Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Prognosticators; The only poll that matters; and The 100 year rule.

One week to go. One week from now the polls will have closed on the east coast, and we will have our first indication of whether the Democrats will secure a majority in the House and/or in the Senate, or whether we will have two more years of single party Republican control. What is going to happen? - Beats the hell out of me.

Early in the short life of this blog, we posted "There is work to do", and linked to Scott Elliott at "Election Projection" for an early prediction on the midterm elections. With our focus primarily on the House races, we intended to track Scott and other polls as we drewn near the election. But between Scott, Real Clear Politics, MSNBC/National Journal, Washington Post, Daily Kos, Electoral Vote, Californian in Texas, Polling Report, UnFutz, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera - any additional poll tracking here at DWSUWF seems rather superfluous.

But with a week to go, out of this giant haystack of data, there are three needles that caught my attention. Three prognosticators, making three predictions, all of which seem reasonable, but all of which cannot be true.

I. Scott Elliott and the Blogging Caesar Edicts
When we first visited Scott last May, he had recently issued his "Edicts 1 & 2" predicting that the Republicans will maintain the majority in both the House and Senate. Time to check back in. In a recent post, he reinforced his prediction despite a dramatic change in his projections:

EP MayEP Oct
From May to October, Scott's projection has moved from a +6 Dem gain to a +17 Dem gain in the House.

This is Scott's snapshot reflecting his analysis of the polls at each point in time. Despite the Dems only needing 15 seats to take the majority, and only being seven days from "the only poll that matters", Scott is sticking by his guns and his "Edicts #1 and #2" prediciting that Republicans will retain a majority in the House and the Senate. This quote is from his October 21 commentary, and he has not backed away in any post on his blog since:
"By the way, let me confirm once again that I stand by all of the edicts I decreed earlier this year.

* The GOP will hold the House - April 24
* The GOP will hold the Senate - April 28

In the Senate, though not much happened last week, look for polls this week in Tennessee and Missouri to show Corker and Talent with small leads, respectively. And look for Allen's lead to grow some in Virginia next week as well. The huge financial advantage enjoyed by several GOP senate candidates should start to pay dividends in some of these close races. I think the chances of the Democrats taking the Senate are very, very slim. Overall, it is clear to me that the GOP has indeed turned the corner..."
Scott makes no bones about his party affiliation, but claims that his Republican bias does not affect his analysis. He is putting that assertion to the test right now.
UPDATE: November 7, 2006
I guess you have to admire the "Blogging Caesar" going down with his prediction "ship", but with his own projections showing a 20+ Democratic seat swing in the House of Representatives, this prediction on election day certainly undermines his credibility as an analyst and his ablility to see through his own partisan bias when he says in his self described "Mother of all Disclaimers":
Seriously weird. - First he is saying that the Republicans will keep the house, then he says they may not, and finally says he would consider himself wrong no matter what. At least he is right about that last part. Take off those rosy red glasses Scott!

UPDATE: November 08.2006
Scott partially redeemed himself in my mind when he finally came face to face with reality in the wee hours of election morning (but he has yet to recognize how he let his partisan bias undermine his otherwise excellent analysis):
"Update(11:30pm): The House goes to the Democrats, and the crow goes in the oven. (That darn disclaimer!)
Update(12:00am): I take my hat off to Stuart Rothenberg.
Update(2:30am): Note to self: TRUST THE NUMBERS!! Loss of 6 in the Senate, 24 in the House, and 7 Governors - sounds pretty good about now, doesn't it?"
Great analysis, and a bad prediction. Better luck next time.

II. Ken Fisher and the 100 Year Rule
Ken Fisher is a financial columnist in Forbes and a money manager based in California. I have been following his market advice for years, and found him to be remarkably accurate in calling market moves. He subscribes to the hypothesis that election cycles can have a major affect on markets (among many other factors), and tracks them closely for his readers and clients. As recently as his September column, he was also prediciting that the Republicans would hold on to majorities in the House and Senate:
"A basic rule of politics and a little-known fact: The Senate changes hands so much more easily than the House that in 100 years the House has never changed hands unless the Senate has, too. For the Democrats to win the House they must win the Senate, which means they must win almost every close race--something that almost never happens. I count only seven this year. There are more Democratic than GOP Senate seats up in 2006. And two more open Democratic seats than Republican; that's more for the Democrats to defend... My forecast is for the GOP to lose three seats in the Senate and six in the House. "
He expanded on the "100 year rule" in a newsletter to his clients ( BTW - I do not reveal my sources):
"Since the Seventeenth Amendment allowed for direct election of Senators in 1913, the House majority has never changed hands without the Senate also doing so. Therefore we look first to the Senate to determine the outcome of the election, as it is more volatile. Our analysis indicates that there will be no change in the Senate; therefore Republicans will maintain control of the House. The House changing leadership without the Senate also doing so would be unprecedented."
Now this is where it gets interesting. In his most recent column at Forbes - "The Rangel Factor" (his first column written in the post-Foley fallout), Ken appears to backpedal on his prediction:
"You might have that nightmare in which the Democrats sweep Congress and you wake up one morning to find Charles Rangel sitting at your kitchen table filling out your 1040. The New York liberal might be the next House Ways & Means Committee chairman. Suppose, that is, that my last column, predicting that the GOP would hold both houses, is just wrong. (For which I can thank Mark Foley.) How bad will a Democratic win be for investors? Not bad enough, I submit, to sell stocks now. "
III. TradeSports.com and the Republican House/Senate Futures Contracts
From his prior columns, we know that Ken (like Lawrence Kudlow, and many investors) follows the election betting markets closely, as they consider them more accurate predictors of election results than the polls. In particular, the tradesports.com futures contract on Republicans holding the House and Senate are frequently touted by pundits. The betting contracts as of the time of this post, show the probability of the Republicans maintaining their majority in the Senate at 71% (and dropping slowly) and the probability of the Republicans maintaining their majority in the House at 34% and stable:

The Tradesports GOP Senate Contract - Showing a slight drop in October, but consistenly predicting a 70% to 85% probablility of the GOP keeping the Senate over the last year.

