Monday, March 15, 2010

The Carnival of Divided Government
Triginta Sedecim (XXXVI)
Special Ides of March Edition

Welcome to the 36th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The Special Ides of March Edition.
Beware the Ides
CAESAR: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.
SOOTHSAYER: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: What man is that?
BRUTUS: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR: What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.
SOOTHSAYER: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: He is a dreamer; let us leave him.
On this particularly ominous Ide of March we look forward with fear and loathing to the imminent passage of the Great Healthcare Hairball of 2010. We only have Democratic One Party Rule to thank for this monstrosity getting passed, but ironically, divided government may be restored in the 2010 midterms as a consequence of this bill.

If we had divided government now, if the Republicans had a seat at table, if they were more than an impotent irritant in this government, then the Democrats would have been forced to compromise with the Republicans. The result would have been a better bill, a less expensive bill, a bill less burdened with special deals, unrelated liberal pet projects, gratuitous pork, and (unlike this abomination) one that might actually reform the health care system and coverage problems in a manner we can afford.

On a positive note - the concept of and prospects for divided government is getting a lot more attention on the intertubes.

Carnival of Divided Government

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this the Carnival of Divided Government Triginta Sedicim (XXXVI), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single 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.

First up - A short tribute to a DWSUWF friend and favorite blogger. While I was traveling last month, the blogosphere learned of the identity and untimely death of Al Weisel, more widely know by his blogging non-de-plume Jon Swift. You'll find many tributes to Al/Jon across the blogosphere. Like many bloggers, I exchanged e-mails and links with Jon over the last few years. His links to this blog helped us far more than our reciprocal links could ever hope to contribute to his. His was one of the very few talents in any medium whose writing could elicit a laugh out loud, can't catch my breath, side hurting, eyes watering reaction from this blogger. He'll be sorely missed.

Apropos to the Carnival, please consider this example of classic Jon Swift. Before the Carnival of Divided Government, - Before the DWSUWF blog - On January 29, 2006, Jon Swift considers the merits of divided government and clearly explains "Why Bipartisanship is Bad":

"But then I thought: Is bipartisanship really such a great thing? Aren't bipartisans a little like bisexuals--people afraid to make a commitment? I suppose it's better than President Clinton's "triangulation," which I believe is a translation of the French word menage a trois. Maybe such things work in France, but I don't think they work here. During the Clinton and Reagan administrations we had divided government, which I think was very confusing for people. Lobbyists had no idea who to give campaign contributions to and they sometimes had to split their limited resources between two parties."
When he wrote this, Republican One Party Rule controlled the federal government, and this blog was still a few months from being born. At the time, we were on the same team - arguing for Democratic victory, a return to the checks and balances of shared power and divided government in 2006. Jon's e-mails helped me learn about "carnivals" and launch the carnival you are reading now. So in his honor, we'll endeavor to follow the Jon Swift Blog Amnesty Day dictum of "Look up... Link down" and link primarily to small and medium bloggers. Blogs like DWSUWF.

Rest In Peace Jon Swift. Thanks for the help, thanks for the links, and thanks for the joy.

Brad Castro's Great Options Trading Strategies blog is focused on investments not politics, but he offers one of the most eloquent rationales for divided government I've read, exploring the relationship between "Divided Government, The Stock Market, and Long Term Investing":
"National politics is an ugly pastime at best, but when either party controls both branches of government at the same time, the outcome is certain – rampant arrogance, corruption, and hypocrisy... Americans are at their best when they choose divided government, when the politicians are forced to genuinely engage one another and actually work together to get anything accomplished. And, more importantly, when no single party can ram through their entire one-sided agenda... Checks and balances produce stability, and stability fosters an environment where growth, innovation, and the creation of value can flourish. It’s a gift that the founding fathers gave to a fledgling nation more than 200 years ago, and it’s one I sincerely hope we begin to enjoy again. "

The affection investors have for divided government has been a DWSUWF theme (and tag) since the beginning of the blog. With such incisive political acumen, I will have to take a closer look at Brad's investment strategies.

