Monday, November 03, 2014

Just Vote Divided

Divided Government is Better Government

Welcome to our fifth election eve "Just Vote Divided" post since starting this blog in 2006.

In 2006 we advocated a straight ticket Democratic vote to break the four 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. In 2010, we argued for a straight ticket Republican vote to restore divided government and begin to undo the damage from One Party Democratic Rule of the prior two years. In 2012 the Dividist voted early and for the reelection of President Obama. Not because we thought he was a good president. Just because there was no chance of the Democrats retaking the House, and there was a small but realistic chance that Romney could win with sufficient coattails to restore One Party Republican Rule.

The rationale, supporting scholarship, and core arguments for divided government have not changed. Each election cycle presents unique problems facing the country and more evidence of how the moderating influence of divided government is the right mechanism for our government to address those problems. Neither party can be trusted with all the keys to the castle. Not ever. Not under any circumstances. No matter how much you want to fetishize "getting things done".  If our elected leaders cannot find and agree to a compromise policy that satisfies (or dissatisfies) our major factions/parties equitably, we are simply better off with less "getting done". There are worse things than gridlock and a "do-nothing" congress. One worse thing is efficient and productive One Party Democratic Rule. Another worse thing is efficient and productive One Party Republican Rule.

Which brings us to the 2014 midterms.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Flotsam - The "Midterms And End of Unified Government As We Know It" Edition


Time once again for the Dividist to stroll down our metaphorical beach and take note of the detritus that has washed ashore and cluttered this little island of rationality in the great big blogospheric ocean.

With the midterm election only days away, the looming reality of divided government continuing indefinitely into the future is beginning to sink in for partisans and independents alike. The prospect of President Obama facing a unified GOP Congress with majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives have Republicans giddy and Democrats checking off the stages of grief on the K├╝bler-Ross  Index - Denial... Anger... Depression... Bargaining... I guess we'll have to wait a while for "Acceptance".

A good time to go beachcombing and look for any shiny bits of divided government flotsam we previously overlooked. Submitted here for your reading enjoyment...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The United Coalition of the Divided - 2014 Edition

The United Coalition of the Divided Wants You

The Dividist started this exclusive club during the 2008 election cycle and simultaneously initiated the "Coalition of the Divided Blogroll" - which may or may not be found in the right sidebar somewhere. It was an ignominious start, with the Democrats seizing unified control of the Federal government. Since then we've had better luck rolling out a new membership list in each election cycle. The 2010 edition barely got posted in time for the midterms among much angst and gnashing of teeth. Can't complain about the result though, as divided government was emphatically restored. We had a bit of an earlier start on the 2012 membership drive, and that still worked out fine with the reelection of divided government along with Barack Obama. It's a midterm again and for 2014 we are late again. Why mess with success?

Membership is open to anyone writing anything in any form in any media in a vaguely positive way on the subject of divided government. New recruits will be added to the ranks, updating this post and blogroll from now until the 2014 election. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Divided Government With Unified GOP Congress -
The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

The Good Bad and Ugly of Divided Government

Nate Cohn's enthusiasm for this election notwithstanding, the big decision to come out of the midterms is a foregone conclusion. After four consecutive and six of the last eight years, the midterms will lock and load at least two more years of divided government.  The Republican hand will be strengthened in both the House and Senate, but there is still some drama in determining whether the GOP will take over majority control of the Senate.  Most pollsters are giving it to them...

Will GOP take the Senate


... but the Dividist never underestimates the Republican's capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Our best bet is that the Senate will finish close to 50-50, and the GOP will flip a couple of Independents to take control. If the Republicans do take narrow majority control of the Senate in 2014, the recommended Dividist vote for 2016 will be to elect the Democratic candidate for President, as it is unlikely the GOP will lose control of both the House and Senate in 2016.

 With divided government a fait accompli through 2016, both new and main stream media are weighing in on what we can expect from our divided leadership over the next two years. For your reading enjoyment the Dividist has assembled recent wit and wisdom of the punditocracy on the subject of divided government. To bring some semblance of order to this compilation, we've divided our selections into a Sergio Leone taxonomy - The good, bad, and the ugly.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gallup asks the wrong question about divided government (yet again), and gets the wrong answer (yet again).

