When Dubya became president, things were more polarized, but even so, three Democratic senators and 13 House members backed Bush’s first tax cut. Those numbers are small, but they’re a lot more than the zero votes Republicans routinely gave Barack Obama (he did get three GOP senators on the stimulus package, but no House members). And many more Democrats backed the No Child Left Behind act, another early Bush signature bill.
The Democrats who cast these yea votes did so in part for their own local reasons, but there has also long been a fear on the Democratic side of opposing these Republican presidents’ big initiatives because the Democrats feared they’d work, and then they (the Democrats) would be seen as “anti-growth.” The same logic was at work on the Iraq War vote for many of them, especially the ones with an eye on the White House—if the war was a success and they voted against it, they’d look “weak.”
They were wrong every time. Voting for Republican economic schemes just ended up muddying their own message and lending bipartisan cover to a massive wealth transfer to those at the top. And voting for Bush’s war, well…
In casting these votes, Democrats went against the passion of their grassroots. This has been a key difference between the two parties for a good 20 years now: The Republicans relentlessly pander to their base, while the Democrats keep theirs at arm’s length (think of the way Pelosi immediately slammed the door shut on impeachment talk when she became Speaker in 2007).