Fishermage is a little confused about the definition of divided government, but is in a celebratory mood at Fishermagical Thought exclaiming "Hooray for Divided Government":
"I'm no Republican, but the best this ole libertarian can ever hope for is divided government, and the Democrats' loss of their senatorial super-majority gives us that. Divided government helped make the Clinton years a success, as well as the Reagan Years. Checks and balances for the win."
Well, not exactly. To restore divided government the Republicans will have to claim the majority in at least one legislative branch in 2010, or retake the White House in 2012. While the loss of a super-majority in the Senate will add a speed bump to Democratic legislative plans, it won't force compromise, as we'll see when the Health Care Hairball becomes law later this week. While I appreciate the sentiment, there is still some work to do.

Matt Lewis notes that Andrew Sullivan, who claims to be a conservative, has changed his tune about Divided Government in "Andrew Sullivan Used to Like Gridlock":
"Sullivan had it right back in 2006. It seems, however, that he only liked divided government when Republicans controlled things. Now that Democrats control all three branches of government, he has changed his tune."
Uh Huh. During the election DWSUWF offered a somewhat wordier treatise on Mr. Sullivan's propensity to hoist himself on his own words and abandon this very basic cornerstone of limited government. I do wonder why he bothers to cling to the label conservative, if there are no longer any conservative principles he is willing to place above his loyalty to Barack Obama.

Jason Pye, writing on the United Liberty blog, answers the question posed on a now infamous billboard - "No, I don't miss George W. Bush":
"...while I’m no fan of Barack Obama, I don’t long for the presidency of George W. Bush. From a fiscal perspective, the Bush Administration was a disaster. Before you repeat the Dick Cheney talking point that most of the spending was for defense and two wars. Let me go ahead and tell you, that’s not true. Bush was the biggest spender since Lyndon B. Johnson, dramatically increasing non-defense discretionary spending. Remember, he is a “compassionate conservative,” which is apparently a nice term for “statist... So no, I don’t miss George W. Bush. I miss individual liberty, free markets, divided government and the Constitution."
Me too. Maybe we can start getting some of it back in November.

AD of Questions Presented quotes extensively from Ilya Solmin and Robert Kagan, then hupothesizes that libertarian support for divided government is misguided in "A Government Divided Against Itself Cannot Shrink":
"Perhaps the divided government theory overestimates the value of party affiliation as a determinant of individual behavior. Many political observers today note the similarities between the parties, especially when it comes to government size. Even granting the viability of the Blue Dog Democrats and the emerging fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party, in practice, politicians of all stripes seem to like power and act to enhance that power. If that’s the case, libertarians might find conventional political action in favor of candidates who support their views to be the best approach, however few of these candidates may exist."
AD offers an excellent read, but his musings fall far short on three counts-

is the erroneous supposition in the subject title. There is no presumption by libertarians that divided government will "shrink government". The immediate problem is to slow leviathan's explosive growth, and there is a great deal of empirical evidence that divided government does exactly that. Moreover, political scientists, historians, and economists have also shown that a divided government state reinforces other positive effects including:
* Restrained growth of spending.
* Better oversight.
* Less corruption.
* Less likelihood of war.
* More carefully considered major legislation.
* Greater fiscal responsibility.
* Reinforced Checks and Balances between the branches.
Whether you consider divided government to be better government depends on whether you agree the items in this list represent "better" government. DWSUWF does. Invoking an analogy I have used before, when bleeding to death one should apply a tourniquet before looking for a hospital. The divided government voting heuristic is a tourniquet, that has been shown empirically to slow the bleeding when nothing else does.

His second problem is an over reliance on Professor Kagan 's representation of the supposed law-making deficiencies of divided government. In fact, David Mayhew's exhaustive research on the quantity and quality of laws produced under divided vs. one party government is well documented in his book "Divided We Govern" which is considered the definitive work on exactly this question. Mayhew's empirical conclusion directly contradicts Kagan's less rigorous intuitive and anecdote based analysis.

, there is nothing in the divided government voting heuristic that precludes libertarians from voting for candidates "who support their views". Voting for divided government is a tactic that yields immediate beneficial shorter term limited goals. In addition, it at least opens the door to the possibility that the generally self-canceling impotent libertarian minority voting constituency can be organized around a principle that could yield sufficient political clout to actually impact policy.