The Tradesports GOP House Contract, which dropped from a 60% probability of the GOP maintaining control of the House at the end of September, to a 34% probability with one week to go.

There you have it. With seven days to go, the betting contracts are prediciting that a 100 year old electoral precedent is going to be violated. So either A) Something has changed structurally in the electoral process that we have not seen in 100 years -or- B) The futures contract is flat wrong and -either- C) The Republicans will indeed retain the majority in both houses -or- D) The Democrats will take both houses. Really interesting, but like I said ...

Who the hell knows? What do you think?

I'm betting on the trading contract: Dems take the House, Republicans keep the Senate. The best of all possible results.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Carnival of Divided Government - Quintus - Halloween Edition

Welcome to the fith edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - the special All Hallows Eve edition. As explained in Carnival of Divided Government Secondus, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration, in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the monumental importance of the series. In this, Carnival of Divided Government - Quintus, like in every edition, we include volunteers and draftees from both the blogosphere and main stream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties.

This week's special Halloween edition has some very scary selections indeed...

What can be scarier than this? According to Blogpulse, the guy in the picture was the "burstiest" person in the blogosphere today, as a direct result of his very scary message. His name... "Ever heard of David M. Walker? He's today's burstiest person for a reason: an all-out warning that the U.S. is headed for financial ruin. (You mean, it's the economy, stupid, after all?)":
GAO chief warns economic disaster looms
"Walker can talk in public about the nation's impending fiscal crisis because he has one of the most secure jobs in Washington. As comptroller general of the United States -- basically, the government's chief accountant -- he is serving a 15-year term that runs through 2013.... "You can't solve a problem until the majority of the people believe you have a problem that needs to be solved," Walker says. Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. That's almost as much as the total net worth of every person in America -- Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and those Google guys included. A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today. And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion... The current political climate doesn't help. Washington tends to keep its fiscal house in better order when one party controls Congress and the other is in the White House, says Sawhill. "It's kind of a paradoxical result. Your commonsense logic would tell you if one party is in control of everything they should be able to take action," Sawhill says. But the last six years of Republican rule have produced tax cuts, record spending increases and a Medicare prescription drug plan that has been widely criticized as fiscally unsound. When President Clinton faced a Republican Congress during the 1990s, spending limits and other legislative tools helped produce a surplus. So maybe a solution is at hand. "We're likely to have at least partially divided government again," Sawhill said, referring to predictions that the Democrats will capture the House, and possibly the Senate, in next month's elections."
Okay. That really does send chills up my spine, and I am not comforted by the efforts of the appropriately named Dumb Ox News explaining there is nothing to fear except "Deficit Fear-Mongering Socialists!?"
"A new angle by Liberals: deficits are scary! Yet another reason, according to the G.A.O's "neutral" opinion, to vote Democrat. Ha! Note the "brilliant" strategies at work for the Democrats: Big Republican Deficits to keep the fiscal conservatives away from the polls, and Big Republican Pedophiles (sssh! Homos) to keep the cultural conservatives at home! Will their strategery work, and put the real Socialists and the real Hedonists in power? That's up to you... They claim that surplusses occured in the 1990's because of "divided government" and Bill Clinton's leadership! Double ha!! Earth to G.A.O. - Those surplusses were the result of spending restraints imposed by Republicans, yes, but mainly due to a huge economic boom created by the investment environment from Ronald Reagan's tax cuts...and big deficits! How can you resist the brainwashing, Socialist scare-tactics of the Government Accounting Office?"
Well, I guess one way to resist these "socialist scare-tactics", is to follow the incoherent economic ramblings of Dumb Ox news. Who would you rather pay attention to, Dumb Ox or Mike Walker,Comptroller General of the United States. Choose wisely.

Matt Lewis at the Human Events blog, The Ballot Box, finds something to fear in his post Dem Victory Would = Less (Not More) Harmony. For partisan Republicans like Matt, the most frightening words in the english language right now are "divided government":
"In today's Washington Post, David Broder uses the Bill Clinton example to argue that divided government could be a good thing: "What are the chances that divided government could also be productive in the final two years of the Bush presidency? Better than might be imagined -- especially given the president's agenda." But the analogy is false. First, Clinton had six years -- not a mere two -- to work with the other side. Second, Republicans in Congress (who foresaw six years of a Clinton presidency) were probably more willing to work in a bi-partisan fashion than Democrats would be. And finally, many (including those who helped elect Clinton) would argue with the premise that the "divided government" resulted in Clinton failing to accomplish anything."
Fear not Mr. Lewis, for your weak argument flies in the face of historical fact, as documented by fellow conservatives at the Cato Institute, like William Niskanen and Stephen Slivinski.

Now true conservatives (as opposed to partisan Republicans), claim there is nothing to fear from divided government. In fact it is a state to be hoped for.

