Friday, December 21, 2007

Carnival of Divided Government Duodêvîcêsimus - Special Winter Solstice Edition

UPDATED: 23-Dec-07
Welcome to the December 21, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Divided Government Duodêvîcêsimus - Special Winter Solstice Edition.

Winter Solstice

Ahh - the winter solstice. The shortest and darkest day of the year. At precisely 11:08 PM PST, 21-December-07, the earth leans a maximum 23 degrees off of our orbital plane, and then starts leaning back. It is the moment that we in the northern hemisphere begin to observe the return of the light. It is literally the darkest, yet the most optimistic of holidays, pregnant with the promise of spring, the hope of fertility, and the bounty of a new year. Is there any other calendar observance that offers such a mix of science, myth, art, mathematics, mystery, tradition, sex, archeology and history? Religions and cultures, ancient and modern, find reason to note and celebrate the day. The only thing missing is politics. Who better to remedy that gap than DWSUWF? If not us, who? If not now, when?


As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this, the duodêvîcêsimus edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to explicitly use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions. Without further ado the top 10 light bringing Divided Government posts and articles, since our last carnival ...


We begin with William Wilson who found a "A Gift from Divided Government" under his Winter Solstice Tree at Townhall:
"While the professional commentators and self-appointed gurus bemoan “gridlock” and the ills of divided government in Washington, the actual results of inaction are a blessing for all those who believe in constitutional principles and the Bill of Rights... Divided government has proven itself the best defender of liberty we have. Hopefully we can keep it that way. And with the FEC dark and as impotent as they seek to make the average citizen, there’s a good chance at success."
The gift that William unwrapped, was the handcuffed FEC, shackled by the political bickering of our happily divided government. Divided government - The gift that keeps on giving.

Heath at the The Everyday Republican quotes and agrees with Stephen Moore editorializing about another gift in the Wall Street Journal and offering "One Budget Cheer" for divided government:
"House Republicans voted against the omnibus bill en masse, but the truth is that many of them and their Senate brethren privately wanted it to pass as much as Democrats did. They want their earmarks too... The larger lesson of this year is that divided government has its uses. By using his veto pen, and with the help of House Republicans in particular, Mr. Bush has been able to reduce the rate of spending growth and continue to shape policy. The Schip health care vetoes were especially important in showing Democrats that the GOP couldn't be easily rolled, despite a media assault and GOP Senate surrender. That's more than we expected, even if it's not as much as Mr. Bush might have achieved. May we have even more virtuous gridlock next year."
Could not have said it better myself.

Peter Boettke at The Austrian Economists is on the horns of dilemma deciding w
hich is worse - the current Bush presidency or the prospect of a Clinton presidency in his post "Is George Bush the Worst President in my lifetime?":
"My attitude toward politics remains extremely cynical, if somewhat more depressing now than ever before. I tend to follow the idea that you can either laugh or cry at politics and I have always more or less laughed at the buffoonery , but the cumulative effect of Bush's policies is hard to laugh at --- especially since the prospects for a post-Bush push for pro-liberty policies is so unlikely. The prospect of the next President Clinton is scary because she will not be blocked by divided government and her ideas are 100% worse in terms of statism than even Bill's were."
Peter, stop the hand wringing. The answer is in your post. We just have to vote to keep it divided.

Muckdog at the The Trading Goddess has the divided government gift thing figured out, and put it on Santa's list in "Checkin' it Twice":
"The 2008 election circus is already in overdrive. Once the holidays are over, we're going to be hit with 24x7 election coverage. It's definitely a bad time for a writer's strike, as the only competition for election coverage will be battle of the choirs or other nonsense. I think politics is a bunch of noise, and I favor divided government (aka, gridlock). The more that gets vetoed or stalls out in the process, the better off we are. I'm a fiscal conservative, so I'm hoping the winners in 2008 can balance the budget and keep taxes low."
Agreed. But if you favor it Muckdog, and you want this gift from Santa, you've got to work for it, and vote for it.

Missy thinks our divided and divisive government is a result of the"Self-Interest of Political Parties" posted at American Flag Waver, where she provides a history lesson on how we started on the path we find ourselves now:
"By the time the 1828 election rolled around, Jackson supporters had rallied and the birth of new ways of conducting campaigns occurred. Open air rallies, torchlight parades, debates and media endorsements took the place of ethical dignity. Martin Van Buren “believed that division and conflict were constructive and should become a permanent feature of American politics.” He supported Jackson and subsequently took the office of President after Jackson. I’d like to think the results of those tumultuous years weren’t exactly what those men intended. I find it hard to imagine Jackson, Clay or Adams in a mud-slinging battle such as we see today. I’d like to think their desire for the office of President was because they felt they could do good for this country and its people. Today’s politicians appear to be more interested in power and what it can do for them and less interested in what they can contribute to the welfare of the United States."
Missy does not give our founding father's enough credit. I agree with Martin Van Buren that this state of partisan bickering was exactly what they had in mind. They were all too familiar with politicians more interested in promoting their self-interest over that of the country. It was James Madison in the Federalist Papers that said "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition." Divided government reinforces that notion. Single party control undermines the constitutional checks and balances that the founders intended.