Gallup 2014 Divided Government Poll

Gallup released the results of their annual governance poll with this headline:
In U.S., No Preference for Divided vs. One-Party Government
Thirty percent prefer one-party government, 28% divided government
by Jeffrey M. Jones
"Americans lack consensus on whether it is better to have one party holding the presidency and the majority in Congress, or better to have control of each branch of government split between the two major political parties. Currently, 30% say it is better to have a one-party government, 28% say a divided government is better, and the highest percentage, 37%, say it makes no difference."
Over the years, this Gallup poll consistently shows little or no preference for divided government, yet the result is at variance with the way Americans vote. As the article goes on to say:
"Divided government has been the norm in U.S. politics for most of the last 45 years, with one party controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency for only 12 of those years -- 1977-1980, 1993-1994, 2003-2006 and 2009-2010, as well as part of 2001. As such, Americans may simply be used to divided government and do not see it as better or worse than the alternative. But Americans have also seemingly rejected one-party government in the midterm elections that took place in 1994, 2006, and 2010, when a single party controlled Congress and the presidency and the public was dissatisfied with the way things were going in the country."
The problem is in the way Gallup asks the question. Presumably, to make the poll comparable year over year Gallup must ask the same question in the same way, so they are stuck with this wording. Unfortunately the way they ask the divided vs. unified question every year obscures the actual voting preferences of Americans and creates this paradoxical result. 

This a pet peeve for the Dividist. I've written about the problem with this survey before and therefore have no qualms about plagiarizing myself with the same explanation to the same problem question in the same problem poll.  To whit:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Senators Dilemma
- or -
Why it doesn't matter whether Nate Silver or Sam Wang is right about the GOP winning the Senate.

The Senators Dilemma

In case you missed it, there was an interesting  geek-fight between election prognosticators Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight Blog, and Sam Wang of Princeton Election Consortium over the last few weeks.

Nate Silver has long been the darling of progressive poll watchers as he wears his liberal sensibilities on his sleeve. However, he does not let his personal political preferences affect his quantitative analysis.  His accuracy in predicting political outcomes in recent cycles has been nothing less than exemplary. Which explains the cries, lamentations and rending of garments among Democrats when, last March, he predicted that Republicans had a 60% chance of taking the Senate. Notable among the critical cognoscenti was Paul Krugman, who is the opposite of Silver in the sense that he never lets facts, rationality or reality get in the way of his particularly progressive view of the world.

Silver's Senate prediction of a Republican takeover has remained consistently in the 60% range since that March prediction. Which goes a long way to explaining why the left-o-sphere lurched for Sam Wang's recent prediction that the Democrats would continue to control the Senate like a drowning man grabbing for floating debris. Since then Silver critiqued Wang's methodology, who responded in kind by explaining what Silver was doing wrong, leading to another Silver rebuttal, and a Wang counter-tweet...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Toast To Scotland On The Occasion Of Their Independence Referendum

A toast to Scotland. Whatever you decide.
As the polls open in Scotland, I am sitting a world away on the left coast of the United States. I am not of Scottish descent. Still, I raise my glass in their honor.  I ration this 18 year old Laphroaig for special occasions. A wee dram seems appropriate now. Here's to you Scotland...
May you choose the right path for your country, your people, your future.
 Damn - that whiskey is good.

I won't pretend to know what the right choice is for you or your countrymen. Honestly, I don't even really care which decision you make. I just like the fact that you are having this referendum. I like the excitement and passion and panic it has generated.

The polls say the outcome is too close to call. While the "No" vote has a narrow lead, the difference is within the margin of error and well within the undecided vote. That said, I expect those who want independence made their minds up some time ago. The undecided tend to break for the status quo.  They are, after all, somehow still undecided.  So you'll probably still be part of Great Britain when the polls close, and it won't be that close. No matter. Don't regret your decision.

Robert Frost was an American poet of Scottish descent. His most famous and widely misunderstood stanza seems a fitting signpost to mark the occasion:
I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference.
Keep in mind that Frost was not extolling the virtues of forsaking the crowd and choosing an independent path. His narrator finds the two paths virtually indistinguishable and equally attractive. He just ruefully concludes that he will ultimately regret his decision, regardless of which path he takes. Such is the perverse nature of free choice. We always wonder about the path not taken.  Don't look back Scotland. Revel in your decision.

Perhaps I'll have just two fingers more, and we'll conclude with a few interesting and amusing referendum links that caught my attention.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

We are engaged in a very significant counterterrorism operation with ISIL.
We have always been engaged in a very significant counterterrorism operation with ISIL.

