Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Carnival of Divided Government - ûnus et trîcênsimus - Special St. Patrick's Day Edition

UPDATED: 03-21
Welcome to the 31st edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - The ûnus et trîcênsimus - Special St. Patrick's Day Edition. DWSUWF passionately supports all drinking holidays and in particular St. Patrick's Day. As motivation to get this Carnival completed ASAP, DWSUWF will forgo his first Guinness until such time that this Carnival is posted.

Alright. Lets crank this baby out. I'm thirsty.

Saint Patrick - The Patron Saint of Drunks.

I am not Catholic, or even Christian. I grew up in a mixed Jewish/Presbyterian household, ultimately identifying more strongly with the Jewish tradition. But I do like to drink and find myself drawn to this holiday. Perhaps it can be explained by the fact that there is Irish blood in my lineage. Growing up, my grandmother used to tell me we were Orangemen and insisted we wear orange not green on St. Patrick's day. Never really understood what she was talking about, but this 1880 New York Times article helped clear it up:

Those were the days when partisan polarization actually meant something. I don't know what my grandmother was thinking. I guess she expected me to take on the entire green-attired grade school and instigate a brawl on the playground during recess. Thanks Grandma.

But here at DWSUWF we are more concerned with the implications of Red vs. Blue government than Orange vs. Green religious squabbles. 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 ûnus et trîcênsimus (XXXI), 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 Red and Blue 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.

Today, two months into a great big blue legislative tsunami, we are beginning to see yet again the consequences of granting unfettered power to a single party. Awash in a sea of new spending programs, our children Grandchildren will soon be drowning in oceans of debt. DWSUWF can only offer a this selection of red, blue, and purple divided government posts as a life preserver to cling to during the spending flood. Just hold on and dream of that first Guinness of the night.

Carnival

In honor of the day, we will begin with a blog and a book from the Old Country. Last summer, Darnoc - a UF student left these shores for Dublin University, kicked off a blog entitled True Divided Government, wrote five posts, and has not been heard of in the blogosphere since. How often do you get the opportunity to read the contents of an entire blog in one sitting? I was intrigued by the title, found some nice pictures, but not much political content. As he is an Obama supporter, I can only assume that, like Obama and most Progressives, he defines bipartisanship as compromises between the left and the far left while disparaging the right and offering sonly eyewash and soothing words to the independent centrists. Presumably Darnoc is in Ireland to study under the tutelage of Robert Elgie, the Paddy Moriarty Professor of Government and International Studies at Dublin City University and Editor of Divided Government in Comparative Perspective:

"Divided government occurs when the executive fails to enjoy majority support in at least one working house of the legislature. To date, the study of divided government has focused almost exclusively on the United States. However, divided government occurs much more widely. It occurs in other presidential systems. Moreover, it is also the equivalent of minority government in parliamentary regimes and cohabitation in French-style semi-presidential systems. This book examines the frequency, causes and management of divided government in comparative context, identifying the similarities and differences between the various experiences of this increasingly frequent form of government. The countries studied include Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Poland, and the US. "
Sound interesting. I'll read it as soon as the price drops by about 90% or so. $160 for a 256 page book? Really Robert? Really?

