Monday, August 16, 2010

The Carnival of Divided Government
Triginta Undêvîgintî (XXXIX)
Summer of Our Discontent Edition

Welcome to the 39th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - The Special Summer of Our Discontent Edition.
Pass the Prozac

With the primaries wrapping up and Labor Day fast approaching, the mid-term election lollapalooza is about to kick into high gear, but few seem happy about it. This year's extravaganza features a Democratic administration kicking it's base, liberals bitterly complaining about the Democratic Party, Tea Party Conservatives attacking establishment Republicans, and Ivory Tower conservatives decrying the hoi-polloi that energize the Republican base. Independents and libertarians have decided the only thing worse than voting for the GOP, is leaving the Democrats with all the keys to the castle. Surely....

Now is the summer of our discontent
Made inglorious winter by this "post-partisan" pretender
And all the clouds that sullied our representative house
In the deep bosom of the speaker lay buried.
- not William Shakespeare

Carnival of Divided Government

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 Triginta Duodêvîgintî (XXXIX), as in all of the CODGOV editions, 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 The Dividist reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

First up, Michael Gershon writing at the Washington Post analyzes the Democrat's tactics for the midterms and finds them lacking in "Democrats tactics worsen their problems":
"Democrats see the House slipping away, their Senate majority threatened and a president now too divisive to profitably appear in many districts. So how have national Democrats decided to respond? With a series of tactics that make their worst problems worse.

First is the depiction of Republicans as the "party of no," populated by obstructionists blocking needed measures to create jobs and improve the economy. Vice President Biden recently applied this critique to the stimulus package. "There's a lot of people [who] at the time argued it was too small," he said. If it had not been for Republican opposition, "I think it would have been bigger." No doubt it would have been.

This is Biden's response to American economic anxiety: If Democrats had even greater control in Washington -- even larger influence than holding the presidency and both houses of Congress -- they would have spent more than $862 billion on the stimulus. Rather than allaying the fiscal concerns of independents, Biden is actively feeding these fears -- thereby making the case for the moderating effects of divided government."
Exactly. "It's the spending, stupid."

David Harsanyi of Reason Magazine agrees, finding the Democratic Party tactic of painting Republican candidates as crazy extremists to be a bit absurd considering their record of the last two year. He asks the question "Who's the Radical":
"First, the GOP should concede that it does have a few quirky candidates running around the country who lack the political sophistication of, say, an Alan Grayson or a Maxine Waters. Are these Republican oddballs a bit batty? For sure. But unlike, say, the "stimulus" legislation, a plan to uncover the Hawaiian bunker with the president's Indonesian passport probably won't cost taxpayers $1 trillion and millions of jobs. What's worse, after all, suffocating the economy or being a bit cautious? Also, please keep this in mind: Nationalizing health care is not radical. Tripling the budget deficit in two years isn't, either. Republicans also can—if they stick to free-market rhetoric and stay away from any insinuation of armed insurrection—continue to be seen as the more moderate party. "
David correctly identities the operative question - "What's Worse?" - Electing a few incompetent and potentially batty Republican legislators to the mix? - Or - Permit One Party Rule by the Democrats to continue batshit insane out-of-control levels of government spending and debt? Clearly, the moderating influence of divided government is the more rational choice.

Billy Hollis at Questions and Observations does not think it matters whether Republicans or Democrats are behind the wheel as we drive headlong over the cliff - "The Republicans Are Lost: A Continuing Saga":
"For establishment Republicans, the name of the game is not leading the country. It’s gaining and holding onto power. That, of course, is why so many of us see so little difference between the parties – the Democrats have the exact same goal. The time is almost certainly coming when that game makes our economic and political system so unstable that establishment politicians get their playing field yanked out from under them...

Until then, enjoy the football game this November, and cheer for your team as you watch the election returns, but understand that we won’t get any difference that really matters. Yes, Obama’s hard left ideology will be blunted, and I also prefer divided government to what we have now. But the big goal is reversal, and we’re just not yet in bad enough shape for that to happen. A GOP victory this fall just means a small delaying action against the coming reckoning."
Billy is a bit too pessimistic - even for me. Sure, we don't know if our injured patient is going to survive. But the wounds will not have a chance to heal unless we first slow or stop the bleeding. Divided Government is a tourniquet. Let's apply the tourniquet in 2010, then we can focus on curing the patient.

