Skip to comments.Some See Risks as Republicans Revel in Power
Posted on 01/23/2005 7:38:52 PM PST by Pikamax
Some See Risks as Republicans Revel in Power By ADAM NAGOURNEY and RICHARD W. STEVENSON
ASHINGTON, Jan. 23 - President Bush begins his second term with the Republican Party in its strongest position in over 50 years, but his clout is already being tested by Republican doubts about his domestic agenda, rising national unease about Iraq and the threat of second-term overreaching, officials in both parties say.
With this election producing a second-term Republican president and solid majorities in both the Senate and the House, Mr. Bush's party is more dominant than at any time since Herbert Hoover was elected in 1928. As Mr. Bush embarks on an explicit effort to put an imprint on politics and policy that will long outlast his presidency, his advisers are heady over what several described as an opportunity to make a long-lasting realignment in the nation's political balance of power.
But even those advisers said Mr. Bush had at most two years before he faced the ebb that historically saps the authority of a second-term incumbent, a relatively short time to sell his far-reaching agenda. And Republicans say his situation could be complicated by the absence of an obvious heir, opening the way for competing wings of the party to battle over details and tactics on the very issues Mr. Bush is embracing.
Richard Norton Smith, a presidential scholar who is director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, said the Republican Party had "come closer now than they've been at any time in my lifetime" to being the nation's majority party. But Mr. Smith said historical cycles over the past century suggested that its dominance might be coming to a close.
"The calendar alone tells you this conservative cycle is long in the tooth," he said. "Add to that the divisions, or latent divisions, that exist with your own coalition. Once Bush is removed from the scene, and once he becomes in effect a lame duck, all those tensions are there."
The White House has described the election results as a mandate, and in his Inaugural Address on Thursday, Mr. Bush laid out his vision in sweeping terms.
But some Republicans said they were worried about overconfidence, including Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who invoked his experience serving alongside Speaker Newt Gingrich when Republicans captured the House in 1994. "Hubris is deadly," Mr. Sanford said.
And Gary Bauer, a conservative who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, said that while he applauded Mr. Bush's ambition in pursuing two major domestic goals - overhauling Social Security and the tax code - those issues, if handled incorrectly, could undercut Mr. Bush's long-term goal for the party.
"They could provide the president's opponents with fodder for some of the old canards, that Republicans don't want a social safety net, that they're the party of the rich, all those things," Mr. Bauer said. "It's going to take a very astute effort and massive amounts of presidential involvement to keep that from happening."
Mr. Bush got a reminder on the Sunday talk shows of the difficulties he faces, as Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who is talking about running for president, said on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" on ABC that he did not believe the White House had a strategy to extricate the United States from Iraq. On "Meet the Press" on NBC, Representative Bill Thomas of California, the head of the Ways and Means Committee, laid out his own ideas for how to change the retirement system, which were to a large degree different from what the White House has suggested.
Democrats, even while struggling with their own party divisions and confusion, are showing signs of coalescing into an aggressive opposition party, especially on issues like judicial appointments and Social Security.
Mr. Bush has repeatedly overcome doubts about his ability to win approval of controversial proposals. And his political advisers are confident going into this second term. They say that the party is poised to at least begin the broad political realignment and the diminishment of the Democratic Party that has been a goal of Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove.
"It is now fair to say that today the Republican Party is the dominant party in America," said Ken Mehlman, the new Republican National Committee chairman. "It's not a deep majority, it is not a broad majority, but it is a very strong majority."
"Now what does that mean?" Mr. Mehlman continued in an interview at his new office on Capitol Hill. "We're certainly not in the position that F.D.R. Democrats were in the 1930's and 40's. We're not the overwhelming favorite. There are going to be challenges. We're going to lose elections sometime. But it does mean we're in a very strong position."
Before 2001, the last time Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress was 1953. Gary Jacobson, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, argued that given the longevity and margins of Republican control in the House and Senate over the past decade, this was the most powerful period the party had enjoyed since 1928, the year Hoover was elected and Republicans held 56 Senate seats and 267 House seats. The numbers now are 55 and 232.
With this presidential election, the Democrats lost a nearly 30-year advantage in party identification in presidential elections; in a survey of voters leaving the polls, 37 percent said they were Republican and 37 percent said they were Democrats. Mr. Bush won by nearly three million votes, after losing the popular vote last time. He drew more than 11 million more votes than in 2000; by contrast, Mr. Kerry drew about 8 million more votes than Al Gore, the Democratic candidate in 2000.
It is a sign of Republican ascendance that the party is already forcing its opponents to re-examine some of their most strongly held positions. Democrats, for example, have been openly discussing whether to decrease their emphasis on one of their touchstone issues, abortion rights, after an election in which Mr. Bush ran aggressively as an opponent of abortion.
Still, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, disputed the long-term meaning of the gains, arguing Democrats would have won the White House had 60,000 votes shifted in Ohio, and said Mr. Bush had enjoyed a "huge advantage" because of the attacks of Sept. 11.
"George Bush is in serious difficulties on Social Security, tax reform, all the cornerstones of the Bush agenda that the Republicans can't agree on," Mr. McAuliffe said.
And even Republicans acknowledge there are questions about the durability and significance of the changes taking place. Most fundamentally, it is difficult today to measure whether the Republican successes of 2002 and 2004 were merely a ratification of Mr. Bush himself - a president running for re-election in wartime - or the start of a long-lasting shift to the Republican Party.
"It's still a story waiting to be told," Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush campaign adviser, said. "You can't say after a national election that you won by 2.7 percent nationally, and a lot of states were close, that the Republican Party is going to be dominant."
