Let's say you're a leader of a political party. Your party has just won 55 out of 100 seats in the Senate; you have maintained solid control of the House; and your candidate for president has just been re-elected by a margin of three million votes. Now you're faced with crucial political issues you campaigned upon. Do you: a) go for it, or b) compromise?
If you're the Republican Party, you compromise. Republicans are so used to being a minority party -- or at least a party in control of single branches of government at a time -- that they have no idea how to get things done in this new political environment. What's clear to every semi-literate observer of politics -- the basic principle that when you have power, you ram your agenda through -- remains murky for the Republican leadership.
Senate Republicans are stalled on Social Security personal accounts. Senate Republicans are stalled on the John Bolton United Nations ambassador nomination. And Senate Republicans are stalled in foiling the Democrats' desperation filibuster of popular textualist judges who will surely win approval in a full Senate vote.
Republicans own 55 seats in the Senate, a solid majority in the House and the presidency. What in the world is going on? President Bush vowed after his three million vote electoral victory margin to spend his political capital. Yet his political capital drains slowly away, day by day -- his latest approval ratings are below 50 percent. Bush's political capital is not draining away because he's pushing unpopular measures; it's draining away because he isn't doing anything . Approval ratings for the Senate reflect similar disenchantment with inaction. The American people elected President Bush, a Republican Senate and a Republican House in order to see a certain agenda pursued. Yet Republicans, afraid to alienate portions of the voting public they have already captured, dillydally.
It's easy to blame Republican inaction on the obvious: grandstanding by a few key "maverick" Republican senators seeking airtime and press raves. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, has vowed to shoot down any Social Security proposal that includes personal accounts. Because the Committee is split 11-9 in favor of Republicans, Snowe's defection could spell the end of President Bush's Social Security proposal.
At the same time, Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), as well as Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), seem poised to crater Bolton's confirmation.