Mark Thompson, a member in good standing in the Coalition of the Divided, strikes a similar note of disgust with the current incarnation of the GOP in a comment on his own comment which was commenting on another comment on his post at The League Ordinary Gentlemen - "While Engaging in Spittle-Flecked Rants":
"I’m under no illusions that the Democrats are firm believers in my understanding of limited government. But if you want me to think of the GOP as anything other than a foil in a blessedly divided government, then the GOP will have to explain exactly how it intends to limit government. Otherwise, I’ll just continue to look at the years 2000-2008 (not to mention 1981-1992, and definitely not to mention Wage and Price Controls Nixon) and at the refusal to touch Medicare, and at the insistence on increasing the size of the defense budget and at the insistence that the federal government has the right to arbitrarily violate property rights of politically unpopular groups and at the insistence that we should, like, totally start a new war against Iran, and at the refusal to find ways to pay for any of this whatsoever and think: they have not learned, they really have not learned."
I agree with everything that Mark says about the GOP, but the simple fact remains - voting for a "foil in a blessedly divided government" is a good enough reason to vote Republican in 2010.

Karl in the Hot Air Green Room nicely distilled both the problem with and the polling evidence against the Democratic election strategy succeeding in 2010, while also noting "Dems still blaming Bush, everyone else is moving on":
"The Democrats’ message of “We May Be Incompetent, But They’re Crazy” may work in provable cases (and perhaps depress indie/moderate turnout) but not in general. Some voters seeking a divided government won’t care if the GOP candidate is “crazy,” “extreme,” etc. Others want to believe things can get better, and will convince themselves the GOP is a suitable alternative. "
How absurd is the Democratic claim the Republicans are " unfit to lead" by pointing to fiscal irresponsibility with unfunded profligate spending and fighting two wars resulting in doubling the budget deficit over eight years, wehn they then ask voters to ignore their one party rule with even greater unfunded profligate spending and expanded war efforts tripling the budget deficit in two years. This is delusional thinking.

Scott Galupo, writing at U.S. News Politics & Policy invokes Ross Douthat, and concludes the mental dysfunction is not with Republicans or Democrats, but with the voters - asserting that "Vacillating Voters Lean GOP? They'll Like Obama Again in 2012":

"The generous interpretation is that voters subconsciously function like a Keynesian thermostat: ensuring that federal lawmakers are neither too hot nor too cold. George Will has made this argument for years. Americans, he says, actually prefer divided government, which is in keeping with a Madisonian system’s purposefully slow-moving constitutional machinery. I think I used to believe that. But then I look around: Are voters, who possess astonishingly little civic knowledge, really that canny? Or are elections driven by short-term, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately factors like disposable income and unemployment?"
The answer is "yes". Voters are that canny, and elections are driven by factors like disposable income and unemployment. As Scott notes, the hypothesis that voters subconsciously vote for divided government has been around for a while. However, the intellectual foundation for that hypothesis comes not from George Will, but political scientists like Morris Fiorina, David Mayhew, and economists like William Niskanen. The one contribution to the dialogue contributed by your humble blogger (in fact the raison d'etre for this blog) is that the independent, moderate, libertarianish swing vote in the middle should consciously embrace a divided government voting heuristic. Contrary to Scott's thesis - voters who choose to vote this way will be rocks of intellectual consistency and rationality by voting for Republicans in 2010, and if the GOP takes either house of Congress, voting for Barack Obama in 2012.

With all this talk of conscious and sub-conscious voters, batty candidates, insane policy, delusions, and crazy, spittle-flecked rants. I am beginning to think we could use some professional help around here. Fortunately....

The Psychoanalyst is In at Shrink Wrapped Blog and has diagnosed the problem - "STUPID POLITICAL TRICKS: REPUBLICAN EDITION":
"Both Democrats and Republicans have failed us in the last 10 years. They have failed on securing our borders and bringing order and rudimentary fairness to the immigration mess; they have failed to bring our fiscal house in order; they have failed to articulate and define the major struggles of our generation between freedom and tyranny. It is likely that in November we will be left with a divided government. Paralysis is certainly preferable to the further damaging of our country's institutions and erosion of our freedoms that are part of a one party government, but will also leave us poorly able to respond to emerging problems. I suppose that is the best we can hope for at this point."
Certainly divided government is the best we can hope for out of the 2010 election, but why so dour Doctor? In point of fact, David Mayhew has shown empirically and convincingly that in the modern era, there is no discernible difference in legislative productivity during times of divided versus one party rule. A far more significant factor in our governments ability to solve problems is something Mayhew calls "pervasive public mood" to solve the problem. We are getting there. And when we do get there - a divided government will ensure a better solution when all parties have a seat at the table.

