Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carnival of Divided Government - Duo et Vîcênsimus -Terrible Two Birthday Edition

Welcome to the April 23, 2008 Carnival of Divided Government Duo et Vîcênsimus - the "Terrible Twos" Birthday Edition.


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 Duo et Vîcênsimus edition (XXII), 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.

Happy Birthday to us.

Two friggin' years. We will see our 50,000th visitor in the next few days which puts us firmly in the second (third?) tier of political blogs. Since that first post at 11:23 on April 23, we have posted 203 posts, and over 230,000 words. Cripes - that is like three books. I could've written something real. Maybe it is not too late, there has got to be a 60,000 word book in this mess somewhere. Yeah, I'm getting a little cranky as the blog heads into it's "Terrible Twos". I vaguely recall reading about a blogger burnout syndrome named after a popular blogger who just walked away from their blog after two years. Does anyone remember the name of that blogger? I wonder if that is what happened to Jon Swift? Anyway, I'm not feeling that way. We'll be pressing on, but may need to take a short hiatus and assess where we go from here. But in the meantime, lets go to the ...


Todd Seavey is calling out those who claim to be libertarian but seem be waffling on the clearly libertarian benefits of free-trade and divided government in "How Crypto-Democrat are some Libertarians?" posted at
"So, to my libertarian friends who are either indifferent to the Dem/GOP distinction or who actively root for “divided government”: Are you still happier with a Democratic rather than Republican Congress after the Dems’ torpedoing of a free trade deal with Colombia — the sort of deal that at least some of my Dem/GOP-indifferent libertarian pals have rightly pointed to as more important than tiny variations in the size of the federal budget and thus a good indicator of whether the government is moving in the right direction? And if you still prefer divided government, are you consistent enough to be eagerly rooting for McCain rather than for NAFTA-bashing Obama/Clinton? Or, if not, are you de facto supporters of the Democrats (and thus opponents of trade — and thus not clearly libertarians) when you get right down to it?"
Todd is asking the right question. The libertarian swing vote, organized around the concept of divided government, was instrumental in determining the outcome of the 2006 mid-term election. If this election becomes a Democratic Party rout, then the libertarian swing vote simply will not matter, it'll just get swamped. However, if it is a close election, it could be determinative in 2008 as it was in 2006. If - and it is a big "If" - the libertarian swing vote remains consistent and committed to divided government. While it is the right question to ask, I suggest it is too early to ask it. We need to get past the Democratic primary sideshow, find out who the candidate will be, and learn whether events in Basra will overtake the the campaigns.

Hall 10000
is one of those libertarian leaning conservatives who was calling for a Democratic divided government vote in 2006. Or at least his co-blogger Lee was. Regardless, Hal has no question about whether divided government will still be a good idea in 2009, as he outlines in "Government Will Heal Your Wounds, Part II" posted at Right Thinking from the Left Coast:
"The best year of the Bush presidency has been that last one. Divided government is not only a good way to restrain the behavior of Congress, it defuses any messianic tendencies emerging from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—tendencies which date back to at least FDR."
He references and reinforces an excellent argument quoted by an Andrew Sullivan reader:
"This is not an argument for Clinton or McCain, of course, but I'm now heavily in favor of McCain. I at least want some balance of power between the executive branch and Congress and think McCain's simply the only choice left, despite my many disagreements with him, too. But I just cannot be seduced by Obama's rhetoric. I'm still surprised that you find hope in him. I just think he's playing us all."
Jonathon Rauch is also thinking about the promise of Barack Obama and is asking if it he represents "A New Politics? Or a New Pandering?" at the National Journal:
"But there's also a kind of pandering in what Obama is doing. A few years ago, a pair of political scientists, John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, looked at evidence from surveys and focus groups and drew some fairly startling conclusions. Most Americans, they found, think there are easy, straightforward solutions out there that everyone would agree on if only biased special interests and self-serving politicians would get out of the way. They want to be governed by ENSIDs: empathetic non-self-interested decision makers. This is pure fantasy, of course. But indulging it is Obama's stock-in-trade. In today's Washington, the only way to get sustainable bipartisanship -- bipartisanship over a period of years, not weeks -- is with divided government, which Obama and a Democratic Congress obviously can't provide. True, Hillary Rodham Clinton can't provide that either. He might be better than she at working across party lines (although in the Senate she has been quite good at it, arguably better than he -- and John McCain has been best of all). But to promise "a new kind of politics" borders on chicanery."
One is tempted to say something pithy about "all of the people, some of the time", or "some of the people, all of the time".

Jonathon Rowe is going to go the big "L" route, but is expressing a divided government preference in "Weirdest Anti-Obama Rant Ever" posted at Positive Liberty:
"Not that I support Obama; after last week’s events, I’m beginning to think Hillary preferable. Though I’ll hold my nose as usual and vote Libertarian so you can’t blame me for whom America puts in the White house. If Hillary wins, though, I hope that the Republicans take back Congress so we have divided government as we did in the 90s. Get out of Iraq. Rethink foreign policy along fighting terrorism/national security lines, not “nation building” or spreading democracy. And have a divided government where none of Hillary’s big government policies get passed. Put Bill in charge of overseeing a pro-business economic atmosphere as he did in the 90s. Maybe we’ll see surpluses again one day. Am I dreaming?"
Yes you are Jonathon. The problem with your formulation, is there is no way for the Republicans to re-take either the house or Senate in 2008. In fact, the Democrats have a reasonable chance of even securing a 60 vote filibuster-proof plurality in the Senate. The simple reality, is that if you want to continue the positive liberty promoting aspects of divided government, you cannot get there from here by voting Democrat for President, or wasting your vote on the Libertarian candidate.

