A bipartisan Reagan?
It can be reported with knowledge that President Reagan plans to use his signal tax-cut victory in the House of Representatives to win control of Congress in the elections next fall and to help ensure his own reelection in 1984.
But he does not intend to portray the administration's decisive 238-to-195 vote approving most of his tax reductions over the next three years as a great Republican partisan triumph. He will give generous credit to his Democratic supporters -- 48 in all -- and appeal on a nonpartisan basis for the same kind of Democratic support at the polls as they gave in the House to his whole economic package.
It deserves to be noted that Mr. Reagan has shown unusual ability to obtain support from Congress. He has matched two of his most effective predecessors -- Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
Roosevelt came to office at the depth of the Great Depression, and the American people and the Congress were so frightened at what was happening that during the first years Congress enacted many of FDR's measures without even reading them, just whooping them through.
Johnson had the impact of Kennedy's tragic assassination, and Congress was eager to pay tribute to him by giving to LBJ much of what it had never given to JFK while he was alive.
If presidential leadership is in large part the ability to communicate and thereby to generate public opinion to persuade Congress to act favorably on what the President believes needs to be done -- as I believe it is -- then Reagan has been demonstrating leadership to a striking degree. Roosevelt and Johnson were able to do it. Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford were unable to do it.
While it is evident that Reagan is a President of clear-cut ideological views , it is also evident that he is not a President of sharp partisan views. He is at home in bipartisan and nonpartisan politics; that's where he is at his best, and he aims, I am informed, to present himself to the voters next fall and in 1984 in this light. He believes that this will have the best chance of creating a mood in the country and in the Congress which will enable a Reagan presidency and a Reagan Congress each to transact the public business efficiently and on time.
It seems to me that, as a result of the process of concessions which each side made to try to win votes away from the other, Reagan emerges smelling better than the Democrats. If you read the highlights of the tax-cut measure which the House enacted, it is clear that it substantially parallels Reagan's original. But the concessions which the Democrats made to Reagan to try to hold the support of the conservative Democrats, robbed the Democratic Party of nearly all ideological consistency.
The honorable role of the opposition party is to be willing to lose while sticking to its principles. In this instance the Democrats lost both their principles and their maneuver. This is just another reason why Reagan is facing the upcoming elections in an enhanced position.