Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Just Vote Divided

This is our third election eve "Just Vote Divided" post since starting this blog in 2006.

In 2006 we advocated a straight ticket Democratic vote to break the six year stranglehold of One Party Republican Rule on the federal government. In 2008 we advocated a vote for John McCain to avoid a return to the fiscal irresponsibility, inadequate oversight, and bad legislation endemic to One Party Rule in Washington D.C. This year, we are advocating a straight ticket Republican vote to restore divided government and begin to undo the damage of the last two years. Should the Republicans prevail, take the majority in either house of Congress and restore divided government, we will be advocating the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012 to keep it.

The rationale, supporting scholarship, and core arguments have not changed. Each election cycle presents unique problems facing the country, and more evidence of how the moderating influence of divided government better equips our government to address those problems.

In the 2006 election eve summary we focused on the political science that is the foundation on which we can build a divided government voting heuristic:
The very first step to solve these problems, is to take power away from the single party on watch, and give that power to the opposition party. This is exactly what the 2006 midterm election is all about and why it is so important. This election is not about your specific congressman/woman. It is about securing better governance by sharing power between the two major parties.

Economists, constitutional lawyers, scholars and historians agree that divided government is better government:
In the 2008 election eve appeal we reviewed the accomplishments of the two year divided government respite, explicitly detailed the objectives we hoped a divided government vote would secure, further developed the historical constitutional rationale to vote for divided government, and looked forward with trepidation:
Divided government is not a cure-all, but the facts are these - our divided government state since 2007 has begun to reverse the damage of the 2001-2006 One Party Republican Rule. Six years of abusive single party control is not going to be undone by 20 months of divided government. Yet, as a direct consequence of electing a divided government in 2006, we have a new Secretary of Defense, a new Attorney General, a marginal improvement in both the Patriot Act and FISA vs. the Bush/Cheney versions, a great deal more oversight revealing many of the abuses of the six years of single party control, a revised strategy in Iraq resulting in an improved security situation, and a reduction in the rate of spending growth in 2007. These improvements, though marginal, are not insignificant. It is the nature of divided government that improvements will be incremental and that is exactly what we have seen thus far...

The absurdity of handing all the levers of power to the Democrats as a cure for the abuses we saw as a result of handing all the levers of power to the Republican should be obvious on its face. Particularly when you consider the Democrats will likely have bigger majorities than the Republicans had combined with a "Cheney enhanced" executive office and a partisan 97% toe-the-party-line Democratic voting record president in Obama. Quite possibly this will be the greatest concentration of power in one man and one party in the US federal government in the lifetime of anyone reading this blog. You gotta really have the partisan blinders on to believe that Democrats can be trusted with the “ring of power” just because they are Democrats...

In a nutshell, the rationale for a voting divided is a heuristic based on voting for objectives. If you believe that the Federal government should be limited in scope, provide for common defense, fight fewer wars, protect and respect individual rights, spend and tax in a fiscally responsible manner, provide effective oversight of elected and appointed representatives, legislate carefully and slowly, pass only laws that are tempered in the fire of partisan debate, and act in a manner that reinforces and not undermine the checks, balances, and separation of powers enshrined in the constitution, Then you should vote for divided government. You should vote for divided government because scholars, political scientists, economists, historians, and constitutional lawyers have documented as historical fact, that a divided government state supports exactly those objectives while one party rule does not...

There are not enough centrists or moderates in either party because there are not enough centrists or moderates in the electorate. The only way to get moderation out of our Federal Government is by ensuring that both parties have a seat at the table and a share in power. This is the genius of the founders that enshrined argument and conflict in the Constitution. A concept best summarized by James Madison in Federalist #51 when he said "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition..." A concept that is completely undermined by One Party Rule...

As it stands now, we are all on board a hell-bound train rocketing down the rails toward One Party Democratic Rule, with Barack Obama sitting in the expanded unitary executive chair designed by Dick Cheney, complemented by increased Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature and a real possibly of a 60 vote filibuster-proof plurality in the Senate. God help us. The only slim hope that the Democrats will not have time to do as much damage in two years of single party control as it took the Republicans to do in six.
Well, I said it was a slim hope. So what have we seen since 2008? Massive spending increases and exploding deficits that make George W Bush look good in comparison. Let me repeat that. On fiscal responsibility Barack Obama makes George W. Bush look good in comparison. And the Bush administration was a fiscal disaster. I never would have believed that to be possible.

An administration that embraces the power and scope of the Cheney/Bush Unitary Executive definition with an appetite for expanding the scope of the executive branch to managing the economy and private industry. A lay-down Congress that is not even pretending to exercise their constitutional executive oversight responsibility. And rather than working to roll-back the civil rights erosion of the Cheney/Bush era, the Obama administration Justice Department is defending some of worst excesses of the Bush administration in court.

