Yet, over the entire life of this blog, the Dividist has never, not even once, mentioned "The Aesthetic of Divided Government":
And in that one short paragraph Peter Wehner nets out everything that the Dividist has expended hundreds of thousands of word to say over the life of this blog. That he could distill it down so elegantly and easily is kind of annoying really.
"The showdown that almost lead to a shutdown is the aesthetics of divided government. We might as well get used to it. What we have, after all, are two political parties that hold different views and represent different interests, negotiating hard and down to the wire to get the best agreement they could. It isn’t pretty or perfect by any means, but it is the natural result of the system of government our founders put in place... The results matter more than the process—and the process really wasn’t quite as unseemly and upsetting as some would have it."
Blogenfreude aside, Wehner's sentiment is simply true.
While she may be an acquired taste, once you get used to her divided government looks pretty darn good.
In the comments, Damon Eris of Poli-Tea takes exception to the excerpted Peter Wehner comment that "it is the natural result of the system of government our founders put in place" - "It" being two parties fighting down to the wire over competing budget proposals and finding a compromise at the last minute. This prompted a spirited discussion with Tully on whether or not our effective two party duopoly is a "natural" or "inherent" or "intended" consequence of our Constitutional form or - for that matter - any democratic form of government.
Re-reading Wehner's quote, it is not clear to me that he was asserting anything about whether specifically two parties are a "natural result of the system of government our founders put in place". Instead he was making the much less controversial point that given the two parties we have, each with a share of power under a divided government, we can and should certainly expect that they will fight for the best deal they can get - right down to the political wire. This strikes me as a brilliant stroke of the patently obvious, and I don't see how it is possible to argue to the contrary.
As far as the historical basis for this outcome (again ignoring the question of a specific number of parties or factions), one must appreciate the inherent difficulty of gleaning founder intent 200+ years after the fact. Nevertheless, it strikes me as incontrovertible that exactly this kind of partisan/factional argument is exactly what the founders designed into our bicameral legislative system.
I am currently enjoying historian Joseph Ellis book "Founding Brothers." Ellis is a blog favorite, and I have quoted him here before. In particular I am enamored of a phrase he coined to describe the nature of our Constitution - the "enshrinement of argument":
It is just a beautiful way to think about how and why our Constitution is designed as it is.
"The ideological and even temperamental diversity within the elite leadership group gave the American founding a distinctly argumentative flavor that made all convictions, no matter how cherished, subject to abiding scrutiny that, like history itself, became an argument without end. And much like the doctrine of checks and balances in the Constitution, the enshrinement of argument created a permanent collision of juxtaposed ideas and interests that generated a dynamic and wholly modern version of political stability."
To return to the question of whether the founders intended or expected a two party duopoly to emerge, that seems unlikely. But the fact that it did emerge immediately with the first election after Washington, and has continued primarily as a two party contest from then until now does speak to something in the system or in human nature that makes it historically inevitable.
This from Ellis' "Founding Brothers" where Jefferson is contemplating the contest for the election of the next President after Washington's farewell address:
And so it goes.
"In the present situation of the United States, divided as they are between two parties, which mutually accuse each other of perfidy and treason... this exalted station [the presidency] is surrounded with dangerous rocks, and the most eminent abilities will not be be sufficient to steer clear of them all." Whereas Washington had been able to levitate above the partisan factions, "the next president of the United States will only be the president of a party."