When the GOP controlled Congress and the White House, many Democrats and their allies in the media complained that Republicans were more interested in pursuing a narrow ideological agenda intended to transform government and society rather than in solving the nations problems.
Whether you agreed with that assessment, the charge wasnt completely unreasonable. Tax cuts to strangle government, deregulation for the sake of deregulation and social policy to advance the conservative agenda at any cost (e.g., Terri Schiavo) seemed among the rules of the day, no matter what the problem or the publics desire.
During 2007 and 2008, Capitol Hill Democrats were careful not to emulate the approach of GOP Congressional leaders in 1995 and 1996. But since President Barack Obamas election, those same Democrats seem to have forgotten what happened when Republicans pushed too far, too fast for change.
Increasingly, party leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue seem more interested in pushing an ideological agenda to transform the nation and the federal government rather than in dealing with the nations problems.
Until a handful of Senate Democrats negotiated a new health care reform deal that does not include a public option, that seemed more important to Democratic leaders than portability of insurance, ending denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions and a variety of proposals to lower costs and expand coverage.
Some have argued that only something as dramatic as a public option will truly deal with the nations health care crisis, but thats hard to swallow considering the sizable Democratic opposition to the idea in the House and the newly crafted Senate package.
Yes, we have seen this before. After the 1994 elections, GOP leaders interpreted the results as an invitation even a demand by most Americans to change the country fundamentally by cutting government.
Of course, that wasnt the case any more than last years presidential and Congressional elections were a mandate for a public insurance option in health care reform or a cap-and-trade bill or the enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Normal people dont think that way, but politically active ideologues do, and after a sweeping election victory those elites try to impose their collective will on the American people, couching their proposals as the publics.
Then-Texas Republican Reps. Tom DeLay and Dick Armeys arrogance allowed President Bill Clinton to triangulate, and he was re-elected two years after the Republican tsunami that was supposed to change how Washington worked. Even Clintons re-election victory didnt convince the GOPs leaders that their constant pedal-to-the-metal strategy was the wrong approach, and DeLay, in particular, continued to look for ways to move his revolution forward on Capitol Hill until he left Congress.