Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. asked in a recent column, "Should a temporary majority of 50.7 percent have control over the entire United States government? Should 49.3 percent of Americans have no influence over the nation's trajectory for the next generation? We are deciding whether one ideological orientation will hold sway over all three branches of government … Today's Republican majority, based on Bush's 50.7 percent of the vote in 2004, has no inherent right to exercise near-total control over that 'most powerful branch.'"
I have written before that liberals seem to be arguing that the president should effectively compromise his judicial appointment power by choosing not just conservative judges, but liberal ones in proportion to the percentage of popular votes John Kerry received.
Now E.J. has come along and validated my conclusion. And as I read it, I'm still incredulous that someone of his supposed stature could put this in print. Our Constitution doesn't require the chief executive to dilute his agenda commensurate with the votes his opponent received. It's up to elected members of the opposition party to advocate their party's agenda.
The answers to E.J.'s questions are these: No, a relatively narrow majority (nor an overwhelming majority, for that matter) does not have an inherent right to exercise near-total control over the "entire U.S. government" or "that 'most powerful branch.'" It is entitled to precisely that amount of influence it is able to muster under the Constitution. Under the Constitution, the president is entitled to appoint judges, and the Senate has the advice and consent power.
Senators of the majority party are not required to push their agenda with only 50.7 percent intensity. It's an adversary system -- they may promote their views with 100 percent of their energy, and it is up to the minority party to advocate their dissenting views.