After having an electoral stake pounded through its heart last November, after being exposed to the searing media morning light of a “permanent realignment” in the “center-left” American electorate, with a silver bullet in the brain of a “broken GOP brand”, and with a garlic necklace strangling it’s “sixty’s culture war” neck, the corpse of “Divided Government” seemed dead, buried and forgotten in the media for the foreseeable future.
But last week the undead meme was walking again:
The GOP’s Best Weapon In 2010
History Makes The Case For Divided Government
By Gary Andres
“Inclement political weather rocked President Obama and his party this summer. Falling poll numbers and growing voter misgivings open the door for big Republican gains in next year’s midterm elections.
But more storm clouds gather. With Democrats controlling the White House and Congress, the GOP can now use voter distrust of unified party control (the same party in charge of the presidency and Congress) as a tool to make major gains in next year’s elections–a political weapon both parties could only unsheathe irregularly over the past half century.
Why are voters choosing to neuter a political party after it consolidates power? “Policy balancing” is part of the explanation, according to Fiorina. Does this mean voters say something like, “I voted for a Democrat for president, so now I’ll choose a Republican to balance things out.” Probably not. He believes voters engage in something a little less premeditated. “While not consciously choosing divided government, people may have a vague appreciation of the overall picture that plays some role in how they vote. People could be voting as if they are making conscious choices to divide government even if their individual decisions are well below the conscious level,” Fiorina writes.”
Morris Fiorina is a political scientist that wrote the definitive text on Divided Government, titled appropriately enough – “Divided Government“. His comment in this piece goes directly to the raison d’être for my blog. To seek an answer to this never-ending question – “Rather than trusting the partisan balancing choice to a subconscious impulse, would we not be much better off if a few percentage of the electorate simply voted consciously for divided government?” And to promote that divided government voting heuristic.
On that topic, two more recent articles on the same general theme:
Swing time is coming for Dems, GOP
By: Noemie Emery Examiner Columnist
“Calibrating the balance between the state and the free enterprise system is a delicate business, which is why the “big” and “small” government parties tend to take turns in power, so they can absorb and fine tune one another’s achievements, and undo each other’s mistakes. When the out-party wins power, it is given a mandate to tweak the controls and make a slight change in the country’s direction, the key words being “slight change” and “tweak.” Confronted with excess, the country enforces its own equilibrium, as when the Republican Congress crashed into Bill Clinton, frustrating both, but pleasing the country, creating welfare reform and a roaring economy. Divided government is a substitute for a conservative temperament, which is why it is frequently popular. The way things are going, it may shortly be with us again.”
“It’s been a hilarious August, watching media supporters of President Obama’s health care package puzzle over the obscure motivations of the noncompliant Americans rallying against it.
“Racial anxiety,” guessed New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. “Nihilism,” theorized Time’s Joe Klein. “The crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy,” historian Rick Perlstein proclaimed in the Washington Post.
While the commentariat’s condescension is almost comical, the whole evil-or-stupid explanation misses the elephant in Obama’s room: Americans of all stripes, it turns out, aren’t very keen about the government barging into their lives.”
A side benefit of watching the undead specter of divided government haunt the media again – We are no longer hearing about how the United States is really a “center-left” country.
It may be a bit early for these proclamations and conclusions. We are still more than a year away from the midterms. I still think it will take until 2012 to get there, but when Chris Dodd, Arlen Specter, and Harry Reid are all in trouble, we can safely say that divided government is rising from the grave.
Cross posted from “Divided We Stand United We Fall“