Once again, I am intrigued by E. J. Dionne, who believes that the passage of President Bush’s tax cut bill is a watershed in American politics because of the raw partisanship (he calls it “hyperpartisanship”) it demonstrates. I have news for him—elections have consequences—and I am reminded of John F. Kennedy’s remark shortly after his razor thin victory in 1960: “the margin of victory was narrow, but the responsibility is clear”.
Somehow, the Democrats have the idea that the Bush Presidency is something of a passing fancy, that he is accidental, that Republican Congressional majorities are temporary and soon to be reversed, and that their job is to obstruct the consummation of policy until “order” is restored. This attitude is manifest across a broad range of public policy deliberations and extends most prominently into the judicial confirmation process, where Bush appointees Estrada and Owen are considered “out of the mainstream”, which in their mind justifies hijacking the Constitution. Analogous to this Washington phenomenon is the recent quorum-breaking stunt by the Texas House Democrats to avoid their responsibility to deliberate and vote on a state Congressional redistricting plan.
The Founders had in mind that majorities were to govern, and they new full well that this would be a highly partisan process, which is why they went to such great pains to install the structural balances that make our system the wonder of the world. But it will continue to work as a republic based on representative democracy only if we have confidence that any abuses and imbalances will be self-correcting through the democratic process, periodically confirmed by elections—not by perverting the Constitution, not by deferring all controversial issues to the courts, and not by walking out and shutting down the political process. If we lose this self-confidence, we are in big trouble.