The Harford Republican quotes a missive from noted conservative Richard Viguerie, and declares that "GOP Scare Tactics Won't Work".
The following was a press release sent to me that I found quite interesting.
Richard Viguerie: Halloween Scare Tactics Won’t Work for GOP;
Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, warned Republicans that scare tactics against Democrats will not succeed in increasing social or economic conservative voters on Election Day. “The big-spending, high-deficit, morally-deficient Republican Party hasn’t anything to offer conservatives except Halloween scare tactics about the Democrats. But since the GOP majority in Congress has engaged in an unprecedented spending spree, conservatives know that Democrats cannot be any worse and that divided government may lead to less spending.”
Abiola at Foreign Dispatches offers some unsettling thoughts about How the GOP Lost it's way:
"What is the solution to this dilemma? I don't know myself, but as a libertarian my own preferred answer is as follows: that we need a major new political realignment, under which either the GOP jettisons the fundies and makes an appeal to the more freedom-loving elements of the Democratic Party, or else the Democratic Party shorns itself of the socialists, protectionists and other assorted riff-raff and reaches out to disaffected believers in limited government. Neither of these two possibilities seem very realistic now, given the extent to which both parties are in the grip of their worst constituencies, but failing a major shift along these lines, I see a very long period of incoherent, unprincipled politics ahead, only possibly kept in check by divided government."
Michael Cael at Financial Methods look at the data, and concludes that Divided Government = Bull Market. He finds nothing to be afraid of, but, being an Investor, he still finds something to be nervous about:
"I'm not entirely convinced that the democrats will win enough seats to control the House; or that the republicans will retain enough to maintain control of the Senate. Election Day is still more than a week away and sentiment can shift quickly, especially in a tight contest. Yet it seems clear that the probability of a change of control in both chambers is remote. The market seems to like the idea of a divided government. I suspect that the market would pull back significantly if it becomes apparent that both chambers will change control as well."
Issac Smith at The Old Line faces his "Fear of a One-Party Planet":
"In both the Post's tepid endorsement of Bob Ehrlich today and Barry Rascovar's mash note to the Governor from last week, one of the most prominent reasons they give for voting for Ehrlich is not so much his accomplishments, which have been mediocre, nor Martin O'Malley's (perceived) shortcomings, but the belief that, as the Post put it, "an O'Malley victory would herald a return to the brand of one-party Democratic rule that has served the state poorly in the past." This strikes me as misguided, even though I recognize the value of divided government -- we could certainly use some of it in the federal government right now."
Finally, as is our carnival tradition, we choose one Off Topic submission each week for inclusion in the Carnival. Criteria is simple, if the post does not mention "divided government" it is categorized as off topic. This weeks winner: John B at Rebuilding Eden for a post that has moved beyond fear, and beyond the next election, and offers some excellent advice in "So, You Want a Better Government".
The Executive Branch is running amok.
The three branch form of government is a great idea, however there have been numerous instances throughout history that the executive branch has userped power that did not belong to it and was not returned to its rightful owners ( most commonly the people). The present administration is a showcase for this brand of governance.

The Judicial Branch wants to legislate, not interpret.
I hesitate to even mention this, but there are cicuit courts all over the nation that are remove powers from the people by creating law, rather then interpretting it. We need to hold them accountable and show them that one mistake is one too many for those in our highest courts.

Congress is asleep at the switch.
While Congress is busily making new laws, forming new departments and defining new ways to extract and spend the American publics money, the largest issues continue to be ignored. American businesses can no longer compete and the goose who once laid all of those golden eggs left the country. Our Military and Social Services spending is out of control and needs to be re-written from square one, not amended endlessly making it larger and less efficient. The Federal Reserve act needs to be repealed and Americans should no longer spend billions of dollars yearly in interest on debt generated by our own country, yet managed by a privately owned bank. The list of do-overs required is a long one, but I will stop here without touching on education, energy policy and agriculture.
That concludes this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to all for the submissions. The next special Election Eve Edition of the Carnival of Divided Government will be posted one week from today, sometime before 11:59 PM PST on Monday November 6. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.

More scholarship & more reasons to vote for divided government.

While googling for divided government fodder to include in the weekly carnival, I ran across a blog post by Tung Yin speculating about a New Voting Heuristic, and referencing a Harvard Law Review article entitled Separation of Parties not Powers by Daryl J. Levinson and Richard H. Pildes. The work is a tough slog through citations, footnotes, and legal arguments, but is worth the effort. The payoff is some original thinking on the benefits of and historical basis for divided government, and yet another reason to vote divided.

With this additional reason added, we present a brief 5 point summary of the reasons to vote for divided government and the scholarship that supports it.
  1. Divided Government restrains the growth of spending (Niskanen, Van Doren, Vedder)
  2. Divided government results in better and longer lasting legislation. Major reforms and structural changes (Reagan tax reform, Clinton welfare reform) that have a passed under a divided government are more likely to survive being undone by subsequent congressional action than major reforms passed by a unified single party government. (Niskanen, Slivinski)
  3. Major Wars are less likely under a divided government. (Slivinski, Niskanen)
  4. Congressional oversight of congressional and executive behavior is stronger, and constitutional rights are better protected under divided government (Mann & Ornstein)
  5. Constitutional checks and balances envisioned by the founding fathers are undermined by single party united government and strengthed by divided government (Levinson & Pilde)
Selections from Separation of Parties not Powers by Levinson & Pildes (which has been added to the permanent DWSUWF scholarship links in the right sidebar).

