November 13, 2002
As a result of the elections, Republicans are settling into the idea of being a majority party -- unlike the 1980s, when, despite owning the Senate, they seemed to treat their majority as something temporary. They didn't treat Democrats with disdain, as the Democrats had done to them when they were in the majority, because they knew in their hearts it wouldn't last.
When Republicans took the House in 1994, some reacted by leaving office, as if they could only operate in the minority, where they could lob bombs without taking responsibility for their actions.
Now, things might be different.
- Many of the problems that developed after their 1994 takeover of the House resulted from a fear that they would be out again in 1996 -- leading to over-reaching and pushing the envelope that proved to be self-defeating in certain respects.
- The main reason why the 2002 elections are important is precisely because Republican gains were not supposed to happen.
- Since Republican gained this time, they can realistically look forward to holding the House and Senate in 2004 -- meaning, for the first time in 2 generations, that Republicans can think beyond the next election cycle.
- They can start to think long-term, about building a base for policy changes that may not occur for 2 to 3 years, rather than going for broke immediately.
Another element in this change in thinking is that a growing number of Republicans in Congress have only been there since they have had control of at least one house. They are not intimidated by the Democrats, as a whole generation of their predecessors were.
President Bush personifies a more self-assured, majority-minded Republican attitude. His ability to convey this to other Republicans will be key to his ability to pursue an agenda and change the political dynamics for a generation.
Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, November 13, 2002
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