Monday, January 26, 2009

Carnival of Divided Government XXX
Special Chinese Year of the Ox Edition

Welcome to the 30th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - The Trîcênsimus (XXX) Special Year of the Ox Edition. Today marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year. In the menagerie of the Chinese Zodiac, 2009 is a Year of the Ox. My local rag, the San Francisco Chronicle adds a little color:
"Monday marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox. People born in that year are dependable, patient and methodical. They do not back down in the face of obstacles. President Obama is an ox... The mythology of the dragon is central to Chinese culture, and one of the highest forms of divinity in polytheistic Taoism. It is the most desired birth year in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese horoscope, and is the only mythological creature. With horns of a stag, claws of an eagle, scales of a fish, whiskers of a cat and a body like a serpent, the Chinese dragon embodies many creatures."
Interesting. As it turns out, your loyal blogger is a Dragon, and like the Chinese zodiac symbol, may actually be a complete myth. But I digress.

2009 - The Year of Bullshit.

This is the Year of the Ox. Barack Obama is an Ox (the "ObamOx?"). The number one story of the year, by far, is the continuing crisis in Wall Street and on the economic collapse. The ox (well - really a bull - same thing) is the most recognized symbol of Wall Street, although this year should be represented by a gored ox, or perhaps a big bowl of ox blood soup. Coincidently, ox droppings are also the primary currency and symbolic essence of American politics. And in the shadow of a presidential election where some might suggest that Americans chose style over substance, could there be a more appropriate symbol?

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this, the Carnival of Divided Government Trîcênsimus (XXX), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single 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 explicitly 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.

Without further ado, DWSUWF is pleased to present a big steaming pile of Divided Government Ox droppings in this Happy Chinese New Year Edition:


Carnival

Imergner blogging at The Decline kicks us off by quoting from a Politico article and speculating on the trade-off between abuse of power and expediency in "Bigger, Faster, Stronger":
"But is the answer to bureaucratic imbalance more bureaucracy? Or is this simply another example of how our notions of limited, divided government are anachronistic in a global, hyperfast world? Even within the Executive Branch, authority continues to contract as the need to react instantly increases. Or does it not matter: power is limited only when abused?"
Imergner pokes at perhaps the most dangerous conceit of the Obama administration - the justification for concentrating and exercising power in the name of "getting things done." If political oppostion, or even constitutional checks and balances are in the way of "getting things done" well - it seems these anachronistic obstacles will just need to be swept aside in the most expedient way possible. If that means setting up extra-constitutional shadow cabinet in the White House outside of congressional approval or oversight? So be it. We have seen the danger inherent in Single Party Rule under the Republicans when the security threat to the nation was used to justify the accrual of power to the Republican executive branch with the Republican Congress simply acquiescing like a beaten dog. Now we have a Democratic executive invoking an economic threat so dire that niceties like debate, political opposition, or separation of powers cannot be permitted to obstruct the Obama objectives. Not a security crisis, but an economic crisis. The result remains the same - more concentration of power and the inherent and inevitable potential abuse of that power by the executive.

Patrick Deneen at the Postmodern Conservative explores this very notion in depth encouraging us to "Say Hello to the New Boss" (Now - where have I heard that before?):
"In fact, for all the changes in parties, ideologies, philosophies and rhetoric, there has been one identical feature of the Executive from the very outset: it is the agent of expansion, represented most immediately by its own enlargement of power over the course of the republic’s history. The Presidency has continued to grow as the expansion of the modern project has also unfolded apace: the very success of that project especially in the economic, but also political and social realms has demanded ever greater "decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch," and has necessarily grown impatient with, and moved beyond reliance upon, the slower and plodding pace of the legislative and deliberative branches. While the school-house version of the Founding often stresses the idea that it sought a balance of powers and divided government, in fact its aim was to replace the clunky and slow-working system under the Articles of Confederation, and in particular to accelerate the consolidation of the various States through legislative and economic integration. The very success of the Constitutional order in achieving that end necessarily required ever greater "decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch" on the part of the Executive, to the point now at which we witness a hope and belief that a single individual can attain the salvation of the polity and perhaps heal the world. Obama’s claim that "the ground has shifted beneath" those who would question the scale of government is absolutely true - but was already fundamentally true from the moment that the Executive office got underway in 1789. His assertion that what matters is what "works" begs the question of what constitutes "working."
Got it. It is not that we just started down this slippery slope. It is that we are accelerating at a frightening pace.

