Monday, April 23, 2007

Carnival of Divided Government DUODECIMUS - One Year Anniversary Edition

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 2, 2007
"You say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too--yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.
- John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Welcome to the April 23, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - Special One year Anniversary Edition. Yes, our little bouncing bundle of blogging joy is one year old. The very first DWSUWF post was written one year ago today. In that first post we invited readers to ... um... go away. I was still getting the hang of this whole blogging thing. The next two posts were an improvement, and laid the foundation for a divided government thesis and voting strategy that we continue to build on today. By the way- I have no idea who these people are in the picture ... just found the pic somewhere out there in the ether.

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this Carnival of Divided Government DUODECIMUS - Special Birthday Edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and mainstream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions. In fact, for this birthday edition, we received an extensive selection of fine submissions, of which NONE - as in ZERO, NADA, ZIPPO, SQUAT - are on topic and mention "divided government". Hey! It's our birthday people! And now we are going to have take all the blogging birthday submissions and return them to wherever they came from. Because on our blogging birthday we will only link to on-topic posts, so today we offer a 100% Draftee edition of the carnival:

Divided Government Birthday Posts
Our first birthday present arrives from Kiev, Ukraine where Gingeriana posts "ПРОЛИСТЫВАЙТЕ, ПРОЛИСТЫВАЙТЕ! (LOOK AT THIS, LOOK AT THIS!) in her blog "Чемпионат мира по метанию бисера" - translated by RusTrans as "The world championship on a throwing of beads" (I suspect something was lost in translation here - possibly because she is writing in Ukrainian and I am translating as if from Russian using a free internet tool). In any case she offers a unique perspective from afar, as she calls attention to a lecture by Andrew Busch at the "Alumni Resource Centre, American Counsils, Kyiv, Ukraine entitled "Looking Ahead to 2008 U.S. Presidential Elections” and apparently finds a parallel to Ukraine politics:
"Many Americans vote deliberately to make a divided government: - if the President is Republican, than the Congress should be Democratic (and vice-versa) So, there is a big chance that since the current Congress is mostly Democrats, the next president would be again Republican. Americans do not make a big deal of President and Congress being political opponents. They find such situation to be normal and desirable, and a good balance of powers too. (Compare to Ukraine)."
Gingeriana sums it up quite well. In fact, one might make the case that it has taken DWSUWF an entire year of blog posts to say what she has distilled into one succinct paragraph. The only correction I would make to her cogent observation, is that not enough Americans "vote deliberately to make a divided government". But that's my job for the next 18 months. I'll be using the translation tool to comment on Gingeriana's post over the next couple of days. It should be very entertaining. For her.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire finds a "A Silver Lining for Republicans" in an article that echoes Gingeriana's Ukrainian perspective of our divided government:
"So why are the Republicans in the minority in Congress? According to Rep. Tom Davis, voters don’t like either party to control both the White House and the Congress for too long. Speaking at the National Press Club today, the Virginia Republican said, “What we’ve got to remember is divided government has basically been the norm. If you go back the last 40 years, I think three-fourths of the time we’ve had divided government. One party controls the White House and the other party controls at least one house of Congress…(T)he norm is that if there’s somebody to blame — and you can blame it on one party — you end up taking a licking."
Our next birthday present is from a friend of the DWSUWF blog, Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice. Joe got his underwear in bunch over a Christian Science Monitor op-ed piece by Pat M. Holt in his post "Bush Asserts Powers While Congress Has Ceded Them?"
"... if we are living in an age of dysfunctional government, what is the solution? If a single party didn’t quite work, and divided government with both major parties don’t work…what’s next? And is there a “next”?"
Joe - Chill. Divided government is working. The pendulum is starting to move back. Congress is reasserting their authority. We see it in the Gonzales oversight hearings. We see it in a Iraq funding bill with a timetable for withdrawal that will be sitting on the President's desk this week. We see it in Republicans suddenly caring about pork and earmarks for the first time in six years. Six years of single party control pushed that pendulum pretty far out. It'll take a while and some wild swings before it gets back to the middle.

Here Joe, this'll help - read David Gaffen's post in the Wall Street Journal's MarketBeat - "Divided Government, Less Regulation — It’s All Good":
"It’s often stated that divided government is good for the markets. Bianco Research finds that this is indeed the case. But they take it a step further in a report today, showing that, more often than not, unified government results in more regulatory growth, which damps the prospects for markets — and that divided government, while good in general, can be bad if it increases regulation anyway."
The parties have to agree to increase regulation. So, no problem. The key takeaway from the post (as far as the markets are concerned) is this: in a divided government bipartisanship is bad and political polarization is good.