Betsy at Betsy's page is also offering to provide a little tutoring suggesting that "Perhaps we need more education on how Congress works":
"I hope that Dennis Kucinich and Maxine Waters know better. They've both been around long enough to know how Congress works and that the majority can't push through whatever they want especially when there is divided government. It was always extremely doubtful that policy was going to be directed out of the House of Representatives. The Senate allows for the minority to stall and block legislation as long as they can stick together. Given that the Democrats had been adept at utilizing those rules when the Republicans were in the majority was there any real reason to think that Republicans wouldn't return the favor?"
No, none at all. That is exactly why we are getting more libertarian friendly results now with a Democratic Congress and a divided government than we were getting with Republican Congress and a unified Republican government. It's really quite simple.

Speaking of education, we have this diary by Chris Bowers from the school of "If you don't agree with me, you are a fascist." posted at Open Left with an apparently irony-free title of "Bi-Partisan Consensus Fascists":
"Over the last forty years, a time period covering the span of even pundits like David Broder, there have been thirty years of divided government in Washington, D.C. The long runs of Democratic and Republican trifectas that preceded those forty years have been forgotten. "getting things done" has always meant negotiating a path between two parties. For aging pundits it will always mean just that. The result is an authoritarian belief in some sort of fake bi-partisan consensus, will of the people be dammed. It doesn't help that the punditry is just about the whitest, oldest and most male profession in a country that is growing more diverse every day."
I dunno, since Chris is so dismissive of "authoritarian belief in some sort of fake bi-partisan consensus" I can only assume he must be a supporter of a "democratic belief in real single party authoritarianism" - or something.

Frank DiPinto at the Cool Blue Blog is also a bit confused. I had high hopes when I started to read his post "Divided government works pretty good":
"Back when the 2006 election results came in, Scalzi professed his love for divided government. When I asked if that meant he would be voting for a Republican President in 2008 since Democrats owned Congress, I didn't get an answer. I admit, though, that I was skeptical of the whole divided government thing: namely today's Democratic Party in charge of Congress. Turns out I'm pretty happy with the results... on the budget issue, I have to say, the spending restraint would not have been possible had the Republicans kept control of Congress. So yeah, I'm pretty happy with the results. Scalzi, not so much. In fact the only thing he got right was the divided government being a good thing part."
Sigh. He starts out so great! But then he finishes the post with this -
"The best thing that can happen now is for Republicans to convince the voting population that they have learned their lesson and get back in control of Congress. The divided government thing has served its purpose. It's time for the return of the adults."
Frankie, Frankie, Frankie. The best thing that can happen is for you to learn the lesson of your post. Put the Republicans back in charge of the legislature and the executive and we will get exactly what we had for the last six years. The lesson is that Republican or Democrat, we are dealing with self serving politicians first, who, regardless of party, will succumb to the temptations of earmarks and campaign contributions. The difference between single party Republican and and single party Democratic government is simply which special interest pigs will be invited to feed at the trough.

Tim Shaughnessy reported in the The Shreveport Times on DWSUWF favorite William Niskanen, lecturing at the Southern Economic Association conference in New Orleans in his story "Cato Institute chairman offers useful advice":
"A third theme he discussed was the idea that, despite the calls for bipartisanship, the best times for taxpayers is when government is politically divided. Government grows wildly when both houses of Congress and the president are of the same party; it is restrained when the two parties combat each other over legislation and budgets. Sadly, we may only be able to enjoy two years of divided government, sandwiched between the earlier six and future eight years of unified partisan power."
I think of Willima Niskanen as The Godfather of Divided Government.

Finally, I have to include fellow Ron Paul supporter D.K. of "It's a Free Country" who posted a review of our efforts here in a post coincidently entitled"Divided We Stand, United We Fall":
"This unique site declares that divided government is better for us than unified government. By divided, I mean an executive branch and legislative branch controlled by separate parties, whereas by unified I mean one-party rule over both branches. DWSUWF states that we are best served by voting in such a manner that we continuously divide our government and pit the parties against each other into gridlock..."
So far, so good, D.K.
"We’ve certainly seen some positive outcomes from the November 2006 divided government, such as a President locating his veto pen for the first time in 7 years, as well as congressional oversight that has been long since missing..."
Yes. yes.
"Unfortunately, a lot of things divided government is supposed to fix have failed to be fixed. For example, the Democrats are now expected to allow Senate Republicans to attach tens of billions of dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a $500 billion-plus government wide spending bill... That would be in exchange for Republican support on a huge domestic spending measure, and we’ve already seen a huge domestic spending measure take place once already, one that included subsidies to nearly every kind of industry that federal government has no business supporting... We have seen no end to the wars that divided government was elected to curtail.. We seen no change in the destruction of the 4th Amendment and our civil rights - no change in the Patriot Act ...Considering all that, I find it hard to accept that divided government is working this time around."
Now that is really annoying. So close. So very, very close. But D.K. took a big wrong turn there in his analysis. Look D.K. - In every example you cite, under divided government there has been incremental improvement over the state we were in with single party control a year ago. No - divided government is not a magic incantation that can change things overnight. We don't live at Hogwarts with Harry Potter. We live in the United States and our government just does not work that way. One year of incremental improvement under a divided government cannot undo the damage caused by six years of disastrous single party control. But things are better than they were a year ago. And it is better than it would have been if the Republicans had maintained control of Congress. And it will be better in another year than it is now. Still, D.K. - I enjoyed your post, and appreciate the link and thoughtful review.