The Ministry of Truth explains our war policy.
"We at war with ISIL... In the same way that we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe...”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest
"At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia..."  George Orwell 1984
"First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq."  - President Barack Obama - 9/10/14
So now we are at war with the ISIL Sunni terrorist rebels in Syria and Iraq in support of the Post-Maliki Iraq government (after we helped pressure him out),  which aligns us with the Shia Iranian regime, Syria's Assad regime, and Russia.
"In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge, which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened..."  - George Orwell 1984
"... after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I'm confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out."  - President Barack Obama - 9/10/2013
And one year ago, we were aligned with Sunni Syrian rebel in opposition to the Shia Assad regime and their allies Iran and Russia.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Why do Americans vote for divided government?

UPDATED: 17-April-2017*
I hate divided government and cannot wait to vote for it again
Since the end of WWII, including the 2014 midterms, there have been 34 federal elections in the United States.  Over that time Americans elected divided government 22 times. As a consequence, we have chosen a divided government state for 44 of the intervening 71 years or 62% of the time.

As 2014 2016 comes to a close we are in the fourth sixth year of our most recent iteration of federal divided government. We have a Democratic President, a Democratic Republican majority in the Senate, and a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Democrat Barack Obama will be our President through 2016.  History and recent polls tell us there is no realistic probability that Republicans will lose majority control of the House in the 2014 mid-terms through the 2016 elections.* We will continue to “enjoy” divided government for the rest of President Obama's term. The only question now is whether Republicans can both take the Presidency and maintain majority control in the Senate with Donald Trump as their nominee. That seems unlikely. [It was a good divided government run. Back to the drawing board for 2018]

 One of the more interesting political science questions about divided government is the question of why the American electorate continues to vote for divided government. It is a simple fact that in the modern era we elect a divided government far more often than not. Why we choose divided government and whether we choose it consciously or accidentally is a subject of analysis and speculation. Is it truly a preference? Is it a statistical artifact?  Is it the result of conscious strategic voting?  Or is it the expression of a subconscious preference from an inchoate confused electorate?

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Investors Love Divided Government
CNBC 25th Anniversary Edition

Amanda Drury on CNBC 25th Anniversary
This week CNBC celebrated their 25th anniversary on the air. The Dividist finds a higher signal to noise ratio at CNBC than most cable news networks, so it has often served as a primary source on this blog. We would be remiss if we let CNBC's 25th anniversary pass without taking note and highlighting a few of the Dividist Paper's Greatest CNBC hits.

CNBC 25th anniversary

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It takes two to obstruct.

Obama picks his poison.
Image hacked from The Economist 
Brett Logiurato at Business Insider cites a Washington Post/ABC poll and invokes the specter of an all Republican Congress for the last two years of the Obama administration:
"Democrats are at risk of losing control of the Senate this November, after a new poll found that voters prefer a Republican-controlled Congress to check President Barack Obama's agenda when his approval rating is at its lowest point ever."
Democrats are looking for a silver lining, but with no "wave" election in sight, we're likely to have a classic Tip O'Neill "all politics is local" midterm.  This is good news for dividists like your loyal blogger, but there may be even better news lurking in another finding from the poll:
"Democrats, however, do enjoy an overall advantage on voter trust. Voters say they prefer Democrats' stances on health care (43-35), immigration (40-34), and the economy (41-38), among others.  By a 40-34 margin, voters also say they trust Democrats to "coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years."
The Dividist interprets this apparent contradiction as indicating voters are no more inclined to trust Republicans with all the keys to the castle than they are Democrats. Which implies that losing the Senate in 2014 will actually help position Democrats to keep the White House in 2016 and extending divided government into the next administration.  It's a good thing.

But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. Some Democrats are thinking about what the post mid-term environment on Capitol Hill might look like if the Obama administration is faced with a Republican majority in both the House and Senate. While Republicans in the House usually get the majority of the blame in mainstream media for obstructionism and the "least productive Congress in history", it's instructive to take note of which party is in a panic that Congress might actually "get things done" in the waning years of the Obama administration:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review of The Centrist Manifesto by Charles Wheelan and a Meditation on Third Party Politics in America

The Centrist Manifesto by Charles WheelanCharles Wheelan is the latest in a long line of would-be political reformers who have looked at the two party duopoly in the United States, found it wanting, and proposed the creation of a new third party as the solution. He outlines his strategy for a Centrist Party in his 2013 book  The Centrist Manifesto and continues to beat the drum on his website/blog The Centrist Project.