Tieran O Faolin is seriously confused at American Red Tory, asking the rhetorical question "DIVIDED GOVERNMENT"?
"There's a common rumor that American voters frequently prefer to split Congress and the White House between the two main parties. This is false. The only (virtual) national election we have is for President. Congress isn't a national election like for the Israeli Knesset. We have 435 House districts and 50 Senate ones (the States), and people usually vote for the incumbent - usually irrespective of attempts by Party types to "nationalize" Congressional elections - because usually there isn't a seriously credible challenger, because of partisan gerrymandering of House districts by State politicians to favor incumbents. Therefore any alleged correspondence between party positions within or between the two elected Branches of the Federal Government is coincidence, nothing more."
Actually not, Tieran. I mean, really... "Coincidence, nothing more"??? Where have you been for the last six years? With single party control, the U.S. Congress abrogated virtually all of their Constitutional responsibilities in order to further the "corresponding" party positions of the executive branch. While it it is usually true that "all politics is local" and incumbents certainly have a crushing advantage, it is certainly possible for congressional elections to be nationalized and an incumbent majority to lose as a result. We know this is true because that is exactly what happened in the last election. Although some will maintain that Americans subconsciously prefer divided government, I will grant your point that most Americans do not consciously vote for divided government. But that does not mean it will stay that way. Certainly, some of us vote that way. We'll see what we can do to increase those numbers.

Steven Teles at The Reality Based Community presents a thoughtful post on how the mechanism of divided government helps congress fulfill their constitutional duties, thoughtfully entitled "Hiring Kooks":
"This is, in part, an institutional problem--how do you ensure that the executive branch does not overweight its political strata with ideological hacks? This should be a primary function of the Senate, exercising its constitutionally orthodox power to confirm presidential nominees for political appointments. For most of the Bush years, Congress punted this function because it had been transformed into the functional equivalent of parliament, doing this bidding of their Prime Minister. But with the return of divided government, we have the ability to reassert something closer to constitutional orthodoxy. The first task of the Democratic Congress should be to engage in close scrutiny of all presidential appointees, making it clear that nominees whose primary qualification is ideological commitment will be given a good raking over the coals. This should make the administration more reticent to nominate such people in the first place, or a least to reduce their propensity to do so. Even though the purpose of this may be partisan (to embarass the administration) its effect would be wholesomely constitutional. "Ambition counteracting ambition," I think someone once called it..."
"Ambition counteracting Ambition". I like the sound of that. We'll have to figure out who said it.
Ok I figured it out. This is embarrasing, I should have known the source. The actual complete quote is excerpted here:
"Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other -- that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State."
The author is James Madison. The source is Federalist #51 written in 1788. Madison is explaining the rationale behind constitutional checks, balances and the need for seperation of powers into co-equal branches of government. The identical rationale applies to not permitting one political party to control both the legislative and executive branches. It is the rationale for divided government. It good to be regularly reminded just how prescient and smart the founding fathers of our constitution really were.

Joseph Wiesenthal
at The Stalwart is thinking about other constitutional issues, but still concludes that divided government will help in "Searching for Jihad":
"Also, let me make a point on gun control. It's probably too much to ask of people to not use a tragedy to advance their political viewpoints. Of course, both sides of the gun control debate see this incident as vindication of their beliefs. While I tend to come down on the libertarian side of things, I don't think that one exceedingly rare incident can prove one side or another. In other words, we shouldn't let one freak incident guide our policies. Unfortunately, it's usually the freak incidents that get politicians motivated to "do something", so it's inevitable that some sort of law will come out of this. I'm just glad that we have divided government, so that nothing can get done too quickly."
James Trumm at Framed finds similarities and differences between 2008 and 1968 in this post written exactly "277 Days..." before the New Hampshire primary:
"By the time the 2008 election comes around, we will have had two years of divided government, where the party that got us into a war and pushed through unpopular legislation is NOT the party in power in Congress... The voters in 1968 seemed to want someone who could check what were perceived as the excesses and abuses of the party in power on Capitol Hill; they voted for divided government. Unless the Democrats badly fumble their Congressional ascendancy, this situation won't repeat itself in 2008."
I hope he is wrong, but suspect that he is right. This is why I have said before and will say again, Chuck Hagel is the only electable Republican candidate for President. He is a rock solid conservative and has the credibility of opposing the administration on the war from the beginning. Yet we don't even know if he is going to run.

