The Federal election of 2000 casts long shadows, it seems. Actually, that’s not true, but the election was one representative event, where partisan tensions rose and left scars on the nation. Republicans were bouyed by George W. Bush’s Presidential win in 2000, along with control of both the House and Senate in the Congress, and so came to think of the conflict as a hard-won victory, and they looked forward to enacting legislation as the clear majority party in power. For their part, the Democrats bitterly resented their losses in the national contests, all the more when they saw a trend in the draining away of their power. When the United States Supreme Court ruled against the Florida Supreme Court’s attempt to subvert the election and their State Constitution, Democrats saw the defeat as a sign that they had fallen on all fronts.
Since the 2000 election, things have gotten only worse for the Democrats, as they are now losing not only national offices, but governorships and voter support in party affiliation. With the disgrace of Dan Rather and Jordan Eason, Democrats are also seeing the fall of their cherished icons in the public media.
During the first session of 2001, Republicans in the House of Representatives tried to put together the promised agenda of legislation, but found themselves stymied on three fronts: First, President Bush acted with something less than bold confidence because of the close numbers of his election. Second, the Senate reversed opportunity not only because of the mercenary defection of Jim Jeffords, but also due to the historical egotism and narcissism of the Senators as a group. But third, the House also found it unexpectedly difficult to reach consensus on some of the most important bills. The Republicans were finding that majority as a party did not translate to unity on their priorities and promises.
So began the first term of President George W. Bush. Since then, the Republicans have enjoyed surprising victories in the 2002 Congressional elections, and in the 2004 Federal elections, but still face the inertia that faced them four years ago. True, there was the tax break vote, and the stunningly bold action which has freed two nations from despots, and which still holds the potential to remake the future of the entire Middle East. There is also the resolute decision to put up with stalls in Congress, rather than play the games Democrats used against the first George Bush, which would provide short-term amity but weaken the nation and the party. But the Republicans are finding that every battle has a sequel, and promises made to get elected are not always remembered by the men who make them, no matter how noble the words. Just as a Democrat majority in Congress did not give Bill Clinton everything he wanted, a Republican Congress will sometimes put itself ahead of the President and the Nation.
While the Democrats fight the growing trend of Conservative values, the Republicans fight a stubborn system of entrenched personal egos and the status quo. A common frustration, even for two parties moving in different directions.