Lets bring this international Divided Government excursion back home by way of SJS and Team blogging at The Mighty Pen. This is an eclectic, oddly interesting anonymous political blog that claims to be a team of international writers, but is singularly focused on helping the rural poor of Malaysia. SJS had a very different take on Rush Limbaugh's recent infamous comments about supporting Presidents, divided government:
"The issue of separation of Powers does not seem to be confined to Perak these days. The following excerpt is from a transcript of a monologue from prominent American radio personality - Rush Limbaugh - who examines the concept of the Separation of Powers from a historical and current perspective for the United States (which could be also applicable for Malaysia..."
SJS reminds us, that unrestrained political power is a primary concern for most of world, and they do not think sacrificing checks, balances, and opposition to power on the alter of "getting things done" is a particularly good idea. The specific Rush Limbaugh quote that SJS references and finds relevant to Malaysia:
"The whole theory of the separation of powers, meaning legislative branch, judicial branch, executive branch, was ingeniously based on human nature. Our Founding Fathers had studied history, and they knew that absolute power corrupts absolutely. So we divide power. We divide power between the states and the federal government. We divide power within the federal government. And we further divide power among three separate branches of government. We give each branch a different set of powers and incentives to protect their own prerogatives so they can keep an eye on each other. These are called checks and balances. The underlying assumption of this whole system is that the country functions better if everyone is of a skeptical bent of mind. That’s what keeps the next guy honest. The whole reason that we have divided government instead of a king is that the issue is not about one government official succeeding. This country was not founded on the principle that the president is a king and above all the king must succeed. In fact, the system is designed to ensure that the president fails when he is wrong. That’s the whole purpose of checks and balances."
There are few things I find as distasteful as quoting or defending the statements of a hypocritical partisan windbag like Rush Limbaugh, except maybe quoting or defending the statement of his hypocritical partisan wind bag doppelganger on the left - Michael Moore. Impossible to say which would be more likely to drive me to rip out my eyes and ears and run screaming into the night. That said, Limbaugh's statement, divorced from the man who said it, stands on it's own and is perfectly correct and absolutely true. James Madison was a bit more eloquent making the exact same argument when he wrote this in the Federalist Paper #51:
"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."
I can't let Rush off the hook though. Regarding that hypocrisy bit, I recall that Rush Limbaugh responded on his radio show to a caller asking about divided government on the eve of the 2006 mid-term Congressional elections thusly:
"The media has put that notion out there, and they've done it for a number years. They tried it in 2002 and 2004 in the sense it would be good. "We have one-party rule. Why, that leads to corruption and leads to people becoming out of touch in Washington." They love one-party rule when it's them. The only reason they're against one-party rule is because they're not the party, and so they're trying to say it leads to all kinds of bad things. But that means they don't trust the democratic process. The democratic process delivers what it delivers, and if it delivers a Republican dominated House and Senate and a Republican president, then that's representative democracy at work. That is what you get in a representative republic, and to sit there and complain about it is to complain about the system itself."
At the time I called this an example of the "intellectual bankruptcy of the right". Nothing has happened since to change my mind about that characterization. However, that does not obviate the fact that we may still need the "intellectually bankrupt right" if only to counteract the "intellectually banrkrupt left", who incidentally currently hold all the power. I call this phenomena the DWSUWF Corrolary to Madison's Maxim:
"Assholes must be made to counteract assholes."
Ron Chisud of Liberal Values also had some thoughts about Rush Limbaugh, and responds to a commenter responding to his thoughts by explaining "Why I Blog About the Direction Conservatives Are Going":
"I have written of the dangers of one party, regardless of which party, having total control, and expressed a preference that the Democrats remain shy of sixty Senate votes. Ideally I would prefer that we do not even have one party control both houses of Congress as well as the White House. There is a problem with a preference for divided government when one party has ceased to be able to respond meaningfully to current problems. There is a reason why independents have been moving towards the Democratic Party in recent years. Rush Limbaugh is a showman. He has no coherent political views beyond a set of simplistic talking points. People like Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity appeal to the worst parts of human nature and ignorance and do attract an audience. This does not mean that their views should become the guiding principles of a political party. Hoping to see the restoration of a viable two party system, I am interested when some conservatives support rejecting the anti-intellectual, authoritarian, no-nothing mindset which has taken control of the conservative movement."
I am in general agreement with Ron's post and thesis, but ... methinks he doth protest too much about the insufficiently intellectual nature of GOP opposition. In our system of government, it is important that a minority opposition party actually oppose the party in power. It is less important whether the opposition comes up to snuff on Ron's criteria of being a sufficiently intellectual opponent. If the Democrats had done their job as a minority opposition party in 2002, perhaps we would not be saddled with the crushing human and financial burden of the Iraq war. If the Republicans do their job as a minority opposition party in 2009, perhaps future generations will be able to avoid being saddled with the crushing debt and government entitlements being promoted and expanded by Obama and the Democrats.