Other than that, it's a great post.

Speaking of out of control government spending - Redst8r shows exactly why a tourniquet would be quite beneficial right now in "Government Spending (post #3 of 3)":
"Note the sharp rise in combined spending beginning in the early 1930’s. This level of spending never declined to the pre-1930’s level again but became a base upon which all future spending growth has been multiplied. Post WWII spending never again was as low as that in the mid 1930’s and early 1940’s. There are clear periods of level spending (e.g., spending rising in concert with GDP) such as the post Korean war period through the late 1960’s, the 1980’s and a gentle decline in the 1990’s as a peace time economy combined with a technological revolution and a divided government controlled its innate spending impulse. "
Sometimes, if you don't apply a tourniquet nothing else matters.

Akiva of Mystical Paths guest posted at Dovbear and airs her lament "Oy, I miss Clinton":
" I'm a conservative but I don't want my party to control the Whitehouse and Congress. And my dear friendly Liberals, be honest, neither do you! Divided government forces everyone to compromise and be reasonable. Let's face it, we all want the middle of the road. A little right, a little left - hey whatever. But far right or far left, G-d help us all."

Macaoidh at The Hayride quotes Larry Kudlow and Will Collier and concludes that they "Kudlow, Collier Socre with Defenses of Gridlock":
"It’s a narrative the Washington/New York legacy media can’t seem to understand, but America was designed to have a slow-moving, incrementalist government incapable of dynamic action to solve social problems. Dynamic action was meant for the private sector or, at most, local and state governments. This has been lost over the past 100 years, with those periods of divided government serving as interregna between the advances of the federal nanny-state. But as Kudlow and Collier suggest, better an interregnum than an Obama running roughshod over the economy and individual liberty in an effort to create a public-sector paradise."
Good stuff, but... Kudlow might run for the Senate against Chuck Schumer in New York? Really? Wow. I missed a lot while I was out of town.

Finally, I debated whether to include this next submission. It is - strictly speaking - not on topic. Moreover, I could not disagree with the premise more. But - in memory of the generous spirit of Jon Swift, who frequently linked to those who he disagreed with (even if they did not always understand that they were being skewered in the link) I offer this submission without further comment.

Randy Pope presents "America's State Established Religion, Secular Humanism, Cannot Achieve Unity out of Diversity" posted at Christian Worldview of History and Culture, saying:
"This nation was not founded upon the philosophy of Secular Humanism. It was founded upon the principles of Biblical Christianity. As long as the American culture was grounded in true Christianity there was a unity among the diverse peoples of this nation. The farther the culture diverts from a Christian worldview the more polarized the people become. So the answer to the question, “What has changed? And can unity be regained in such a vast nation of different peoples?” is that America has rejected the only philosophy that makes sense out of a unity in diversity, and a return to ordering society by a Christian worldview will accomplish the unity that Americans desire."
OK. I lied. I will make a comment. Randy Pope needs to do a little more reading about American History and our founding fathers. In particular I suggest he learn more about the philosophy of the author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president - Thomas Jefferson. He could start with this post, and the following quote from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Jacob De La Motta on the occasion of the dedication of a new synagogue in Savannah, Georgia:
"It excites in him [Thomas Jefferson] the gratifying reflection that his country has been the first to prove to the world two truths, the most salutary to human society, that man can govern himself, and that religious freedom is the most effectual anodyne against religious dissension: the maxim of civil government being reversed in that of religion, where its true form is "divided we stand, united we fall." - Thomas Jefferson
Sorry Randy - you are wrong about our history, wrong about the founders, wrong about what America is about, and just flat wrong.


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 in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock.

For this edition we offer Madeleine Begun Kane who practically has claimed a permanent status on this spot with her entertaining and profligate political poetry production. However, I am violating my usual rules for this spot, as she offers a submission where - as she states: "I even use the word gridlock. :)"

So without further ado - Senator Bayh, Buh Bye! posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness:

Sen. Bayh will not run again. Why?
Cuz there’s “not enough progress.” How wry!
He says partisanship
Is the cause. Here’s a tip:
Our problem is DINOS like Bayh.