"American political institutions were founded upon the Madisonian assumption of vigorous, self-sustaining political competition between the legislative and executive branches. Congress and the President would check and balance each other; officeholders would defend the distinct interests of their different institutions; ambition would counteract ambition. That is not how American democracy turned out. Instead, political competition and cooperation along relatively stable lines of policy and ideological disagreement quickly came to be channeled not through the branches of government, but rather through an institution the Framers could imagine only dimly but nonetheless despised: political parties. Few aspects of the founding generation’s political theory are now more clearly anachronistic than their vision of legislative-executive separation of powers. Yet few of the Framers’ ideas continue to be taken as literally or sanctified as deeply by courts and constitutional scholars as the passages about interbranch relations in Madison’s Federalist 51. This Article reenvisions the law and theory of separation of powers by viewing it through the lens of party competition. In particular, it points out that during periods — like the present — of cohesive and polarized political parties, the degree and kind of competition between the legislative and executive branches will vary significantly and may all but disappear, depending on whether party control of the House, Senate, and Presidency is divided or unified. The practical distinction between party-divided and party-unified government thus rivals, and often dominates, the constitutional distinction between the branches in predicting and explaining interbranch political dynamics."
"We should recognize that this picture of gridlocked divided governments versus steamrolling unified ones is something of a caricature. As discussed above, during periods of ideologically heterogeneous parties, relatively stable cross-partisan coalitions have constituted a government majority along certain policy dimensions. And even when the parties are ideologically cohesive, the specific constituency interests of individual MCs are sufficiently fragmented, and MCs sufficiently independent, that Presidents can sometimes cobble together issue specific majority coalitions across party lines. Supermajority requirements in the lawmaking process (including veto overrides and Senate filibuster cloture votes) often necessitate some degree of bipartisanship even when government is unified. And of course the parties will sometimes find that the imperatives of events or public demands for government action make compromise across divided government the winning play. These factors all tend to dampen the productivity differences between divided and unified governments. We should not be too surprised, then, that divided governments have sometimes accomplished a great deal... more surprising is Professor David Mayhew’s well-known study of the legislative record from World War II through 1990, finding that divided governments enacted about the same volume of “significant” legislation as unified ones. But it hardly follows from Professor Mayhew’s findings that the distinction has been without a difference. Professor Mayhew does not assess the content of legislation. Perhaps politicians in Washington usually prefer to do something about the salient issues of the day rather than suffer the political consequences of perceived partisan gridlock, but what unified governments accomplish may be considerably more ideologically ambitious and extreme."
Richard Epstein responded to Levinson and Pildes in the Harvard Law Review with "Why Parties and Powers Both Matter: A Separationist Response":
"It is futile to argue that political parties do not influence relations between the legislative and executive branches. Clearly, political alliances, both formal and informal, matter. The greater the political cohesion, the less critical separation of powers becomes, and conversely, the more divided the government, the more political structures matter. But parties do not operate outside the framework of Constitutional structures, and these play important roles in determining the fate of legislation, treaties, nominations and Congressional hearings."
At the risk of oversimplifying this interesting dialog, Levinson and Pildes make the case that (in the world of real world politics) unified and disciplined political control of both the legislative and executive branch renders constitutional separation of powers moot. Epstein says in rejoinder, that the constitutional structural separation of powers remains relevant and important, even if undermined by unified single party control. He also thinks they worked way too hard to make a simple point. But all agree on the deleterious effects of single party control.

One more reason to vote smart by voting divided.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday flotsam & jetsam

Some flotsam and jetsam washed ashore on the DWSUWF island this week. Thought I'd clean up the beach with this post.

Out of curiosity, I conducted a little blogging experiment. I took a selection of links and quotes from previous posts (all on the subject of investors reacting to and preparing for a divided government result in the midterms) added a Larry Kudlow video on the subject, repackaged it as a new article, then posted it in on Democrat (Daily Kos) , Republican (Red State) and Libertarian (Inactivist) blogs.

The Posts:
Daily Kos - "Investor Class giddy about Democratic Victory"
Inactivist -"Republican polls down & stock market up - Investors look forward to Divided Government"
RedState - "Republican polls down & stock market up - Investors look forward to Divided Government"
As it turns out, the posts are not all there. The post at Red State is missing, because it was deleted by RedState within 15 minutes of my publishing it on their site. Hey, it's their site, they can delete whatever they want - I understand, I moderate comments on this site too. But I was a little surprised at being "disappeared" so quickly. There is nothing inflamatory in that post and it is a 100% fact based report on a real phenomena. Apparently they just did not like the message, so they shot the messenger. Well, at least they still permit me to comment on other posts.

Nevermind. Turns out, I am a "threadjacker" and my commenting privileges on RedState have now been suspended. Sigh. Maybe they'll like me better on November 8, when I expect to be still working for divided government by supporting a Republican President in 2008.

The reaction on Inactivist was a bit more subdued. Actually, it was closer to catatonic. No comments, and I am not sure it was even read. They like some of my other stuff though, and posted a link to "Third in Line" today.

Daily Kos is the biggest and most active of the three sites and the post got more of a reaction there, with 17 comments, some good, some bad, some ugly. This last comment prompted a reply that I am always amazed that I have to explain: "Once again I feel compelled to point out that divided government is the very best outcome possible for Democrats in 2006."

I have no grand conclusion about this little exercise. I just found it really interesting. So, I'll probably do it again.

In other topics, the 214th editon of the Carnival of the Vanities has been posted at Silfray Halka. "Third in Line" was included in the carnival and paired up with Hell's Handmaiden excellent post on the same subject "Spin the Foley". The 24th edition of the Carnival of the Liberals was posted at Perspectives of a Nomad. "Third in Line" made it a three-peat this week at the carnival. I also enjoyed Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub post called Intelligent Design – A Pig That Doesn’t Fly, although on the subject of ID, I prefer the metaphor of a dead horse needing yet another beating.

I'll be in the wine country this weekend, and also watching the team that most knowledgeable football fans suspect may be the greatest team in the history of the NFL beat the living snot out of the San Francisco 49ers - so I may or may not get another post out this weekend. We will be publishing a new edition of the Carnival of Divided Government at 11:59 PM PST Monday October 30. If you'd like to participate, please submit your on-topic post using this handy form.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The President of United States comments on divided government.

Excerpt from October 25, 2006 Press Conference:
QUESTION (Asked by Stephan Dinan of the Washington Times): Thank you, Mr. President. With a Republican Congress, you failed to achieve three major goals of your second term: Social Security reform, a tax code overhaul, and a comprehensive immigration bill. Why shouldn't Americans give Democrats a chance to work with you on those issues, especially when divided government seemed to work in the late 1990s on the budget?

THE PRESIDENT: "That's a tricky little question there. (Laughter.) First, I haven't given up on any of those issues. I've got two years left to achieve them. And I firmly believe it is more likely to achieve those three objectives with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate. And I believe I'll be working with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate.

I understand here in Washington people have already determined the outcome of the election, like it's over even before the people actually start heading -- voting. But that's not what I see when I'm on the campaign trail. Yes, we've got some people dancing in the end zone here in Washington, D.C.; they've got them measuring their drapes; they're going over to the Capitol, and saying, my new office looks beautiful, I think I'm going to have this size drape there, or this color. But the American people are going to decide, and they're going to decide this race based upon who best to protect the American people and who best to keep the taxes low.

