue Air Force One flight jacket. When he greeted the members of Congress on board, he wore an open-necked shirt. When he had lunch with the troops, he wore a blue blazer. And when he addressed the troops, it was in the flight jacket of the 101st Airborne. He’s a boomer product of the ‘60s—but doesn’t mind ermine robes.