Ed Sistrunk at Grassroots Conservative Majority considers the candidates and a return to fiscal conservative principles in "Whitehouse '08":
"Republicans have historically claimed to be the party of spending discipline. Their performance while in control of both the executive and legislative branches has shredded that claim. Federal spending increased under Republican control at twice the rate it did under divided government, when Republicans controlled Congress and Bill Clinton was in the White House. Moreover, earmarks soared under Republican control. Earmarks are appropriations designated by a member of Congress for a local project within his political jurisdiction. Earmarks, commonly referred to as pork, are corrosive in two ways. First, they detract attention and resources from truly national concerns. Second, once a member has his local bridge or bus stop, he is expected to vote for the overall appropriations bill, regardless of how bloated it becomes. McCain shines on fiscal issues."
That may very well be true, but McCain is dead wrong on the war. Hagel also shines on fiscal issues, and he shines even brighter in his principled stance on the war. Ron Paul is a libertarian Republican running for president who was also right on the war, as Daniel Watson shows clearly in "Heroes & Villains: Cong. Ron Paul & Prof. Michael Ledeen" posted at Americans for Ron Paul Blog. I just don't think that Paul has a chance of winning. But he will be fun to watch in the debates.

We'll wrap this up with a dip in the mainstream media. Samuel L. Popkin and Henry A. Kim caution Democrats that history and voter preferences for divided government stand between them and the White House, in "Winning the White House? History's Against Them":
"Divided government can help presidents look moderate and the party controlling Congress look extreme. Because Democrats control the agenda, they will bring up bills they want, and bottle up bills favored by the Republican right. Bush and the GOP are now likely to be defined by which Democratic bills he signs and which he vetoes, instead of by the bills advanced from his right wing."
I'd like to believe this is true, but it sure looks to me like the Republican Party is drifting further and further from the mainstream American voter on Iraq, and as a consequence is on a hell bound train to losing all branches in 2008.

A single off-topic slice of birthday cake.
OK, it is our blogging birthday and we can be magnaminous. We will continue the longstanding tradition at The Carnival of Divided Government to include one "off-topic" submission as a grudging acknowledgement and symbolic proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. The winner for this edition is ...

Hell's Handmaiden presenting Blogs for Monsters Among Us posted at Hell's Handmaiden - just because I like the blog.

UPDATED: May 2, 2007
It is going to be a long stretch until the next Carnival of Divided Government on Memorial Day weekend. In the last week I found a few more great on-topic posts and well, I just couldn't wait to get them to you, so we''ll append them here.

Sean Aqui, posting at both Donklephant and Midtopia presents a nice overview of Senate Intelligence committee hearings into NSA wiretapping authority in "Senate Doubles Over Laughing at Wiretap Proposal":
"Well, okay, they didn't. But I wish they would. At least they were skeptical... Man, I love divided government. Rubber stamps suck."
True. A rubber stamp legislature sucks, subverts constitutional protections, and is dangerous. Divided government fixes that.

Patricia Lee Sharpe presents "The War Bill Process Proves that Divided Government is Better" at Whirled View:
"There were hearings, for a change. And before the bill with the Iraq pullout proviso was passed, there were debates, too. Now, if the President vetoes it, as he has pledged to do, he will have to justify his war policy publicly. Again. [...] In the case of federal legislation the Founders wrote a Constitution chock full of these time-consuming checks and balances, and they had it right: divided government is safer. It promotes debate. It promotes accountability. It promotes transparency. It encourages broadly acceptable action and prevents extreme legislation by ideologues. It brings the nation together. (Well, not always, and that's not necessarily bad either.)... Thank goodness for divided government!"
Well said. I left a challenge in the comments on her post, which is a preview of coming attractions here at DWSUWF.

Mark Thoma has a lot of graphs, charts and citations in his detailed review of the Economic Letter from Jason Saving of the Dallas Fed in his post "FRB Dallas: The U.S. Budget Deficit’s Uncertain Prospects" posted at the Economists View:
"...most observers are discounting the possibility of major tax cuts or spending increases in an era of divided government. So fiscal policy may look as if it’s restrained by a binding paygo arrangement over the next few years, even if the actual rule is somewhat less stringent."
Mr. Elbaum, a history teacher at Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Il., has an important lesson for his class in "Reid vs. Bush...Gotta love Divided Government!" posted at Patriot of 76:
"After a conference committee meeting (great vocabulary word!), House and Senate Democratic appropriators agreed Monday on a $124 billion bill that would fund the Iraq war but order troops to begin leaving by Oct. 1 with the goal of completing the pullout six months later... A showdown is set. A Democratic Congress vs. a Republican President. This is the beauty of divided government-it fosters debate and compromise."
With that we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government TERTIUS DECIMUS - Special Memorial Day Weekend Edition, to be posted sometime during the Memorial Day Weekend May 26-28, 2007. This special edition will be posted on location from a lake in the Upper Peninnsula of Michigan, during DWSUWF's annual family fishing holiday. Actual date of posting will depend on weather and how the fish are biting. Blog articles may be submitted for the carnival of divided government using the carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Finally, if you enjoyed this carnival, you shoul also check out these other recent fine collections:

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.


Charlie said...

Congrats on the first birthday of the blog!

Keep up the great work.

mw said...

Thanks, Charlie.

Looks like our boy is getting some competition in the primary.