Here’s a very interesting article in today’s Washington Post. The title hits at the ‘honeymoon is over’ storyline (as though there ever really was a honeymoon between the president and the Democrats on Capitol Hill). The more interesting story is the brass tacks game the president and his Hill allies are playing on the tax bill and the way it’s stiffening resolve among Democrats — even conservative Democrats.
The big fear the Democrats have had from the start is that Bush would try to peel off enough conservative Democrats to pass his legislation and have the appearance of bipartisan cooperation. That would have put Dems in a very bad position — and the prospect had them very scared. Especially after Zell Miller jumped ship without even being pushed.
But there are two ways for a Republican president to pursue this peel off strategy. One is to come to the center — or the center-right — and do business with just enough conservative Democrats to get the numbers he needs. He’d listen to them, make nice with them, compromise with them, and so forth.
The other way is to try to bully them, which is what the Post article says he’s doing — sending direct mail into the districts of conservative Democrats, trying to get their constituents to lean on them to get with the Bush program, etc.
But this latter approach is a high stakes game — because it’s very easy to piss people off by doing this, but not nearly as easy to get people to vote your way.
Bush has also had his House allies push through his tax cut on straight party-line votes in the House Ways & Means Committee, which again looks a ‘my way or the highway approach.’
According to this article, this swaggering approach to legislative strategy has managed to get conservative Texas Democrat pretty peeved at the new president.
If Bush has managed to piss of Charlie Stenholm then Bush is really up a creek.