If Ron Chisud can respond to commenters in a post, I guess I can too. Liz had some nice things to say about DWSUWF in comments to a recent post, but she took exception to our last:
"While I definitely agree that president Obama should not overstep his bounds as president, there is something to be said about a strongly democratic president and congress. Perhaps there will be less bickering, and more positive action (health care reform, ending of “torture”, etc…)! While no branch should be given the opportunity to rule completely without anyone to check them, the people did vote for a democratic congress majority and president. I don’t think it is fair to equate the idiocy of the bush administration to the progressive Obama administration. Let’s give the democrats a chance and perhaps we will have something to HOPE™ for!"
Here is the problem Liz - This is not about whether Obama takes advantage of and abuses the near monarchical powers claimed by the Bush/Cheney administration. He said during the campaign he would move to help restore the balance with Congress and the Judiciary. He isn't. He is doing the exact opposite by actively defending, continuing, and extending the power of the Bush/Cheney definition of the unitary executive. Even if you believe that Obama is a kind and good benevolent king, he won't be king forever. I hope you are as sanguine about the expanded power of the presidency when a Romney, or Palin, or - God forbid - if circumstances dictate that Biden has to take the reigns.

People were not voting for Single Party Progressive Democratic Ruleso much as they were voting against what Liz calls the "idiocy of the Bush administration".

Unfortunately, but predictably - Obama and Progressives now operate as if they have a mandate for radical progressive change, while the Independents and Centrists that voted for Obama are getting buyer's remorse. Too late. The left has the votes, the right is emasculated, and there is no telling how much damage will be done over the next four years to the budget, our economic liberties and our already broken economy. The least Obama could do is use his extraordinary executive power to restore the civil liberties lost under the Bush administration, but even that is not happening.

The way to achieve centrist government is not by electing politicians who will whisper sweet centrist nothings in your ear. The way to achieve centrist government is to never ever ever give either party all the power.

In a related post, Steven Germain asks a relevant question about how all this spending is going to be managed and postulates the probable answer in "There Is No Such Thing As Raw, Analloyed, Agendaless Kindness" - David Foster Wallace posted at Rough Fractals. Jim DeSantis has another answer in his post "You Are A Banker And A U.S. Automaker" posted at On Line Tribune | Front Page Blog, saying,
"What are we to do? We can do nothing except remember, at the next election, just who voted to put us and our heredity into hock and who voted against it. "
In other words, some of us will be voting for those who just said "No". Contrary to what President Obama asserted in his speech defending the budget today, "Just say no" is the exact right thing to say to this insane spending.

Break

I can't wait. I'm going out for that Guinness right now.

[TIME PASSES]

Carnival (continued)
Now I've done it. I am not sure that I will get this special St. Patrick's Day post actually posted on St. Patrick's Day. Let's just soldier on and see what happens.

Eric Michael Johnson takes issues with Yuval Levin's Newsweek article "Partisanship is Good" presents The Nature of Partisan Politics-Part I and The Nature of Partisan Politics-Part II posted at The Primate Diaries. His conclusion that Yuval is being hypocritical is not without merit:

"The day after the 2008 election, on November 5, when it was disclosed that Rahm Emmanuel would be the top pick for President Obama's Chief of Staff, Levin lambasted his choice as someone who was "a vicious graceless partisan: narrow, hectic, unremittingly aggressive, vulgar, and impatient." This, for Levin, was a bad sign and he criticized the new President because it "suggests both that he wants to be ruthless and partisan and that he does not have a clear sense of how the White House works." Perhaps his essay should have been titled "Partisanship is Good (But Only If My Side Wins)". With such a statement it would seem that Levin’s view of human nature has no concept of hypocrisy. Such outright duplicity not only illuminates his approach as an advocate of Ethics and Public Policy, it is the very nature of partisan politics that we should all seek to avoid."