There is much to like in Wheelan's Centrist Manifesto. First and foremost, he does not fall into the usual trap befalling most third party fantasists - challenging the Republican/Democrat duopoly by running a candidate for President of the United States as a means to popularize and organize the party. Wheelan notes some of the historical challenges facing third parties:
"Conventional wisdom suggests that the American political system is hostile to all third parties. That is wrong. The system is hostile to third parties emerging from the political fringe—the Green Party, for example. These parties do not win elections because they represent relatively small, deeply ideological segments of the population. In fact, they often have a counterproductive effect. Ralph Nader almost certainly cost Al Gore the election in 2000, the pathetic irony being that the Green Party he was supposedly representing ended up worse off as a result of his campaign. When these fringe parties appear, potential supporters must choose between making noise and making a difference." - Charles Wheelan - The Centrist Manifesto (p. 25) - Kindle Edition 
True enough, as far as he goes, but Wheelan does not quite connect the dots on just how truly hostile the American political system is to third party efforts. In particular, he fails to note the pointless futility of third party presidential campaigns. If third party presidential efforts are not completely irrelevant, it's only because of their potential to be spoilers.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dividist "10" - Senate Update
Angus King Edition

The Dividist "10" - Starring Angus King
With apologies to "10" and Angus King.  
Maine Independent Senator Angus King opened the door to potentially switching teams after the midterm results are in (H/T Doug Mataconis):
By Alexander Bolton 

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats, will decide after the midterm elections whether to switch sides and join the Republicans. He is leaving open the possibility of aligning himself with the GOP if control of the upper chamber changes hands.  “I’ll make my decision at the time based on what I think is best for Maine,” King told The Hill Wednesday after voting with Republicans to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure at the center for the 2014 Democratic campaign agenda. King’s remarks are a clear indication that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle will have to woo the 70-year-old senator in order to recruit him to their side.

That lobbying battle could be especially intense if King’s decision determines which party will control the chamber in the next Congress  If Republicans pick up six seats this fall, they will be running the Senate in 2015. But a pickup of five would produce a 50-50 split and Democratic control, with Vice President Biden breaking the tie. King could tip the balance..."
Where have I read this before? Oh yeah. It was me:

Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Flotsam - Divide (the government) And Conquer (the deficit) Edition

Time once again for the Dividist to stroll down our metaphorical beach and take note of the detritus that has washed ashore and cluttered this little island of rationality in the great big blogospheric ocean.

With the midterm election on the horizon, the looming reality of divided government continuing indefinitely into the future is beginning to sink in for partisans and independents alike.  While beachcombing, we stumbled across a few shiny bits of divided government flotsam we previously overlooked. Submitted for your reading enjoyment...

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

On the inevitability of divided government and the emergence of parliament envy.

The dawn of divided government.

Political pundits, columnists, bloggers and others of that ilk are coming to terms with the realization we will have divided federal government for the foreseeable future.

The Dividist is, of course, delighted by this prospect. We find divided government to be the last best hope for limiting bad legislation, containing explosive growth in federal government spending, protecting civil liberties, and moving incrementally toward other preferred policy objectives. Or, at least, moving away from them at a slower pace than under unified one party rule. But not everyone is so sanguine about this state of affairs.

Many Republicans have yet to work through the stages of grief over the 2012 election outcome. They are still in denial and angry over failing to take the White House and Senate and restoring the glory days of One Party Republican Rule from '03 - '06.

During the government shutdown last fall, Democrats bought into the delusion that they could sweep the discredited Republicans from the House in the 2014 midterms and restore the era of One Party Democratic Rule, much as they enjoyed during the first two years of President Obama's administration. They are only now coming to terms with the realization that, not only is the House majority a virtual lock for Republicans, but there is a very real probability that Democrats will also lose majority control of the Senate.

The range of reactions to the inevitability of continuing divided government are instructive and, dare I say - offers a teachable moment.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Return of The Dividist "10"
Wherein we disagree with Nate Silver.
Sort of.