Nothing says more about the dangers of legislation produced by One Party Rule, than the two signature legislative achievements of this administration - ARRA (aka porkulus) and HCR (aka Obamacare). The first, a wildy expensive stimulus package that does not stimulate, but does protect and expand public sector jobs while the private sector contracts, and steamrolled on a purely partisan vote. Despite being sold as needed to rebuild infrastructure, despite being the most expensive single piece of legislation in history (until eclipsed by HCR a year later), we are now told we still require additional infrastructure spending not even two years later. Even though the stimulus money has not all been spent.

And what can one say about the Health Care Reform legislation that has not already been said? Wildly expensive, it does not reform the system, does not control costs, is not paid for, does not provide universal coverage, is insanely complex and no one understands how it works. Least of all the Democratic legislators who steamrolled it on a purely partisan vote. Because they could.

Does anyone really believe that these two pieces of legislation would not have been significantly better and cheaper if the Democrats had no option but to compromise with Republicans? I am not saying it would have been good legislation. I am just saying it would have been better.

Divided government is not a panacea. It is just demonstrably and unequivocally better than one party rule. If you want things to get better... Just vote divided.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.


Tully said...

In 2006 we advocated a straight ticket Democratic vote to break the six year stranglehold of One Party Republican Rule on the federal government

Just to pick a nit, that's factually incorrect. Remember Jim Jeffords? The Dems held the Senate in 2001-2002, so one-party-rule actually covered 2003-2006, or four years, not six. (If we really wan to pick nits, it was actually 4-1/3, given the date of Jeffords defection.)

I would also beg to note that "divided government" is something that can also be applied down-ballot. We tend to focus on federal offices, but state elections are not federal ones, even though they are taking place at the same time. I'll once again be voting mostly Dem on state/local offices.

mw said...

Nit taken. I'll go with the 4 1/3. Although, if we were to get more granular, we'd need to apply the date of the Jeffords switch to the percentage of days that the Senate was in session before and after the switch, and potentially eliminate the lame duck block of time in 2002, so it might be more like 4 2/3. I think the reason I forgot about that, is there was only a few months from the Jeffords switch until the events of 9/11/01 which, realistically, swamped all other effects. Everyone got on the same team for a while.

I think it would be tough to tease out the divided vs. unified government effects from 9/11/01 until 11/05/02, given what was happening at the time - although I'd like to see if anyone has done any research on that - maybe it's a topic for a post down the line.

I've actually consciously avoided the question of divided government on a state and local level. Two reasons - First, I feel like there is unambiguous scholarship to support the voting heuristic on a Federal level, and I don't know if it exists at a state and local level. It might, I don't know - I just have not seen it.

Second, I think the reason it does work on the federal level is simply because that is the way the Constitution was designed to work. In a unified strongly partisan federal government, the checks and balances in the Constitution stop working as designed.

With different structures at state and local levels (Governors and legislatures, Mayors, City Managers, and Councils) it is conceivable that the opposite is true. Particularly at a local level, it is possible to assert that one party government is more effective. It does seem to gravitate that way, with many municipal government tending to be dominated by one party. Decisions on filling potholes, picking up the garbage, and clearing snow may require a different dynamic than fighting wars, redistributing wealth, and setting industrial policy.

I'll also be voting Democratic in some state and local races.

Tully said...

Hey, no fair introducing qualitative caveats into your quant heuristic! That's just providing cover for the Dems who voted for a lotta stuff post-911 before excusing themselves with the "Bush lied! He tricked us!" meme. :-D

I think the reason it does work on the federal level is simply because that is the way the Constitution was designed to work. In a unified strongly partisan federal government, the checks and balances in the Constitution stop working as designed.

Yep. It throws the people back on the final check & balance of the judiciary, which is the slowest and least responsive of the three branches, and which has its own numerous and even partisan warts.

Chad said...

Just thought you'd like to know what Rand Paul has to say about divided government:

"Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky says government gridlock isn't necessarily a bad thing, signaling that cooperation with Democrats isn't high on his agenda.

The tea party favorite said debate is healthy and that a divided government is more likely to spend less money.

The Republican told NBC's 'Today' show that while people 'complain a lot about gridlock,' the most fiscally conservative government 'is always divided government.'"

Anyway, I lift my cup to this blog and all who are in favor of divided government. Here's to gridlock.

mw said...

Thanks for the toast. You are now a member in good standing of the Coalition of the Divided.

Toomey also expressed similar sentiments to the press as a candidate. It'll be interesting to see if feels the same way in 2012.