I would encourage you to read both of Eric's posts in totality, but I would distill his argument to this - "Conservatives are bad and wrong. Liberals are good and right. Therefore Conservative partisan opposition to Liberal proposals are bad and wrong. QED. " Perhaps Eric Johnson's essay should have been titled "Partisanship is Bad (But Only If My Side Loses)." DWSUWF has opined before on this topic, most notably in this historical meditation and the post Polarized Partisan Politics Promotes Popular Participation.

Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker takes a second look at the election returns in "Election Returns Redux" and concludes (among other things) that...
"Americans do not prefer divided government. They are not Broderists. Americans who are Democrats prefer Democratic rule; Americans who are Republicans prefer Republican rule."
Problem being, there is a glaring logical flaw in this statement. In order to conclude that Americans do not prefer divided government as Hendrik does here, one must conclude that all Americans are either partisan Democrats or partisan Republicans. Actual poll data does not support this premise. Depending on how you want to slice and dice the data, the general conclusion is that about 1/3 of the electorate identify Democrat, 1/3 identify Republican, and 1/3 identify as some version of Independent, Non-Affiliated, Libertarianish (Fiscal Conservative / Social Liberal), or Centrist. This center may register Democrat or Republican but will shift their vote from election to election, which means you cannot identify the electoral preference by looking at one election tally as Hendrik does here.

The simple fact is that voters who are philosophically aligned with fiscal conservatism, liberal social tolerance, live and let live diversity and limited government do not have much of a choice between big spending, big deficit, big government Republicans and bigger spending, bigger deficit, bigger government Democrats. They very well may decide that the real choice is between the unrestrained growth of government size and power under single party rule, or the relatively constrained growth that is only found under divided government.

I can't take this anymore. It is almost midnight. I am going to post this thing now, warts and all, just so I can say I got it posted on St. Patrick's Day, even if it is only St Patrick's Day somewhere the Hawaiian time zone.

I'll clean up the typos and graphics tomorrow, and there are a few more posts I'd like to add. Why don't we just call this the St. Patty's Season, and I'll just keep drinking Guinness and polishing this turd until I feel like moving on to another post.

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 Angry Max presenting The Quests for Truth and Blood posted at Pterodactyl Puke, saying, "Concerning who, in both parties, is responsible for the economic meltdown, and what to do with them." The post could be considered thematically on topic, but that is not why I am including it. I am including it because it is funny, informative, deadly accurate, and borderline genius. Read it and enjoy 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).

As previously announced - Since this carnival is focused on the topic of Divided Government, and seeing how voters spectacularly rejected the idea in the last election, and with no real prospect of restoring divided government before 2012, we have 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 GovernmentXXXII - Special Memorial Day Edition sometime around - oh.. lets say May 25. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.


Carnivalingus

Some Carnivals and links of interest:
UPDATED: 03-21-09
Added unacceptably delayed and unfairly overlooked carnivals and links.
Fixed even more typos (Where do they come from??)

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.


3 comments:

andersunny said...

"big blue legislative tsunami" I love that line! Perhaps because my favorite color is blue. Thanks for putting me in your post!

Question: What civil liberties were lost during the Bush administration that you would like to see king Obama restore? :)

The Hegemonist said...

Shame about limiting he carnival, I've been waiting for the April edition when I re-read this one. Carnivals seem to be going out of fashion of late...

mw (DWSUWF) said...

@andersunny
Habeas Corpus, 4th amendment protections against unreasonable search & seizure, rule of law as applied to the executive branch, there is more - I covered a lot of that ground in this post@Hegemonist
Thanks for the comment. I'll ramp up the divided government carnival again in 2010. Maybe earlier. There just has not been that much interest in the subject since the election. Although, as we spend ourselves into ruin, I am beginning to get the sense that there is a lot of buyer remorse out there - not specifically about Obama, but about giving the Democrats all of the keys to the treasury.

BTW - You've got a great blog, one of my favorites.