I host a (more or less) monthly compilation of posts and articles on the subject of divided government at Divided We Stand United We Fall. The August Carnival of Divided Government QuÃ®ntus Decimus – Special Dog Days of Summer Edition was updated today. I’ll just highlight two recent links here –
Bruce Bartlett is substituting for Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish this week. In defense of a recent LA Times article he authored, he posts “Hillary & the Right” invoking divided government as a voting heuristic and Republican political tactic for 2008:
“…the American people like gridlock. They don’t trust either party to run the whole show. And frankly, the 2000-2006 experience of a Republican Congress and a Republican president is strong evidence in favor of divided party control. Therefore, if Republicans were to run a national campaign reminding voters that the best economic times we’ve had in living memory came when we had a Democratic president and a Republican Congress, I think it could persuade a lot of voters to split their votes. If, on the other hand, Republicans insist of believing that they can hold the White House and put all their eggs in that basket, then we could have a nightmare scenario where Democrats in Congress are free to enact bad legislation with no restraint.”
While I agree completely with Bartlett’s perspective on divided government, there is a problem with his application of the concept when he advises Republicans to focus on retaking the House in 2008. The problem is that he is flying in the face of history. In the 100 years since we have been electing senators directly, the House of Representatives has never switched majority unless the Senate did also. There are 33 Senate seats contested in 2008. Of these, 21 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. Simple numbers – the Republicans have a lot more at risk, and will be playing defense. The Democrats have many more opportunities to take seats than Republicans. Advantage Democrats. Big, big advantage. It is possible of course, for history to be rewritten in 2008, but the best and perhaps only chance for the continuation of divided government, is if the Republicans can hold the White House.
“I’ve become convinced gridlock is not only good, it is necessary. That comes under the heading of “pragmatism”. As Bartlett rightly points out, I don’t trust either party to run the whole show and divided government actually does impose a defacto check and balance as we’ve seen here lately… If one of the parties is in a majority in both the legislative and executive branches, I have no faith that party will do what is necessary to get government out of our lives and wallets, and that includes the Republicans… with divided government – gridlock – that chance is much more available than when you have a single party in power with the ability to ram through legislation, no matter how intrusive or expensive, at will.”
McQ has been an advocate of divided government since before I started blogging. In addition to simply being a better state for our government, reinforcing the “checks and balances” intent of the founding fathers, I continue to think divided government could be an organizing principle for securing libertarian political clout. This is a concept I have have promoted repeatedly, notably here and here. It is a concept either ahead of its time, or already lost to the dustbin of history.
More links and commentary back on the ranch.