With apologies to "10" 

Note to Pundits: It's Still 2014
With all the speculation about the 2016 presidential election prospects of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Elizabeth WarrenChris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, et. al. ad infinitum, something important has been overlooked. We have a very important election in 2014.  Nate Silver informs us that majority control of the Senate hangs in the balance:
FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecast: GOP Is Slight Favorite in Race for Senate Control 
"When FiveThirtyEight last issued a U.S. Senate forecast — way back in July — we concluded the race for Senate control was a toss-up. That was a little ahead of the conventional wisdom at the time, which characterized the Democrats as vulnerable but more likely than not to retain the chamber.  Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber. The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates, with some exceptions."
Given we are still early in the primary season... Given the Republican penchant for nominating clown candidates in winnable Senate races...  Given the hole the Republicans dug for themselves in the Senate in 2012... the Dividist is a bit dubious of Nate Silver's prediction.  We'll come back to that. But first, let's consider one 2014 outcome that is not at risk in any meaningful way - the continuing status quo of our happily divided government.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

That wasn't Vladimir Putin's first tweet. This is Vladimir Putin's first tweet: "...good intentions cannot justify the violation of international law and state sovereignty."

Putin Russian Twitter Account Profile
This week twitter released a new service to view anyone's first tweet. Vladimir Putin's first tweet garnered a lot of attention. Sent in November 2012 it commemorated the occasion of President Obama's reelection:
Vladimir Putin's first English tweet

The tweet was characterized in MSM and blogs as ironic and an indication of how badly relations have degraded in subsequent years. Examples include WaPo, NBC, CBS, The Independent, TPMHuffington Post, etc, etc, etc. I'm not sure how truly "ironic" that tweet is. Certainly banal. Probably perfunctory. Maybe sarcastic. But not ironic.

Regardless, there is a bigger problem with the the reporting on that tweet. Despite the media assertions, that was not Vladimir Putin's first tweet.  Not even close. That was Vladimir Putin's first tweet from his English language twitter account.  Vladimir Putin's actual first tweet was sent from his Russian language twitter account over 10 months earlier in January 2012. Vladimir Putin is, after all, a Russian.

This was Vladimir Putin's actual first tweet, and it is one hell of a lot more interesting than the pablum with which he inaugurated his English language twitter account:
Putins 1st Russian tweet

Friday, March 21, 2014

Crimea is like Texas. Or something.

 Russian Crimea like Mexican Texas? 

She takes the long way around with a comparison to Texas, but a smart take from Rachel Maddow making a very good point about the repercussions of Putin's annexation of Crimea on Ukraine, Russia and the West. We recognize her very good point as insightful,  since it is the exact same point we made three weeks ago.

Maddow 3/19:

Monday, March 03, 2014

Three Soviet stooges and why Ukraine may be better off without Crimea.

The Soviet Stooges  - Joseph, Nikita and Vladimir
Anyone with a passing interest in the "the most seismic geopolitical event since 9/11", learned quite a bit about Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia over the weekend.  In particular we learned how three Soviet stooges have done enormous damage to the small semi-autonomous region of Crimea over the last 75 years. The most recent destabilizing damage was just inflicted on the region by Vladimir Putin (stooge "Larry"). Yeah, I know - The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is long gone so, strictly speaking, Putin is not a "Soviet" stooge. He just plays one on the world stage.  Here is the stage where we find him performing his schtick today:


The important part of this map is that brown bit hanging out the back end of Ukraine. That is Crimea, the region of Ukraine recently annexed by Russia. You'll note it is the only part of Ukraine shaded brown - i.e. Crimea is the only region of Ukraine with a majority ethnic Russian population.  Among the Crimean population not ethnic Russian, are the original inhabitants of the region - the Crimean Tatars. The history of why this region has a majority ethnic Russian population and why it is (was?) part of Ukraine is an important story. To understand that story, we need to go back to our Soviet stooges.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Choosing Sides in the Immigration "GOP Civil War" (Spoiler Alert - I'm with Will)

Grandma and Grandpa Dividist
Apparently there is a "civil war" in the GOP over the issue of immigration reform. George Will has chosen sides. In a recent WaPo column, he carefully, deliberately, logically, demolishes GOP arguments against doing comprehensive immigration reform now:

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Dialogues on Divided Government -
Gerrymandering & The Liberal Lament

Illinois Congressional District 4
Illinois Congressional District 4 - Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D)
Since the Dividist abandoned the periodic "carnival" compilation of divided government punditry,  we'll instead highlight any individual posts and articles we find that offers an interesting take on divided government. This may (or may not) become a regular feature. First up -  Larry Franz blogging at Wherof One Can Speak and his lament "We Should Expect Divided Government For a Long Time"

Among the annoyances confronting those subscribing to a left-of-center worldview is the fact that the American electorate inconveniently continues to elect republicans to majority control in the House of Representatives.  Liberals are fond of lecturing anyone who will listen that America is a center left country, that enlightened liberal democratic policies are better for all Americans, that republicans are on the wrong side of history, that shifting demographic favor a permanent democratic party majority, that republicans hate women, blacks, hispanics, gays, etc. etc. ad nauseum. And yet, despite the imparted wisdom, Americans continue to elect republicans into majority control of the House of Representative.