Bob Benenson does the congressional analysis on "Jigsaw Politics: House GOP Looks For Help In A Lot Of Tough Places" posted at CQ Politics:
"It has always been hard to measure how many American voters give much consideration to whether they prefer a federal government run completely by one party or a government in which a president of one party serves as a check on a Congress run by the other. But unless something changes drastically in this year’s campaigns for control of both chambers of Congress, the public will face a clear choice on the question of “united” versus “divided” government — because continued Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House appear nearly certain when the 111th Congress is elected this fall and convenes next January."

Mike the Actuary is also watching the Democrat kerfuffle, and notes with interest that "Karl Rove Offers Strategy for Dem MI/FL Delegate Mess", but concludes that maintaining a balance of partisan power is a more important calculation than who won the latest primary - posted at Mike the Actuary's Musings:
"Even though I’d prefer to see divided government (if the Dems will control Congress, I’d prefer to have a Republican in the White House), I’ll try to not pay too much attention to the electoral vote projections until convention season; the numbers have to be distorted by the Hillary-Obama brawl."
Daniel Larison points out the difficulty of trying to understand what the election of any of these three presidential candidates will mean for issues like immigration in his post "The Worse, The Worse" posted at Eunomia:
"Significant majorities want restrictions on the level of immigration, but they have little effective representation in Washington, and they will have an opponent in the White House no matter who wins. In anticipation of my later remarks, I should say that I find it remarkable that all of us, myself included, have gone round and round on conservatives and Obama and have scarcely touched how far to the left Obama is on immigration; he makes McCain seem like a Minuteman by comparison. On this question, divided government may prove to be a restrictionist’s best friend given the bad alternatives."
Kinda breaks your heart doesn't it. Snicker.

James Peyser
reviews Mickey Edwards book Reclaiming Conservatism in the Boston Globe:
"Edwards writes that neoconservatives and the religious right have wrecked the conservative movement by driving it away from its core beliefs in individual liberty and divided government, in favor of an activist, mostly sectarian, social agenda, and an imperial presidency bent on global adventurism. The greatest villains in Edwards's story are George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich. According to Edwards, Gingrich destroyed the bipartisan collegiality of Congress by ruthlessly pressing GOP colleagues to toe the line in his all-against-all war to win a Republican majority. When Bush took office, this heightened sense of party loyalty meant that the Republican-controlled legislature was now a handmaiden to the executive. After 9/11, Bush took advantage of a supine Congress to seize unprecedented, and to Edwards's mind, unconstitutional powers - to disastrous effect, most notably in Iraq."
Yeah. Sounds about right. Edward's book is now in my Amazon cart.

While we are on book reviews, Will Wilkinson has reviewed the first three pages of "Larry Bartel's Unequal Democracy", where Larry makes the remarkable claim that financial inequality in America can be blamed exclusively on Republican presidents- posted at The Fly Bottle:
"Fascinating if true! But, congress writes the laws, not the president. So why not look at the party tilt of congresses rather than presidents? Or the alignments between the party controlling congress and the part in the White House. What happens under divided government, I wonder. This is not to say that presidents don’t have a lot of policymaking power, especially given the massive growth in the size and power of the bureaucracies under executive control. The cabinet agencies’ considerable discretion in creating and enforcing regulations and their ability to selectively apply and enforce legislated mandates should be troubling — in itself and independent of issues of partisan slant — to those, like Bartels, who start with Dahl’s “Who governs?” question."
Laslo Weger presents "Modern Tribalism" posted at Outsider's View
"As with other things, the modern tribalism has its positive and negative aspects. A positive aspects would include competition and balance. These are important forces in our society. The proponents of the divided government principle will list (and rightly so) a number of very positive consequences of the situation when the president and at least one part of the Congress are from opposite parties. Regrettably, the changes in people's mindset render that positive aspect less and less relevant."
I have seen no evidence that the positive benefits of divided government (restrained spending growth, better oversight, more careful legislation, better governance, and real reform that lasts longer than the next administration) are made any less relevant by people's mindset or Laslo's interesting thesis.


Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Because it is our birthday, this time, we are not. Only on-topic submissions this month. Its our birthday. Deal with it.

And 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 Tres et Vîcênsimus (XXIII) - Independence Day Edition, which we will declare on or about the Fourth of July. We have a long stretch from now until then. DWSUWF will be doing some traveling, including some fishing in Michigan and relaxing in the South of France, and over that time considering the future of this blog and the content therein. This is not a formal hiatus, but things may slow down for a bit. 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.


Finally, some recent carnivals and compilations of note:
Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday and congratulations on using a latin numerical system that gives your blog a patina of gravitas. I like my blog to have gravitas. Well, gravitas and low-brow humor.

I have to admit that I'm with Jonathon Rowe on voting Libertarian being a way to avoid responsibility for whatever clown ends up in office.