UPDATED: 23-December-07
I don't know how I missed this post, but it's too good not to include in this carnival. Ilya Somin is effusive "In Praise of Divided Government" at the Volokh Conspiracy:

"In a series of posts last September (see here and here), I predicted that the cause of limited government would be better off if the Democrats took control of at least the House of Representatives. I reasoned that Bush would be more likely to oppose new government programs passed by the Democrats than those advanced by his own Party. The Democrats, for their part, would be unlikely to enact new government-expanding initiatives advocated by Bush, such as the major expansions of federal spending and regulation that he pushed through Congress in his first term. So far, this prediction has held true. Bush and the congressional Republicans have prevented the Democrats from passing most of their government-expanding agenda. The Democrats, in turn, have taken away from Bush the option of pursuing a big government agenda of his own (as he did in the first term with his prescription drug and education bills). Historically, divided government has been a boon for limited government, and the past year has been no exception. There has been one other major benefit of divided government over the past year: it forced Bush to shift to a more effective strategy in Iraq. Ironically, it is a strategy (increasing troop levels; pushing for Sunni-Shiite political compromise) that many Democrats had rightly advocated in 2004-2005 but abandoned by the 2006 election. Had the Republicans held on to control of Congress in 2006, it is highly unlikely that Bush would have changed course on Iraq as radically as he did. In my pre-2006 election posts, I correctly predicted that the Democrats would not be able to force a withdrawal from Iraq and speculated that they might provide some "adult supervision" over the administrations' mishandling of Iraq's reconstruction. I did not anticipate, however, that Bush would change his failed policy as much as he actually did."

Good stuff Ilya. Coincidently, I also had a "series of posts in September predicting that the cause of limited government would be better off if the Democrats took control of at least the House of Representatives." Actually, practically every post on this blog since it's founding in April 2006 has been predicting that the objective of limited government would be better served if we elect and maintain divided government. Glad to have you on board.

Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock. For this edition, we seemed to attract several posts in support of Ron Paul, no doubt due to the Ron Paul badge in the left sidebar. Well, since the only way to maintain divided government into 2009 is to elect a Republican president, and Ron Paul is the only declared Republican President I can stand, I have decided to go ahead and include all the submitted Ron Paul posts without comment:

So sue me.

With that we conclude this edition.Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government ûndêvîcênsimus - Special New Years Hangover Edition, which we resolve to post on Wednesday, January 2. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government


Anonymous said...

Thank you for including my article in the Carnival of Divided Government.

I think I need to clarify that I'm not against a divided government, or rather the intentions of a divided government. It's the power hungry, get what I want regardless of how it affects the people politicians that irk me. The founding fathers disagreed on what was best for the country; today's politicians will say whatever it takes to get elected so they can do what they want.

mw said...

Thanks for the submitting the article and for the comment. I sympathize with the point of your post. To a large degree, I agree. It is because this is the nature of most politicians, that I am so adamant that we need the partisan conflict to keep their baser instincts in check. We saw the way Republicans looked the other way with rampant corruption and abuse of the earmark process for members of their own party over the last six years. We see the seeds of the same thing with the Democrats now.

The only difference, is that I really do not believe as you that there was a time in US history when politicians were any different. I explored this theme in a post last year where I equate civil discourse with being practically un-American:

" understanding of our history is that the kind of rancor and political polarization in the United States we see today is the rule, and not the exception. In fact, it strikes me that in historical context, we are today quite a bit less polarized and extreme than these examples:

"During the nation's first contested presidential election in 1796, supporters of Vice President John Adams charged his challenger, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, with atheism, sexual improprieties, and dangerous revolutionary intentions. For their part, Jefferson backers accused Adams of plotting to establish a monarchy, crown himself king, and ally the country with its foe, Great Britain."

"In the election of 1800, Vice President Thomas Jefferson was tarred as an agent of the French Revolution..."

"Opponents of Andrew Jackson accused him of murder, while Old Hickory’s men whispered that his rival John Quincy Adams had been, while U.S. minister to Russia, a pimp for the tsar.."

The genius of the founders of our divided system of government, is they recognized the nature of those attracted to power, and built a system that deliberately pitted "ambition against ambition".

Single party government subverts that design. Thanks again for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. In all aspects, monopoly is bad. A balanced mixture of different things is desirable, otherwise harmony has no meaning.

You have rather long posts but I'll be back to read them. And what a captivating title and tagline you have. Brilliant!