It would be encouraging to view the deal President Obama brokered with Republicans on extending unaffordable tax cuts as a signal that national leaders are newly willing to compromise. Instead, the move merely solidifies what has become politics as usual in Washington: that the minority rules.
True, the GOP won huge victories in November’s elections, and both the White House and congressional leaders should be influenced by it when legislating. But when the Democrats won enormous victories in 2008, they ran up against a determined and remarkably disciplined GOP minority, which refused to support Democratic initiatives—even those as Republican-friendly as a small business tax cut. In the Senate, policies supported by the vast majority of senators (who, because they come from larger states, represent an even bigger percentage of the American electorate than their membership suggests) were stopped because a minority of 41 senators threatened a filibuster.
So what should the Democrats do now? Dig in their heels as firmly as the GOP did, stopping anything with Republican fingerprints on it? That would be as unproductive and childish as the behavior displayed by the minority party in Obama’s first two years. But it would be hard for the GOP to make a moral argument against it.
The Democrats are often called (dismissively) the "Mommy Party" because of their attention to matters such as the equitable distribution of wealth and protection of minorities. And Republicans, by extension, get characterized as the Daddy Party, because of their attention to national security. The descriptions are facile, but not as disturbing as the behavior of the Daddy party in the first half of Obama’s first term. The assumption seemed to be that even with minority status, Daddy is still head of the household of Congress and should run the show.
Democrats weren’t given their way when they controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House. Republicans should be heard and involved, especially now that they will control one of those three entities. But they shouldn’t control the entire agenda.