If you are true believer in progressive dogma you must come up with a reason why, in the face of the obviously superior liberal democratic policies, Americans continue to vote republicans into majorities in Congress. Many progressives resolve this conundrum by subscribing to one or more of these theories:

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Live by the pen. Die by the pen.

Obamas big swinging pens
Is the pen mightier than divided government? 
In the midst of the State Of The Union public relations blitz, President Obama promised to wield his mighty pen in the service of a legislative agenda stymied by our elected divided government. Unsurprisingly this stirred up the loyal opposition. Paul Ryan warned of "an increasingly lawless Presidency".  Karl Rove suggests "The president has to act within the statutory limits given to him by the United States Congress or... we are simply an authoritarian regime". Charles Grassley was "gravely concerned that the system of checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution is threatened by the President’s determination to take unilateral action". Ted Cruz  described the Obama administration power grab as a “breathtaking... pattern of lawlessness”. The Christian Science Monitor asked "Is Barack Obama an imperial president?":

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Mighty Nancy has struck out.

Nancy Pelosi strikes out on The Daily Show
"Maybe I should ask the House Minority Leader." 
Nancy Pelosi is my representative in Congress. Consistent with my divided government preference, I voted for her and supported other Democratic candidates nationally in the 2006 mid-terms. For the exact same reason (preference for divided government), I voted against her and supported Republican candidates nationally in 2010.  Over the years I've had some good things to say about her, and some bad things. Your mileage may vary.

Lately I've begun to wonder how much longer she'll be my representative in Congress. Despite her defiant pronouncement that her "work is not finished" the retirement of two of her long standing allies in the House have fueled speculation about her future.  

This the latest of several problems that dogged the ex-Speaker of the House last week:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State of the Union - The Musical!
"How to Succeed as President Without Really Trying"

2014 Obama State of the Union - The Musical!
State Of The Union with phone and pen.  
Welcome to the Dividist's annual coverage of the Presidential Address to Congress - aka State of the Union - The Musical!

In 2007, as a blogging toddler, the Dividist despaired at finding a unique approach to the SOTU when so many other bloggers would be traversing the same ground. The answer came from Bob Woodward. In an on-line Washington Post forum the Dividist asked whether the SOTU had any real relevance. Woodward responded by saying it was "mostly theater." Genius. That was the answer. What better way to frame the SOTU, media and blog reactions than within the lyrics of a Broadway show tune?

The game is to start with a Broadway song then find blog posts, news stories, tweets, essays, and commentary that can be vaguely referenced in the song and link them to the lyrics. It keeps the Dividist awake and blogging throughout the speech and mandatory drinking game.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Good news! The Imperial Unitary Executive is going to "get things done".

Unitary Imperium Executor
It was a good week for presidential power grabs and executive branch assertions of fiat authority.  For our constitutional form of government, not so much. The administration started the week with a PR offensive to assure everyone that the President has a pen and a phone and for some reason this makes Congress irrelevant. Very reassuring.

Washington TimesDan Pfeiffer: 'President Obama is ready to use every executive action available'
"White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer sent an e-mail early Tuesday to preview President Obama's plan to use his executive power in ways Americans have never seen before. "President Obama has a resolution for 2014: That this will be a year of action," Pfeiffer said in the e-mail, pointing out that Obama would no longer be waiting around for Congress to get things done.  "Instead, the president will use his executive authority, both his pen and his phone, to work with anyone to get things done..."
CBS: Obama On Executive Actions: ‘I’ve Got A Pen And I’ve Got A Phone’
"Calling for “all hands on deck” to assist the economy, President Barack Obama is urging his Cabinet to identify ways to keep his administration relevant ...“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama said Tuesday as he convened his first Cabinet meeting of the year.  Obama continued: ”And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward..."
The President summoned the Obamite Minions to rally around this initiative to bypass all that messy congressional legislative unpleasantness in the service of his agenda:
"2014 will be a year of action for the American people — and President Obama is ready to use every executive action available to him to make sure of it... Tell the President you're IN for 2014..." 