Professor Julian Zeliner writing for CNN Politics offers Obama a prescription to inoculate against exactly these problems in his guest commentary asking "Can Obama and Congress share power?":
"There has been a dramatic increase in congressional oversight since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006. Legislators have been more willing to hold hearings and conduct investigations into everything from the ethical conduct of the White House to the administration of key government programs. But oversight under divided government is easier politically than under the united government -- Democrats in charge of the White House and Congress -- we will have after January 20. The aim of stronger oversight is to avoid failures such as FEMA's inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina or the politicization at the Department of Justice. The fact that Democrats control the White House is no excuse for the party's leaders in Congress to become lapdogs. Obama must be held responsible as well. While presidents don't like to give up power, maybe this president will be different. At a minimum, Obama should avoid the techniques used so often in recent years to circumvent legislative will. It is not enough to reverse Bush's executive orders -- the crucial question is whether Obama uses such orders as frequently himself. If the nation can create a better balance between the executive and legislative branches, the country will benefit."
A good thought Professor. But as to whether Obama will voluntarily surrender executive power? Or more to the point - on whether Congress will be a warm and cozy lapdog or find the snarl and bite to take back power from a President of their own party? I can only suggest - "Bow Wow." And for anyone grasping at the straw of a retained razor thin Republican filibuster in the Senate offering some semblance of a divided government constraint...

Nick Gillespie injects a dose of reality at Reason Hit & Run:
"McConnell's change in attitude seems suspiciously unprincipled and mostly partisan. I'm all for divided government (here's hoping it delivers gridlock), but one of the problems with unprincipled pols is that, well, they don't have principles. Which means they will flip the moment they get enough goodies promised them to go one way or the other. And if the experience with the financial sector bailout is any indication, expect the second (and third, and fourth, and so on) bills to be even worse than the awful first draft. And expect McConnell sometime soon to be on the other side of the vote, the one with all those shiny, happy Democrats yapping about how they just guaranteed a car in every pot and two chickens in every garage by funding bullshit infrastructure programs in every ZIP code in the country."
No, the Republicans will not stand in the way of the Democratic delivery of giant heaping masses of steaming Ox turds in this the Year of the Obamox. As bad as this might get (and I expect it will get pretty bad), I am a Pollyanna compared to...

The Paleoconservative who is confessing that he is "a man who no longer has a place in society" while asking the question "Where do we go from here?":
"Given the current state of public opinion, Obama and the Democrats have a blank check for virtually unlimited power. We no longer have divided government. Partisan bickering had stifled all sorts of unconstitutional power grabs. No more. The Democrats control everything now with heavy majorities in both houses of Congress. There is no stopping them from pursuing a radical left-wing agenda. Life as we know it will change forever. Jefferson's maxim that "a government large enough to give you everything you want is large enough to take away everything you have" is true today as it ever was. We are quickly moving down the road to serfdom."
Yeah, well... That may be just a bit over the top. The GWB administration took us several miles down that road to serfdom at breakneck speed. There was a lot damage to our freedom and civil liberties in particular under Bush/Cheney. Obama will roll at least some of that back. I expect (Hope™?) that Habeas Corpus, warrantless search and seizure, politicization of the Justice Department, rule of law as it applies to detention and interrogation and judicial process will all be improved significantly with Obama vs. Bush43. I also Hope that Obama will nominate Supreme Court justices that will ultimately declare some of the stuff he supported (The FISA compromise capitulation) unconstitutional. A point reinforced by Alli who offers an Open Letter to the NSA posted at The Smoking Argus. The big question, as always, will be whether we lose more economic and political freedoms than the civil freedoms that are restored under this administration. I Hope it is at least a wash. Call me a wild-eyed optimist.