Secondly, I'll tell you what I see -- you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway. I see there's a lot of enthusiasm amongst the grassroots activists. Our people are going out there to man the phones and to put up the yard signs. You know, they're showing up when it comes time to -- these absentee votes. We're organized. We've got a fantastic grassroots organization to turn out the vote. This campaign has obviously got national implications to it, no question about it -- the Iraq war, the security of the country, economic vitality and growth. But each of these elections turn out to be local in their scope and in their character.

And we've got good candidates running hard. And we're going to win. Now, I know that defies conventional wisdom here. I'm not suggesting anybody in this august crowd has determined the outcome of the election already, but they're running profiles on who this person is going to be running this office, or this one that's going to be -- magazines have got all kinds of new stars emerging when they haven't won the votes yet.

And anyway, thanks for asking about the campaign. I'm enjoying it out there. I like campaigning. It's what guys like me do in order to get here. We campaign. We shake the hands, you know, and give the speeches. And Laura is campaigning, too. From my perspective, our people are ready to go out there and vote for -- vote our candidates back into power.
Many words saying very little. Net net - "I like single party Republican control and I think we'll keep it." No surprise with an election in 12 days. We'll find out then if the American people agree, that the single party Republican control of the last six years is deserving of an additional two. I wonder if he'll go back to the "uniter not a divider" slogan if the Democrats take the House of Representatives. Lets call this a placeholder, and we'll update this post with a Presidential compare and contrast on November 8.

UPDATE: Sunday October 29, 2006
This particular Q&A also caught the attention of David Broder of the Washington Post, was the subject of his Sunday column "Can Bush Cross The Aisle?", and prompted this rationale for a divided government:
"What are the chances that divided government could also be productive in the final two years of the Bush presidency? Better than might be imagined -- especially given the president's agenda.

Comprehensive immigration reform? The bill embodying most of what the president wanted was co-sponsored by Republican John McCain and Democrat Ted Kennedy. On the vote for passage, Democrats were 38 to 4 in favor, Republicans 32 to 23 against. Clearly, the president's best allies on immigration are on the Democratic side.

Tax reform? Well, the last major successful reform of the code took place in 1986, when Republicans controlled the White House and the Senate and Democrats held the House. Instrumental in its passage was Democrat Bill Bradley, then a senator from New Jersey. Last week Bradley was back in Washington to support another Democratic senator, Ron Wyden of Oregon, who offered an open invitation to Bush to join in moving forward a long-overdue cleanup of the tax code.

Social Security reform, the third of the president's objectives, will be politically difficult no matter which party controls Congress. For most Democrats, the president's proposal to carve out room for individually owned accounts is a nonstarter. But if Bush is willing to do what his ally, Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah, suggested long ago and postpone private accounts until steps are taken to solve the system's long-term fiscal problems, he may find the Democrats ready to listen to his other ideas for reform.

None of this would be easy, and all of it would require a new willingness on Bush's part to open himself to genuine negotiations with the next Congress. But the rewards for the country could be very large."
I could not have said it better myself. Tip of the hat to Michael Bains at Silly Humans, who is dubious but hopeful that GWB will rediscover the bibartisanship that he exhibited as governor of Texas.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Broken Government " is the disease - "Divided Government" is the cure

Hat tip to Scott Whitlock at News Busters for his blog post reviewing the CNN special "Broken Government" featuring a discussion of the benefits of divided government:

"CNN Special Advocates For Divided Government; Features Dan Rostenkowski as Expert"

CNN’s latest political special, "Broken Government: The Do Nothing Congress," featured Dan Rostenkowski as a quasi-ethics expert, agitation for divided government, and general trashing of the Republicans in Congress. Rostenkowski, for those too young to remember is the former Democratic Congressman who ended up being expelled from the House after being accused of, among other things, charging thousands of dollars worth of gifts to a congressional account. (CNN couldn’t find time to mention his transgressions until 34 minutes into the program.) But, mail fraud and prison apparently aren’t an impediment to being an expert on all things wrong with the GOP. Host Ed Henry used Rostenkowski as a springboard to call for divided government:

Rostenkowski: "The secret of my success, I think, is that, the 14 years that I was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, 12 of them were under Republicans."

Henry: "It seems logical that divided government, Democrats in charge of one branch, Republicans running the other, might cause gridlock. But, when you think about it, it actually seems to produce better results."

Norman Ornstein (American Enterprise Institute) : "I have come to the conclusion, reluctantly -- and I don't have a partisan dog in the fight -- that divided government now may be a better way to go, simply because the incentive, if you're leading an institution that you -- in which you share the responsibility for governing, is to try and make your institution work, because the onus is going to be on you to do so."

What interesting timing? It’s unlikely that CNN had such an appreciation for divided government in October of 1994 ...'
Now, Scott got his panties in a bunch over the fact that CNN would have the temerity to cover corruption in congress two weeks before a congressional election. I can only guess that he thinks the proper time to cover corruption in congress is - oh, I dunno - maybe when Democrats have the majority. I am not too young to remember Dan Rostenkowski. I do remember the coverage of his corrupt and criminal activities, and also remember that the "liberal media" were like pit bulls on the story at the time. Coverage of the Dan Rostenkowski corruption scandal was widely credited with helping Newt Gingrich and the Republicans take the majority in Congress. Apparently, Scott also does not think that CNN should use a corrupt ex-congressman to provide insight into the current crop of corrupt congressmen. It actually makes perfect sense to me, who would know more about congressional corruption than a corrupt ex-congressman?

In any case, it is Norm Ornstein and not Dan Rostenkowski who is making the case for divided government in the CNN special. Norm Ornstein is a widely respected scholar who has been writing about congress for decades. As readers of this blog know, Norm Ornstein has been on the news show circuit since July, stumping for his book "The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How To Get It Back On Track" where he outlines the problems with single party congress and the benefits of divided government. We have been covering his work for months, including this review, and this appearance on Hardball broadcast in early September. There is nothing new here Scott. Just because you have not noticed Norm Ornstein's work before the CNN special, does not mean it was not there. In this clip from the show, Colorado Republican Congressman Joel Hesley is prominently featured as a pillar of ethical virtue. Examples of both Republican (Randy Cunningham) and Democratic (Jim Trafficant) corruption are explored. Scott Whitlock observing bias in this CNN special is telling us more about bias in the observer, than bias in the observed.

