The Majority Is Splintering
The defeated and marginalized Democrats in Congress are still too shocked and awed to even look cross-eyed at Bush. But, from the other direction – well, think of Clinton’s first 2 years in office. Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, and nothing got done. Now it seems Bush is being stymied by members of his own party.
There must be an un-named principle at work here (or several). When the majority becomes too large, complacency seems to set in; sort of a feeling of “we’re in control here. Relax. What are these little punks gonna do about it?” When any group gets too tightly in control and too complacent, the group’s power becomes diffused and diluted. Individuals will start focusing on their own individual goals and personal issues, at the expense of loyalty to the larger group.
When Democrats were in control of Congress and the White House in 1992 through ’94, Republicans were the tightest and most cohesive unit imaginable. They did everything in lockstep, and they always seemed to be pulling obscure by-laws and parliamentary procedures out of thin air. No matter how large a Democratic majority was in favor of a certain bill, they’d always be confronted with “this bill needs a 99% majority vote unless it’s raining and the Majority Leader is wearing a yellow shirt.” And the Democrats, for their part, couldn’t seem to agree on what color the sky was.
So far, the Democrats don’t seem to have recovered enough to muster up any sort of group unity, let alone any obscure parliamentary procedures. But, Republicans have scuttled the intelligence overhaul bill that the president and vice president have both pushed for. Bush and Cheney have both contacted congressional negotiators by phone to push for passage of the bill. Congress might meet for an emergency session in early December for another vote on the bill. November 20th was supposed to be their last meeting of the year, but the party leadership doesn’t want to finish out the year with this legislation dangling in the air.
This bill is the product of 3 months of hearings and negotiations following the release of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. It would create an all-powerful position to oversee the CIA and several other spy agencies. A national counterterrorism center would coordinate the fight against foreign terrorists. Two prominent 9/11 families’ organizations disagree on the bill. The 9/11 Family Steering Committee is in favor; 9/11 Families for a Secure America is opposed.
If the bill isn’t passed during an emergency session of Congress next month, lawmakers will have to start from scratch in January 2005. Or the bill could just die altogether, with the bipartisan 9/11 Commission’s recommendations going down the tubes. With a new Congress taking over in January, unapproved bills will expire. New legislators and new committee leaders will have to consider any new legislation.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said “Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House, and the blame for this failure is theirs alone.”
Further diffusing and fracturing of the Republican majority seems inevitable. Free-market laissez faire economists, religious fanatics who want to propel us back to the 12th century, and military adventurists who want to invade every country that breathes a word of disagreement – there has to be some disagreement among these groups. They all worked together for Bush’s election. Now that they’ve succeeded – let the infighting begin!