Michael Merritt at the Poligazette is also shoveling a big steaming pile of optimism to accompany his New Year Greetings:
"Some things I think will be good, politics wise, in the New Year... The New Congressional Majority: Not because I think a Democratic near supermajority is good, but because of the inevitability of such things to be doomed. It took the Republicans six years to make it happen. How long will it take the Democrats? Who knows, but everyone has to mess up eventually. Now, all this may sound cyncial, but there’s an underlying positive message to it. Screwing up bad enough could reintroduce divided government, which would be a good thing!"
That's about all the optimism I can handle. Back to reality.

Armstrong Williams writing at the Washington Times wants us to "Beware One Party Rule":
"...it should not be a surprise that, in recent times at least, the legislative and executive branches both fare better when they are in different party hands and thus freer to pursue their institutional constitutional aims. Put another way, when he becomes president, Barack Obama may yet quietly celebrate the failure to attain a filibuster-free 60-vote Senate. Indeed, at some point, he may long for the divided government that saved Bill Clinton's presidency and could have greatly benefited his successors. The problem that dogged both Mr. Clinton (for the first two years) and Bush 43 (for the first six) is that having both branches in the same party's hands made it very difficult for either president to resist overreaching and overspending by their legislative partners."
Tell me something I don't know. Reading this again, Armstrong is clearly still too optimistic.

John Sides, blogging at The Monkey Cage makes some interesting observations about Presidential honeymoon periods in "Do Presidential Honeymoons Exist?:
"A second definition of success is: are Presidents more likely to get what they want from Congress? By that definition, there is evidence of a honeymoon. In this article (gated), Casey Dominguez examines presidents from Kennedy to Clinton and finds that, on bills where the president has taken a position, there is a higher likelihood of passage in the first 100 days than in later periods in his inaugural year... However, the effect of the first 100 days is present only in times of divided government. Under unified government, presidential success doesn’t really vary between inaugural years and other years."
Well. Isn't that special? The Obama legislative honeymoon is likely to last for last for four years. Hold on to your wallets.

Shaun Kavanagh
laments the current state of our two party oligarchy in a post with the familiar sounding title "Divided We Stand: The Sad State of US Politics" posted at Kavmerica.com where he concludes:
"It has lead us down a path where we don’t always choose the best person for the job, we choose the person who best resembles a few of our beliefs. He or she could be a complete moron but we vote for him anyways despite that because we are afraid that the other side will somehow screw things up with their more intelligent/honest/caring candidate. We fail to select the right person for the job and rather select the “right” person to make us feel good about ourselves. Fortunately for the Democrats and Republicans out there the two party system shows no signs of weakening. Further more being pigeon holed into one party or the other doesn’t seem to bother anyone either. The established oligopoly should rein for the foreseeable future."
I can't argue with his thesis. Frustration with voting within the constraints of the two party system and the political impotence of third parties was a primary motivation for me to start this blog and promote a divided government voting heurisitic. It may be Shaun's best choice also.

Miscellany

Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock. For this issue we offer Banquet Manager presenting Why Did the Chicken Cross The Road? - 2009 Version posted at So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager. Not because the submission is not the equivalent of Carnival spam - which it is - but because I did get a chuckle out of it. And on that happy note we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not).

Looking forward- Since this carnival is focused on the topic of Divided Government, and seeing how voters spectacularly rejected the idea in the last election, with no real prospect of restoring divided government before 2012, we are going to put this carnival on a reduced publication schedule over the next year. Instead of monthly, we'll go quarterly or - you know - whenever I feel like it.

Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government ûnus et Trîcênsimus XXXI - Special Ides of March or St. Patricks Day Depending On How I Feel At the Time Edition sometime around - oh.. lets say March 15. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Carnivalingus

Some recent Carnivals and links of interest:

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.


4 comments:

banquet manager said...

Thanks for including my "carnival spam"...I mean post about "Why did the chicken cross the road, 2009 version.

mw (DWSUWF) said...

's cool. John Lennon and Col Sanders got me.

Bowly said...

"Ox" is the name given to it by westerners who want to feel good about it. In China, it's "cow".

O shouldn't feel too bad. I'm not a "boar", I'm a "pig".

lmergner said...

I missed this when you published it, but thank you for the publicity. Its nice to have one's writing taken seriously as an intellectual provocation.