In 2006 we advocated a straight ticket Democratic vote to break the six year stranglehold of One Party Republican Rule on the federal government. In 2008 we advocated a vote for John McCain to avoid a return to the fiscal irresponsibility, inadequate oversight, and bad legislation endemic to One Party Rule in Washington D.C. This year, we are advocating a straight ticket Republican vote to restore divided government and begin to undo the damage of the last two years. Should the Republicans prevail, take the majority in either house of Congress and restore divided government, we will be advocating the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012 to keep it.
The rationale, supporting scholarship, and core arguments have not changed. Each election cycle presents unique problems facing the country, and more evidence of how the moderating influence of divided government better equips our government to address those problems.
In the 2006 election eve summary we focused on the political science that is the foundation on which we can build a divided government voting heuristic:
In the 2008 election eve appeal we reviewed the accomplishments of the two year divided government respite, explicitly detailed the objectives we hoped a divided government vote would secure, further developed the historical constitutional rationale to vote for divided government, and looked forward with trepidation:
The very first step to solve these problems, is to take power away from the single party on watch, and give that power to the opposition party. This is exactly what the 2006 midterm election is all about and why it is so important. This election is not about your specific congressman/woman. It is about securing better governance by sharing power between the two major parties.
Economists, constitutional lawyers, scholars and historians agree that divided government is better government:
- William Niskanen, former acting chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, demonstrates conclusively that divided government has historically restrained the growth of federal spending.
- Stephen Slivinski, author, economist, and director of budget studies at the Cato Institue shows that divided government results in better and longer lasting legislation. He finds that major reforms and structural changes (examples: Reagan tax reform, Clinton welfare reform) that have passed under a divided government are more likely to survive being undone by subsequent congressional action than reforms passed by a unified single party government.
- Both Slivinski and Niskanen show that major wars are considered much more carefully, and entered into more infrequently under a divided government.
- Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute finds that Congressional oversight of both the legislative and executive branch is stronger, and constitutional rights are better protected under divided government.
- Daryl Levinson, Harvard professor of law, and Richard Pildes, New York University professor of Constitutional law, document how constitutional checks and balances are undermined by a single party controlled government and strengthed by divided government.
Well, I said it was a slim hope. So what have we seen since 2008? Massive spending increases and exploding deficits that make George W Bush look good in comparison. Let me repeat that. On fiscal responsibility Barack Obama makes George W. Bush look good in comparison. And the Bush administration was a fiscal disaster. I never would have believed that to be possible.
Divided government is not a cure-all, but the facts are these - our divided government state since 2007 has begun to reverse the damage of the 2001-2006 One Party Republican Rule. Six years of abusive single party control is not going to be undone by 20 months of divided government. Yet, as a direct consequence of electing a divided government in 2006, we have a new Secretary of Defense, a new Attorney General, a marginal improvement in both the Patriot Act and FISA vs. the Bush/Cheney versions, a great deal more oversight revealing many of the abuses of the six years of single party control, a revised strategy in Iraq resulting in an improved security situation, and a reduction in the rate of spending growth in 2007. These improvements, though marginal, are not insignificant. It is the nature of divided government that improvements will be incremental and that is exactly what we have seen thus far...
The absurdity of handing all the levers of power to the Democrats as a cure for the abuses we saw as a result of handing all the levers of power to the Republican should be obvious on its face. Particularly when you consider the Democrats will likely have bigger majorities than the Republicans had combined with a "Cheney enhanced" executive office and a partisan 97% toe-the-party-line Democratic voting record president in Obama. Quite possibly this will be the greatest concentration of power in one man and one party in the US federal government in the lifetime of anyone reading this blog. You gotta really have the partisan blinders on to believe that Democrats can be trusted with the “ring of power” just because they are Democrats...
In a nutshell, the rationale for a voting divided is a heuristic based on voting for objectives. If you believe that the Federal government should be limited in scope, provide for common defense, fight fewer wars, protect and respect individual rights, spend and tax in a fiscally responsible manner, provide effective oversight of elected and appointed representatives, legislate carefully and slowly, pass only laws that are tempered in the fire of partisan debate, and act in a manner that reinforces and not undermine the checks, balances, and separation of powers enshrined in the constitution, Then you should vote for divided government. You should vote for divided government because scholars, political scientists, economists, historians, and constitutional lawyers have documented as historical fact, that a divided government state supports exactly those objectives while one party rule does not...
There are not enough centrists or moderates in either party because there are not enough centrists or moderates in the electorate. The only way to get moderation out of our Federal Government is by ensuring that both parties have a seat at the table and a share in power. This is the genius of the founders that enshrined argument and conflict in the Constitution. A concept best summarized by James Madison in Federalist #51 when he said "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition..." A concept that is completely undermined by One Party Rule...
As it stands now, we are all on board a hell-bound train rocketing down the rails toward One Party Democratic Rule, with Barack Obama sitting in the expanded unitary executive chair designed by Dick Cheney, complemented by increased Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature and a real possibly of a 60 vote filibuster-proof plurality in the Senate. God help us. The only slim hope that the Democrats will not have time to do as much damage in two years of single party control as it took the Republicans to do in six.
An administration that embraces the power and scope of the Cheney/Bush Unitary Executive definition with an appetite for expanding the scope of the executive branch to managing the economy and private industry. A lay-down Congress that is not even pretending to exercise their constitutional executive oversight responsibility. And rather than working to roll-back the civil rights erosion of the Cheney/Bush era, the Obama administration Justice Department is defending some of worst excesses of the Bush administration in court.
Nothing says more about the dangers of legislation produced by One Party Rule, than the two signature legislative achievements of this administration - ARRA (aka porkulus) and HCR (aka Obamacare). The first, a wildy expensive stimulus package that does not stimulate, but does protect and expand public sector jobs while the private sector contracts, and steamrolled on a purely partisan vote. Despite being sold as needed to rebuild infrastructure, despite being the most expensive single piece of legislation in history (until eclipsed by HCR a year later), we are now told we still require additional infrastructure spending not even two years later. Even though the stimulus money has not all been spent.
And what can one say about the Health Care Reform legislation that has not already been said? Wildly expensive, it does not reform the system, does not control costs, is not paid for, does not provide universal coverage, is insanely complex and no one understands how it works. Least of all the Democratic legislators who steamrolled it on a purely partisan vote. Because they could.
Does anyone really believe that these two pieces of legislation would not have been significantly better and cheaper if the Democrats had no option but to compromise with Republicans? I am not saying it would have been good legislation. I am just saying it would have been better.
Divided government is not a panacea. It is just demonstrably and unequivocally better than one party rule. If you want things to get better... Just vote divided.
Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.
Now that is fair.