On the other hand... thanks Senator Bayh. You've helped move the prospects for "10 in 10", a Republican majority in the Senate, and divided government incrementally closer.

With that, we''ll wrap up this edition. It is 11:55 PM and I am going to barely get this under the wire on the Ides of March. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not).

It looks like we need to pick up the Carnival pace in this election year as divided government content is on the increase. Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government Triginta Septendecim (XXXVII)- Special Four Year Blogiversary Edition on or about 4-23-2010. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government


AD said...


Thank you for your readership, and for linking to and reviewing my post. I appreciated your courtesy comment, and I want to offer a few responsive points to your analysis.

First, to clarify my own position, I am more in your divided government camp than not. As I explained in the short correspondence I took up with Professor Somin after publishing my post, I explained that I like divided government because I tend to like the things he and you argue it produces. I presented Professor Kagan's view because it was new to me and I wasn't sure, as a proponent of limited government, how to respond to him (Kagan).

Second, your critique of the title of my post is one with which I agree when we get down to the substance of the matter. Perhaps the serious, evenhanded tone I try to strike in the body of my posts suggests to readers a similar weight in my titles. As a start-up blogger (again, thank you for the citation and response) who is a) trying to draw readership, and b) serious, but not too serious, I've used techniques like overstating my case, modifying familiar phrases, references to song titles, attempts at humor, etc. I agree that the positive effects you identify are worth seeking, and I agree that moderation is a good and reasonable guide in seeking those effects.

Third, you write that I rely too much on Professor Kagan in my post, and you're right that this particular post is one of my more quotation-heavy ones. Because his critique was new and unfamiliar to me, I felt more comfortable quoting him directly and at length. Perhaps that unfamiliarity should have led me to seek out responses to his work. Doing that, I might have found David Mayhew's book. My blog is less about taking political stances and more about cutting through these stances to examine and encourage open discourse. To that end, I tried to set up two seemingly (though not directly) opposing views (Somin's and Kagan's) and garner responses. Thanks to you, I think this post met that goal.

At the end, I offered a few thoughts of my own to round out a quotation-heavy post, and these thoughts are the subject of your third critique...

(Fourth,) I think we're in agreement about the electoral tactics available to proponents of divided government, and maybe even about the tactics that might be preferable.

Thanks again for seeking, reading, citing, and responding to a newer public writer like myself. Your response was informative, and I look forward to reading more of your work.

mw said...

I actually liked your title. It was very clever. But since I didn't like Kagan's thesis or your concluding thoughts, I was compelled to argue anything I could find in the post for purposes of my compilation here. The title was an easy shot. Such is the nature of the blogging beast.

BTW - if you'd like some advice on how to increase readership, you'd be well served to look elsewhere, as I have yet to break the code. I've thrown more than a few posts out there intending to grab attention - with limited success. I suspect that changing sides every couple of years limit the cultivation of a loyal readership. At this point, I am satisfied to just continue beating the drum in the relative obscurity of my little corner of the blogosphere.

In any case, you have made sufficiently positive comments about divided government that you will be inducted into the 2010 edition of the Coalition of the Divided, whenever I get around to compiling it.

Good luck, thanks for the thoughtful comment and thanks for stopping by.

Brad Castro said...

MW -

Thank you for your incredibly kind words and for highlighting my "Divided Government, the Stock Market, and Long Term Investing" article.

I've been snooping around a bit on your blog - it looks like we have pretty similar perspectives. What a pleasant surprise - I'll definitely be back.

I also updated the original article with a link to your blog. If any of my readers like my article, then they're going to love your blog.

Keep up the great work -

Tully said...

Please add me to the Coalition of the Divided as well.

I'm off to switch my voter registration to Republican. Not because I love the GOP, either.

mw said...

Brad, Tully,
I am honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in divided solidarity.

Perhaps you will take some inspiration from the poignant story of one man's tortured journey to become a registered Republican in the Liberal San Francisco Heart of Darkness.

Who knows, if we are sufficiently successful in 2010, perhaps we can switch back in 2012.