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That is not a problem the Republicans have. From the moment they rode in, they knew exactly what they wanted to do. Where Clinton stayed up all night brainstorming policy only to revisit the outcome the next day, Bush is famously decisive and anchored in his beliefs, charging forward, not looking back. You expect that when one party reclaims the White House some redecorating is in order: Bush might replace those portraits of Franklin Roosevelt with cousin Teddy's. But Richard Nixon didn't ax the Peace Corps, while Bush let AmeriCorps go through several near-death experiences even though it was the one program Clinton personally asked him to protect. Over at the Agency for International Development, officials spent $100,000 on a collage to cover up a bronze plaque honoring Hillary Clinton for her work overseas. Bush has reversed not only Clinton's traditional Democratic initiatives--like the environmental regulations he approved in the last weeks of his tenure--but even his adopted Republican principles. It is Bush who has hurled the budget out of balance and moved away from free trade. "People on our side underestimated how determined and driven these new guys were," says a top Democratic aide in the Senate.
But if Democratic voters were alarmed by Bush's juggernaut, they were appalled at the Washington Democrats, who just lay down in front of it. Ted Kennedy compromised on school testing to help pass Bush's education bill, only to see the promised extra funding disappear. Rather than try to block the Bush tax cuts, Democrats focused on reducing their size. Just as Republicans could not stop Clinton from appropriating fiscal responsibility and crime fighting as Democratic issues, Democrats could not stop Bush from claiming victory on prescription drugs, immigration and the Homeland Security Department--a department that was first proposed by Democrats.
"We were asleep at the switch," admits a Democratic aide. "That's why Dean got his lift-off. He saw how angry Democrats across the country really were." In a TIME/CNN poll, 77% of Democrats said the party needs better leaders in Congress, and 63% said it hasn't been strong enough in taking on President Bush. Listen to the Democrats who are turning up at high school gyms on cold New Hampshire nights, and you hear almost as much anger aimed at Washington Democrats as at the White House. "The Democratic Party essentially collapsed after the 2000 elections," Dean argues. "George Bush lost, essentially, by 500,000 votes ... and our guys acted as if he had a mandate. And the result is the most radical President we've had." Voting with the G.O.P. 80% of the time is no way for an opposition party to behave. "You can't accommodate them," argues Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi. "You're either with them or against them."