 The Dividist filled out the form and told the President he is IN, but he really isn't. The Dividist is actually much more IN with checks, balance and separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch as intended by the founders and codified in our Constitution.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pining for earmarks, longing for graft, and fetishizing "getting things done"

Boehner and Pelosi at the feet of George Washington Plunkitt.
Tammany Hall got a lot done.
Last week, while commenting on a John Harwood column about Ronald Reagan's negotiating skills, the Dividist pointed to a missing political tool that makes it harder for our federal government to forge compromise:
"Harwood missed another factor that made it easier for both Reagan and Clinton to push a deal through a divided congress. In the Reagan and Clinton eras legislative ideological opposition could be softened through the widespread practice of sweetening deals with earmarks secretly carved out in committee. Lets' call it what it was - a form of legalized bribery to buy votes by throwing money to a district or big contributor. It was slimy. It was corrupt as hell. But it was sure effective in greasing the legislative skids and blunting ideological opposition. It still happens, but not to the degree that it did in the Reagan and Clinton years. The loss of that tool makes the job harder for Obama. Regardless, if the question is where does responsibility lie for getting deals done in a divided government? The answer is that the buck stops in the Oval Office. Full stop."
David Plotz at Salon used Chris Christie's modus operandi as a starting point and takes it to another level. Here he pines for earmarks and waxes nostalgic for just the right amount of corruption in "Politics Should Be Dirtier":

Monday, January 13, 2014

Clinton & Obama admit 2007 Iraq war policy positions were influenced by politics. So was President Bush 2004 Iraq war policy. One is worse.

"Politics has no place in war policy." That's a good one!

A war-time memoir from a former Secretary of Defense  is nothing new.  It is unusual, perhaps unique, for the number two man in the United States military chain of command to publish a memoir while his Commander in Chief is still in office and the war is still going on. I plan to read  Bob Gate's new book "Duty" when available to the general public later this week.  Part of my interest in the book stems from hearing Bob Gates speak at the MPSF Speaker Series last year.

Like most, I've had to be satisfied with observing other's observations of the memoir as excerpts are revealed in the press and political talk show circuit.   Rather than comment on the commentary (there are plenty of pundits filling that role), I'll wait until I've had a chance to read it myself.  However, there is one excerpt getting a lot of attention that deserves a second look.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Gallup poll finds record level of independent non-partisan pretension.

The Independent / Centrist / Moderate Black Hole
Earlier this week Gallup reported a record high 42% of American chose to self-identify as independents rather than associate themselves with either the Republican or Democratic party:

"Americans are increasingly declaring independence from the political parties. It is not uncommon for the percentage of independents to rise in a non-election year, as 2013 was. Still, the general trend in recent years, including the 2012 election year, has been toward greater percentages of Americans identifying with neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party, although most still admit to leaning toward one of the parties."
This was greeted with the usual triumphalism from moderates, centrists and independents living in the hope of an imminent implosion of the political duopoly. But there is far less here than meets the eye.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Progressive Pundit Posits Prejudicial Political Polarization


Greg Sargent asks "How 'polarized' is the American electorate?":
"The American people are “polarized.” That idea is repeated so often as an explanation for why Washington seems mired in dysfunction and gridlock that no one even stops to question it anymore. Yes, the system is polarized, in the sense that we have divided government on the federal level, or, as Dan Balz recently noted, in the sense that state governments under an unprecedented degree of one-party control are moving in sharply different directions. But how polarized is public opinion on the issues themselves?"
Sargent makes a fair and balanced assessment of the American body politic by citing progressive pundits spanning the political spectrum from the left to the far left. Unsurprisingly he determines that the United States really is a left of center country with a broad consensus around progressive issues:
"E.J. Dionne’s latest column notes there is majority consensus behind ideas about ”economic justice” and the safety net, but that it’s obscured by the degree to which one party remains captive to a conservative minority that wants to unravel that consensus... Majorities support immigration reform with a path to citizenship. While people tell pollsters they don’t like Big Government, they support getting our fiscal house in order through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, as Democrats want, and majorities oppose cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Large majorities support federal spending on infrastructure to create jobs. Majorities backed the core ideas in the American Jobs Act, which included spending on road repair and tax credits for job training, paid for by taxes on the rich."
And of course, with all this broad consensus among Americans in support of a progressive agenda, there is no one to blame for Congress failing to embracing our progressive future but those illegitimately elected GOP cultists in the House of Representatives:
"As David Wasserman explained just after the 2012 elections, geographic voting distribution patterns and redistricting has created a GOP lock on the House by cossetting Republicans away in safe districts, where they enjoy the support of “an alternate universe of voters that little resembles the growing diversity of the country.” ...Add it up and the stalemate in D.C. in the face of major challenges is at least partly due to this unconventional, unbalanced situation, and may be partly in spite of the state of national opinion, not because of it."
"I don’t want to overstate this..." Sargent writes as he wildly overstates this and concludes:

Friday, January 03, 2014

Friday Flotsam
"Warmists in Paradise" Edition

Scientists demonstrating climate change, or Antarctic weather,
or the heartbreak of cellulite, or something.*

Welcome to Friday Flotsam, an occasional feature serving as an end-of-week blog catch-all. It seems apropos to use this vehicle to  collect stories and photos associated with the aborted Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) that captured social and mainstream media attention this week.  So without further ado, time for the Dividist to stroll down our metaphorical beach ice floe and take note of the detritus that has washed ashore and cluttered this little island ice-locked bay of rationality in the great big frozen blogospheric ocean.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Can we do tax reform and immigration reform in an election year with a divided government and a lame duck president?

Why Yes! Yes We Can! 
There is only one catch...

We could do it in 1986, and maybe in 1998, but not in 2014. That's the thesis of  John Harwood's article in the New York Times: "When a 2nd-Term President and a Divided Congress Made Magic".

First Harwood explains why it worked in 1986:
"In 1986, President Ronald Reagan sat in the White House. Fellow Republicans controlled the Senate but not the House — a mirror image of the alignment President Obama governs with today. That September, strong bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress passed a drastic revision of the tax code that eliminated valuable tax breaks while lowering the top rate to 28 percent from 50 percent. The following month, less than three weeks before Election Day, bipartisan majorities transformed the federal immigration code as well, with amnesty for some already in the United States, penalties for businesses hiring illegal immigrants, and more money for border enforcement...  All of them accepted two stipulations that, by narrowing the range of disputes, made getting to yes easier. They agreed that the new tax code would raise the same amount of money as the old one (making it “revenue neutral”), and that it would get that money from the same groups of earners (making it “distributionally neutral” as well)."
Then Harwood explains why it won't work in 2014:
"Mr. Obama and his party want more tax revenue and more progress against income inequality, which has widened since Mr. Reagan’s time. Republicans have more difficulty selling reductions from a top rate of 39.6 percent than from 50 percent as in 1986...  What controlled the action was what the congressional scholar Norman Ornstein called “the problem-solving caucus” — driven more by issues than partisan imperatives. Today, Mr. Ornstein said, that caucus “has dwindled dramatically.” That’s in part because the number of truly competitive districts — where voters selected a member of Congress from one party and a presidential candidate from another — has dwindled from 45 percent of all House seats in 1986 to only 6 percent, or 26 seats, today.  The crucial ingredients for bipartisan action, former Senator Bradley said, are “independence of thought and capacity to listen.”
A good article, but I think Harwood missed a couple of points. President Reagan prioritized doing a deal ahead of ideological or partisan concerns. Don't get me wrong. Reagan was a partisan and an ideologue. But he made doing deals a priority and was willing to suffer the slings and arrows from his own party to get a deal done. As Harwood points out in the article "Republicans like Phil Gramm of Texas... called granting permanent residency to some immigrants who had crossed the border illegally “outrageous.” Nevertheless, Reagan got the immigration bill passed.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Carnival of Divided Government LVI
Excessum et Renatum
Special Last Carnival
& 2014 New Year Edition


Welcome to the Carnival of Divided Government Excessum et Renatum - Special 56th and Final 2014 New Year Edition.

As noted before, the whole "Blog Carnival" concept is well past its "Sell By" date, eclipsed by Facebook, Twitter, and other social network aggregation schemes. Blog Carnivals were popular when the Dividist started this blog in 2006. The idea was to solicit and compile posts and articles contributed to the carnival on a particular subject then periodically share the content and links on the blog. Social media fulfills that function now.

We've not received much relevant content contributed to the carnival for a few years. This feature morphed into a simple compilation of topical posts and articles that caught the Dividist's attention as he wandered about the 'sphere. The format was as comfortable as a old shoe, so we just kept it going.

As we return from an extended sabbatical, kick off an election year, and attempt to insinuate this blog into social media platforms, the time has come to put this obsolete format to bed. This last effort will help the Dividist "prime the pump" after the long layoff, but the Oblogocare Death Panel has spoken. Without further ado, here the Carnival of Divided Government swan song....