Look, I am not saying there is no liberal bias in mainstream broadcast media. It is there, just as there is Republican bias at Fox News. I don't have a problem with either. But in this particular example, I have only one thing to say to Scott: "23". If all you do is look for the number 23 all day, you are going to find a lot of them. Sometimes the 23 you find means something. Sometimes it does not. This time Scott found a 23 that means nothing. BTW - I just noticed that the episode Scott is complaining about was broadcast on October 23. Hmmmm.

Scott - try this exercise: Spend one day looking for liberal bias on Fox, and conservative bias on CNN. You'll find that too.

In any case, I am grateful he called my attention to it, I suggest everyone watch it, and if you cannot catch it, the full transcript is here.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Carnival of Divided Government - Quartus

Welcome to the fourth edition of the Carnival of Divided Government. As explained in Carnival of Divided Government Secondus, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration, in order to impart the gravitas reflecting the monumental importance of the series. And as explained in CODG Tertius, we are on an accelerated weekly publication schedule to accommodate the growing momentum of the divided government meme between now and the election. The selected Carnival of Divided Government links include volunteers and draftees from both the blogosphere and main stream media.
The topic is government divided between the major parties. This week's selections:


I just learned that two favorites of this blog were on The Al Franken Show. Missed it. This entry is a placeholder, and will be updated with relevant audio links or transcripts when I find them.
(1:30) William Niskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute and a former member and acting chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers. He wrote a recent article in the Washington Monthly entitled “Give Divided Government A Chance."

On Friday, Larry Kudlow's head exploded when he tried to reconcile his role as CNBC Republican Cheerleader in Chief, while analyzing a surging stock market fueled by collapsing Republican polls and the prospect of divided government - Investors Love Divided Government:

Mainstream Media

Robert Caldwell whines about the prospect of "A Democratic Sweep - And Then What?" at Human Events:
"If they win Nov. 7, we'll have divided government and potential gridlock. Bush will discover his veto power and Democrats will revel in the unaccustomed luxury of opposition "oversight" and investigations. Odds are, overwhelmingly, that nothing much will get done."
He says that like it is a bad thing.

Rich Miller finds that "Gridlocked-Government Prospect Rekindles Bull Market Memories"at Bloomberg:
"Vice President Dick Cheney says a Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 congressional elections will sabotage the economy by ushering in a new era of higher taxes and more regulation. Stock-market investors aren't buying it. The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a record last week even as polls showed that Democrats are increasingly likely to take over at least one house of Congress. Investors are banking that a Democratic victory will mean political stalemate with President George W. Bush rather than passage of an anti-business agenda."
Jeffrey H. Birnbaum teaches us a "Taxing lessons, 20 years in the making" from the Salem Statesman Journal:
"...Divide and conquer. Divided government is a boon to reform, not an obstacle. In 1986, Republicans controlled the White House and the Senate while Democrats held the House. Neither party wanted the blame for killing a bill that the public favored, so the measure kept moving forward. If the Democrats take back the House, Senate or both in next month’s elections, that could be good news for advocates of Tax Reform II."

Blogospherical Media

Joe Gandelman observes "Bush Losing Independent Voters" at The Moderate Voice:
"One reason: many independent voters are concluding that divided government is more effective and more in keeping with check-and-balances democracy as established by our founding fathers."
CTblogger pats the Hartford Courant on the back and quotes liberally from their editorial endorsements in "The Hart Courant goes all blue" at the Conecticut Blog:
Nice move from the Courant. I'll be interested to see if their feelings extends to the senate race...
"It's time for a change to Democratic control to see if they can do any better. Divided government has worked well in the past. Three Republican-held seats in Connecticut are key to whether there will be change or more of the same. Voters must ask themselves if these GOP incumbents can be part of the solution or are part of the problem."
Joe warns "don't believe the hype: dems still suck" at the oral minority, but will still vote divided:
"The thing is, voting this year is a not a tough call. There is a cancer growing, and ANY kind of division of power in Washington right now would be a good thing. Anyone who cares about our country (as opposed to the fortunes of their own political party) has no choice but to vote for divided government, in my view. I think a lot of people get that."
Yup. A lot of us get it, Joe. You nailed it with that sentence. No Choice.

Boringmadedull at The Boring Made Dull, does not get it. Perhaps I am being a bit of an ingrate here, as he includes the DWSUWF post "Disunity '06" in The Carnival of Economics and Social Policy XVIII. But he takes issue with the divided government conclusion stating:
"I would be tempted to agree that divided government is a good thing. If a) we were not in the middle of a war; and b) the Democrats were run by adults, that is, actually had a national security policy that didn’t amount to hiding under a blanket and hoping that the ‘bad guys’ go away."
Sigh. This, of course, is not a logical argument, and is not remotely similar to any position that has ever been stated by any Democrat in federal office. It is simply a statement of belief in the rhetoric of the Republican Party. I guess you really can fool some of the people all of the time.

Off Topic Media

Finally, we received a variety of completely Off Topic submissions for the Carnival this week. As is our tradition, we select one for inclusion in the Carnival. This weeks winner:

John presents Sunnis Establish an Islamic Republic Inside Iraq posted at The Largest Minority

That concludes this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to all for the submissions. The next edition of the Carnival of Divided Government will be posted one week from today, at 11:59 PM PST Monday October 30. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Ken Goldstein has posted the 11th edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy at Random Thoughts, and included our post "Third in Line" among his selections.

One of the pleasure of participating in carnivals, is finding a great blog that you might have otherwise missed. Ken found one for me when he linked to Hell's Handmaiden, who is "surfing the sea of chaos" with a fine selection of thoughtful posts. Check out the maiden, and don't forget on November 7th to Catch the wave.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Third in line.

"Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft"

This post is about Denny Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and third in the line of succession to the presidency of the United States. But before we talk about Denny, please consider Mr. George Washington Plunkitt. He is pictured in the center of this photo, dated from about 100 years ago. He was a New York State Senator and part of the notoriously corrupt and powerful Tammany Hall political machine that ran New York City.

In 1905 he gave a talk that was serialized in the newspaper, and ultimately compiled into a book. The name of the talk, was "Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft".

George Washington Plunkitt, had a sense of honor about exactly what kinds of graft were permitted when you held public office. He considered "honest graft" to be perfectly acceptable and he defended it publicly and proudly:
"My party's in power in the city, and it's goin' to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I'm tipped off, say, that they're going to layout a new park at a certain place. I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before. Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? of course, it is. Well, that's honest graft." If my worst enemy was given the job of writin' my epitaph when I'm gone, he couldn't do more than write: "George W. Plunkitt. He Seen His Opportunities, and He Took 'Em."
Wikipedia helps clarify GWP's distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft:
"Most of his money was made through purchasing land, through his connections, he knew would be needed for public projects. He would buy such parcels, then resell them at an inflated price. (This was "Honest Graft". "Dishonest Graft" according to Plunkitt, would be buying land and then using influence to have a project built on it.)"
Which brings me back to Denny Hastert.

Denny Hastert purchased land near Plano, Illinois in 2002 and 2004 for $2.5 million. In 2005 he earmarked $207 million dollars of your tax dollars to build a highway and interchange that passed within a few miles of his property. Four months after GWB signed the bill into law, Denny Hastert then sold his land for almost $5 million dollars.

This is a perfect example of what George Washington Plunkitt called "dishonest graft". The interesting point, is that the 2006 Speaker of the House of the United States of America, the man who is third in line for succession to the presidency of the United States, has engaged in activity that would not meet the moral standards of one of the most corrupt 1906 political participants of the most corrupt political organization in the history of the United States.

That is all I really wanted to say.

I started working on this video mash-up in response to a phenomena I observed and posted about a few months ago. I was commenting on the growing momentum of a classic Rovian political tactic to make a bogeyman out of Nancy Pelosi to motivate the Republican base for the midterms. I said then that there was an obvious flaw in the strategy, and that flaw was named Denny Hastert. So let me just say right here, right now - "I told you so." You don't have to agree with her politics, to understand that Nancy Pelosi is a better choice for "Third in Line", than Denny Hastert.

This video was originally intended to be a short (one or two minute) "I told you so" about our colorful Speaker of the House. But there was just so much material to work with, that it turned into this 10 minute infomercial. Submitted now for your consideration:

A shout-out to Alan at Hot Potato Mash, who provided some helpful advice and clips. He's got some great political vids on his blog. Check it out. UPDATE: October 24, 2006 The House Ethics committee investigation into the Foley converup continues, but will not finish before the midterm election (surprise!). Regardless of whether the panel finds Hastert culpable, or whether Scott Palmer takes a bullet for his boss, voters nationally can act and remove a corrupt politician from the powerful Speaker role, by voting for divided government and a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives on November 7. UPDATE: November 06, 2006 There is just so much corrupt political "smoke" around this guy, that it astounds to me that anyone could vote to send him back to Congress, let alone vote Republicans back into a majority in the House so he can retain the speakership. Presumably in an attempt to keep him from being more of a political football than he is, the various investigations and Republican dissatisfaction with his leadership will be kept under the rug until after the election. My predicition: Even if re-elected, Denny Hastert will not serve out his term, but will be forced to resign in disgrace before the 2008 election.
Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair. Just Vote Divided.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Carnival of Divided Government - Tertius

Welcome to the third edition of the Carnival of Divided Government. As explained in Carnival of Divided Government Secondus, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration, to reflect the gravitas and monumental importance of the series. We've got a lot on tap, so without further ado...

The Carnival of Divided Government includes volunteers and draftees from both the blogosphere and main stream media. Despite our narrow focus (Federal Government divided between the major parties), the impending election is driving a dramatic increase in the quantity of on-topic posts, submissions and articles. To accomodate the accelerating momentum of the meme, we break the selections into categories, and will increase the frequency of Carnival posts between now and Nov 7th. We'll start weekly, but may move to two per week.

Investor Class
First submissions are from and about the Investor Class, who are positively giddy about the prospects of a divided government result in the mid-terms.

David Strom
consoles Republicans in his column "Are Democrats winning or Republicans losing?" at Townhall:
"... this is why the stock market seems immune to the threat of a Democrat victory in November. To the surprise of many, as Republican prospects have declined, stocks have rallied to historic highs. The market, which has always liked divided government (divided government means gridlock, which is good for the economy), just isn’t that afraid that Democrats will be able to do any real damage to the economy over the next two years. Maybe Bush will even get out that veto pen and do some real good."
Michael Sivy provides divided government investment advice in "Political gridlock: Good news for big stocks" at CNNMoney:
"As the November elections approach, the Democrats appear to have a good shot at winning one of the Houses of Congress - or at least shaving the Republican majority so thin that activist government would be practically impossible. To see if the conventional wisdom about divided government is true, three analysts recently did a statistical study of the economy and the investment markets over the past 56 years (Financial Analysts Journal, September/October 2006, by Scott Beyer, Gerald Jensen and Robert Johnson). Previous research has shown that unified governments really are more active, and that they spend more, run larger deficits and potentially allow more inflation..."
Along the same lines, Marc Hogan at Business Week weighs in with "A Game Plan for D.C. Gridlock":
"Analysts think Democrats may win one or both houses of Congress in November. Here are some investment strategies to cash in on a divided government. If the November elections bring a politically divided government as expected, that would help bonds and some types of blue chips."
Net net - buy big cap blue chip techs.