The critical question for Mr. Bush, his advisers and Democrats say, is the success or failure of his agenda, both in terms of getting it through Congress and winning support for it from the public. Recent polls show apprehension about important aspects of his Social Security plan, and an overwhelming sentiment that Mr. Bush does not know how to end the war in Iraq, which is increasingly unpopular.
And Governor Sanford of South Carolina pointed to the public perception of an economy in trouble, saying, "If we were to see some sort of storm in our economy, well, there are advantages to holding all the cards, and there are disadvantages."
Republican leaders say the challenge now is to deliver on the ambitious agenda Mr. Bush set out in the 2004 campaign. He is trying to persuade Congress and the American people to embrace his plan to reshape Social Security by adding private investment accounts and to create a new tax system that rewards more saving and investment. He wants to reduce the costs that lawsuits and regulations impose on businesses and put more conservative judges in the nation's courtrooms.
Against the backdrop of continued violence in Iraq, he is seeking to rally the nation behind a national security policy that is at once pre-emptive, interventionist and wrapped in a moral imperative to spread freedom.
If he can succeed at all or even most of those undertakings, and those changes leave voters feeling more prosperous and secure, it could usher in an enduring change in the balance of political power in the nation, Mr. Bush's aides say. If he fails, Republicans may well remember this moment as little more than a fleeting alignment of the political stars: the short-lived victory of an incumbent president running for re-election in wartime against an unsteady opponent and a weakened opposition party.
David Mayhew, a professor of political science at Yale, suggested that Mr. Bush's task was not easy and that the historical import of his victory had been overstated.
"I do not think this is a lasting, mountainous achievement in terms of building coalitions," Professor Mayhew said. "Knowing what we know now, the presidential election of 2008 is probably a tossup."
Some See Risks if Howling Moonbats and Traitors Like Democrats Ever Get Into Power Again
NYT is sowing the seeds of doubt.
The only people worried is the left (democrats).
Is it possible the Republicans are FINALLY acting as the majority party that they are and have been for some years?
Is if finally possible that Republicans are FINALLY starting to take over in the unelected agency offices of the government?
The NYT does not report news, they direct spin. Why would they write this now if not to protect the left?
"Still, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, disputed the long-term meaning of the gains, arguing Democrats would have won the White House had 60,000 votes shifted in Ohio, and said Mr. Bush had enjoyed a "huge advantage" because of the attacks of Sept. 11."
Too bad Terry's on his way out, he's been so entertaining, not to mention helpful for Republicans!
Hillary has an absolute zero charisma and she projects zero leadership. She cannot win the Presidential election, it is impossible.
"Knowing what we know now, the presidential election of 2008 is probably a tossup."
So is the election of 2032. So? I don't see the point of this comment.
"Every time someone runs on a conservative platform - they win. Works every time."
Bill Jones beat Boxer in California?
Bill jones was a bad candidate from what I hear. I guess you can be a bad candidate on a good platform and lose.
I'm thinking for the primaries we will again see the power struggle...Clinton vs Kerry (Kennedy) and someone else will emerge from the scuffle.
Yes, it sounded like some sort of wishful thinking on the part of this leftist that the conservative "cycle" is growing a bit too old. I attribute the fascination of the public with big government to be a function of those who credited FDR with ending the Depression, and as the voters who remembered and liked the New Deal started dying off in the mid 1970's, we have entered a more conservative time. Even Clinton tried to co-opt the language of conservatism to fool under-50% "majorities" into voting for him.
The Baby Boomers have no memory of FDR, but they do remember Reagan's "Morning in America". They'll also live a lot longer than their parents' generation, and will keep the GOP in power for a long time.
I don't recall similar articles when the Dems were in power for so many years.
I guess the author of the article will feel better when the Democratic overlords return. Get a life!
Wow, the NYT is late to the bandwagon, who would have thunk it. These articles were out last week and this spin was put on by the MSM during the innauguration as well. It was as if there never was a campaign. These issues were beaten and beaten and beaten like a dead horse. IRAQ=VIETNAM was the central theme of the Kerry campaign. "Growing unease about Iraq," gimme a freaking break. The majority of the voters did not buy the Iraq is Vietnam shyt during the campaign and they are not buying it now. Pure MSM self delusion.
It is interesting to note that as the Iraqi elections draw near, our media is turning up (if that were even possible) the IRAQ=VIETNAM heat. Perhaps the MSM is getting desperate because they know Iragi elections are a significant accomplishment and the MSM views this as the last chance to damage Bush on this issue. Meanwhile, Zarqawi releases a 90 minute screed railing against the elections and ups the violence. Perhaps he is getting desperate because he knows Iraqi elections are a significant accomplishment and this could be the last chance to derail them. Oh, the parallels in thinking never cease to amaze.
"overhauling Social Security and the tax code - those issues, if handled incorrectly, could undercut Mr. Bush's long-term goal for the party. "
Oh sure, we politians should just sit on our a$$ and do nothing in order to maintain power. This is why W aint no ordinary pol.
We can't achieve peace, we cannot have democractic societies, we cannot reform S.S., we cannot overhaul the tax code, we cannot stop junk lawsuits, we cannot appoint constructionist judges...why we might as well give up.
No Dice. We aren't playing around anymore. Sooner the editoralists and politicians in D.C. understand we're through complaining without results the better for them. We have a President that doesn't give a damn what people say, he'll pursue it if he believes it is right. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't, but at least he can be counted upon to take these issues on despite the naysayers.
The electorate is rapidly becoming articulate, well informed and activists on a local level. The days of slacking off on our dime are coming to an end.
*Neo-Progs rhymes with Neo-Frogs
and stands for Neo-Progressives