Perhaps the good doctor can take comfort when candidates characterized as "extreme" look forward to solving one of our biggest problems in a bi-partisan manner under a divided government - for example:

Mark Levy interviewed über-conservative Senate hopeful Pat Toomey for AP and the story was picked up by the MSM: "Toomey calls for cooperation on debt":
"Buy-in from both parties will be needed to reform huge programs, and there’s no way one party can ram through the kind of change that the country needs to deal with a record-high $13 trillion national debt, he said. “It probably will happen under divided government, to be honest. When one party has complete control, it’s tempting to just ignore the other guys,” Toomey said. But, he continued, “when both parties have a seat at the table, then you sometimes get some real progress. I think that’s the environment we could be moving into. I think Republicans are going to make huge gains this fall. And after that happens, hopefully there’s an opportunity for real bipartisan progress with President Obama."
I don't understand why would anyone expect Democrats (or Republicans) controlling both the legislative and executive branch to ever cooperate or compromise on anything meaningful with other party if they don't have to. The simple reality is that with a super-majority in the Senate, control of the White House, and a large plurality in the House, only Democrats could obstruct the Democratic Party agenda.

Ed Morrissey quotes Byron York and schools Al Franken on congressional constitutional responsibilities, asking - "Why does Franken fear oversight?":
"In fact, what York describes is exactly why divided government is as popular among independents as it is. That’s not a Constitutional function, of course, as the Constitution makes no mention of political parties. They designed the federal government with three coequal and competing branches that would guard their prerogatives jealously in order to prevent a tyranny with an over powerful executive, or mob rule through an over powerful Congress. That effort is predicated on both branches watching the other, but as York points out, neither party does it well (or at all) when they control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. The best way to make the balancing act successful has been to ensure that a President faces a Congress controlled by the opposing party.
This is similar to the point made by Norman Ornstein (historian and author of "Broken Branch") on Hardball in 2006, when we were living under the yoke of Republican One Party Rule. It is pretty simple really - if you want effective congressional oversight, at least one house of Congress must be held by a different party than the president.

Speaking of hypocrisy and short memories, Steve Benen at the Washington Monthlyhas a question -"WILL VOTERS RESPOND TO A PRO-GRIDLOCK MESSAGE?":
"As Democratic strategists continue to push various campaign narratives to undercut Republicans ("Party of No," "Bush Republicans," "BP Republicans"), the congressional minority has a few ideas of its own.
GOP leaders are expanding their calls for repeal of the new health care law into a broader campaign theme that electing Republicans will provide the "check and balance" needed to parry Democrats and the Obama administration on an array of topics, with few specifics attached. [...] Republicans hope to make the case to independent voters in particular that casting a ballot for the GOP is the way to restore balance and rein in Washington.
Funny, these folks didn't seem to think "checks and balances" were necessary when there was a Republican Congress and Republican White House through most of the Bush/Cheney era."

That is not the really funny part, Steve. The funny part is that you either have a short memory or do not read the magazine that you write for. Some prominent conservatives and Republicans were so unhappy with the Bush administration that they were calling for Democratic victory in the midterms and restoration of divided government. I know this, because I posted highlights from the cover story of the Washington Monthly article entitled "Time for us to go." Apparently, memory is fleeting at the Washington Monthly. Steve's article also begs the question - What happened to the Democrats who thought divided government was a good idea in 2006? Well, at least one of them still thinks it is a good idea. That would be me.


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 edition we again offer Madeleine Begun Kane (who practically owns this spot) as she presents Open Limerick To Robert Gibbs and President Obama posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Open Limerick To Robert Gibbs and President Obama
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Mr. Gibbs is thin-skinned, it appears.
From the left, he wants only big cheers.
But lefties just seek
A Dem Prez who ain’t weak.
White House courage is deep in arrears.

This verse is for Robert Gibbs’ boss.
Ignoring the left is your loss.
And a loss for the nation.
Our former elation
Is gone with your liberal gloss.

I found the ham-handed Gibbs/Axelrod/Rahm attempt at Clintonian triangulation to be a topic of great amusement and posted about it both here and at Donklephant. Madeleine 's limerick inspired me to pen a verse of my own:
Limerick for the Lackey Left
by The Dividist

Said Gibbs “The left is on drugs.”
Rahm agrees: “Just pull out the rug!”
“They’ve nowhere to go...
They’re retarded you know...
“In the end they’ll come back to ‘O’”
With that, we''ll wrap up this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not).

Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government Quadrâgintâ (XL) - Special Labor Day/ Fight Procrastination Day Edition a week or so late on 09-10-2010. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government


The Independent Rage said...

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mw said...

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