Journalist Class
Ed Qillen sings an "Ode to divided government" at the Denver Post:
"You learn all sorts of things in an election year, and lately I...Until recently, I was prepared to argue that divided government would be a good thing...The United States did well in the 1990s with a Democratic president and Republican Congress, and it survived the early 1970s with a Republican president and a Democratic Congress. Further, if Democrats got control of either the House or Senate, they would control committees that might then hold hearings that would expose some of the horrors of the Bush regime while derailing some of its more odious proposed legislation."
John Tierney is "Polled and Confused" at the New York Times:
"Maybe someday a candidate with Republican domestic policies and Democratic foreign policies will miraculously catch fire with voters. For now, the best hope is for a return to divided government and gridlock. Of course, if that happens, voters will be complaining to pollsters about how little gets done in Washington."
He says that like it's a bad thing.

Bill Press asks if voters have "Had Enough" at Ocala.com:
"The truth is that, while Democrats have ideas on everything from fixing Social Security to getting us out of the mess in Iraq, there is no Democratic version of the Contract with America — and Democrats don’t need one. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who wrote the Republicans’ contract, said it best himself. Democrats don’t have to fashion a 10-point plan of their own, argues Gingrich. All they have to do is point to the mess Republicans have made of everything and ask: “Had enough?”...“Evidence suggests that divided government may be what Washington needs the most.”
Pundit Class
To be fair, Rush Limbaugh is not touting divided government in this clip, but deriding a quote from Robert Kuttner of the Boston Globe. Nevertheless, Rush is doing us a great service by injecting the idea of divided government directly into the backside of his very large audience: Audio broadcast is not his preferred media, but Markos (Kos) Moulitsas wraps up his dialog at Cato Unbound with "A New Breed of Democrat" and a companion podcast:
Which provides us with a perfect segue to the...

Blogger Class
Jason Kuznicki has "A Last Word on the Libertarian Democrat Debate" at Positive Liberty:
"In this election I do plan to vote Democratic, and I encourage others to do likewise. But it’s not from enthusiasm. It’s because divided government is an achievable local maximum: A government divided between socially conservative budget busters and socially liberal nanny-staters is far from where I want to be, but it’s the best one can reasonably expect from a single upcoming election."
Pieter Dorsman watches Andrew Sullivan on Larry King Live and shares his conclusion in "TOWARDS A DIVIDED HOUSE" at PEAKTALK:
"The halcyon days of the 1990s and the resulting budget surpluses were indeed to a large extent the work of the balancing act between the Clinton and Gingrich camps (built on the Reagan foundation of the 1980s). Voters have an intuitive understanding about balance and curbing excess, and it is that broader instinct that will likely create a shift back to a divided government."
Tung Yin speculates about "A new voting heuristic?" at PrawfsBlawg:
"I'm thinking of testing a new voting heuristic based on Daryl Levinson & Richard Pildes, Separation of Parties, Not Powers, which builds on earlier work suggesting that the political parties have essentially obliterated the traditional notion of separation of branches. We do not have political branches that compete for power, as Madison envisioned, due to party loyalty. Thus, Congress' response to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006), was to pass the Military Commission Act of 2006, which gave the President about 90% (estimate) of what he was asking for. This occurred because, Levinson & Pildes would suggest, Congress was controlled by the same party as the President. Thus, my new voting heuristic to be tested is to vote for divided government, not because it leads to gridlock, which is good; but because it functionally replicates the original separation of powers with branches checking one another."
In a addition to an original rationale for divided government, Tung has introduced me to some new reading material and fodder for a future post. Stay tuned.

Mark Hutcherson chews on some "Red Meat Politics" at the Hutch Report:
"The real reason most voters want to see the Democrats take over Congress in this next election is to once again have divided government in Washington DC. Neither major party does a good job when there is not participation present from folks that don’t agree with the party in power. Over history there are countless examples of how the Democrats have lost their way when there was not a strong Republican Party to keep them in check and I believe what we are all witnessing right now in DC is a result of too much power in the hands of too few people who mainly all think alike. The beauty of the United States is its diversity of views and opinions. When one small group manages to take over complete control of the government, corruption and narrow minded thinking will not be that far behind."
I like to include at least one post that argues against divided government (they are getting harder to find), in order to provide needed guidance and help to the confused blogger. This carnival, Betsy is the beneficiary of my guidance. No need to thank me Betsy.

Betsy asks a lot questions including "How did David Broder get this naive?" at Betsy's Page. I am only too happy to help her with some answers [embedded in her quote -mw].
"But here is where Broder, despite his decades of experience, lapses into a naive optimism that divided government is superior...Does anyone really believe that there will be some substantive change in the political environment if the Democrats controlled Congress?" [Yes. Almost everyone does. You may want try doing a little reading. Niskanen and Ornstein are a good place to start. -mw] "Will partisan bickering end?" [No. It is not supposed to. The idea is for Congress to be more than a rubber stamp. - mw ] "Come on! Hasn't Broder read about how the Democrats are panting to start all sorts of investigations into the Bush administration?" [Ummm - Providing oversight of the Executive Branch and the government in general is the constitiutional responsibility of the "The Peoples House" - That is exactly what Congress is supposed to do. That is the way our government is designed to work. - mw] "Does he think that such investigations will lead to a nonpartisan environment? Does he really think that Nancy Pelosi and Bush will then join hands to work together in a magnificent non-partisan kumbaya moment?" [No, but Congress will begin to once again fullfill the responsibilities that was envisioned under the Constitution to provide Checks and Balance in the government. And that is a very good thing. - mw]"
Finally, as always, I like to conclude the Carnival with the...

Off Topic Class
Each Carnival, I get a vareity of submissions from bloggers that somehow fail to appreciate that if their post does not mention "divided government" or "political gridlock", it is not on topic for this carnival. Still, I appreciate the submissions, so each Carnival I will select The Best Of the Off Topic Entertaining Diversion post - or - The BOOTED Post. This carnival, the winner is:

Avant News presenting President Clinton Jails 938,000 Illegal Enemy Combatants posted at Avant News. And it is truly great. Just go read it.

That concludes this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to all for the submissions. The next edition of the Carnival of Divided Government will be posted one week from today, at 11:59 PM PST Monday October 23. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.