Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Carnival of Divided Government
Novem et Quadrâgintâ (XLIX)
Special Dead Terrorist Ball Spiking Edition

Welcome to the 49th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - Special Dead Terrorist Edition.

Press Secretary James Carney explained the administration position - "I don't expect you'll hear the president spiking the ball and gloating when he speaks to troops returning from Afghanistan.". What we did hear the President say in the Steve Kroft interview was this:
"Justice was done. And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn’t deserve what he got needs to have their head examined."
Exactly so. Precisely the right posture. Just the right tone. The President was also right to not release the photograph of a dead Osama Bin Laden sans skull and adorned with his own brain matter. Reveling in the death of anyone, even a terrorist, is not seemly, not appropriate, and not necessary for the President or anyone in the United States government. After all, as bloggers, that's our job.

Truth be told, the Dividist
is just relieved that across ten years, across two administrations, across One Party Republican Rule, a Divided Government, One Party Democratic Rule and another Divided Government, we as a country and a government managed to maintain our resolve and do exactly what we said we would do. President Bush set the ball in motion and promised justice. President Obama kept the the ball rolling and delivered on that promise. It's all good.

Time to check in on our happily divided government and dance a jig or two on Osama's virtual grave.

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 Novem et Quadrâgintâ (XLIX) - Special Spiking The Ball While Dancing in the End zone Dead Terrorist Edition, as in all of the CODGOV editions, 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 The Dividist reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions. Among the on-topic posts, essays and articles we choose our top ten favorites for commentary and consideration. We hope you enjoy these selections, and having finished celebrating in the end-zone, taken the time to meditate on the wisdom of Mark Twain: "I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure."

We begin with Kendrick MacDowell blogging at The Prince and The Little Prince. Kendrick is completely dumbfounded by the variety of contradictory explanations of the Osama raid, and comes up with an entirely new notion of divided government , invoking a government divided between the competent and the clowns while musing "On the blizzard of Osama bin Laden death narratives":
" Was this really a mission planned with stupendous Navy SEAL excellence up to — and not a moment after — the death of Osama bin Laden? Divided government? Were the Navy SEALS in charge of getting Osama bin Laden, and the clowns in charge of everything that happened thereafter? Is it really possible that our highest levels of federal government still haven’t grasped the importance of aftermath planning? Doh! [Head bonk.] As I said, take some comfort in incompetence. It means, at a minimum, really scary smart people are not designing sinister manipulations of the American people. The folks in power are pretty much just like us.”
Intriguing and amusing but not helpful to those of us on a mission proselytizing a voting heuristic based on a more conventional definition of divided government. The Dividist thinks that Kendrick is grasping for Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." or the more succinct Bernard Ingham English version "Cock-up before conspiracy".

On to a selection of somewhat more conventional uses of the term and concept of Divided Government...

Taegon Goddard takes note of Kevin Bogardus and Rachel Leven reporting at The Hill on yet another good reason why we can all appreciate a properly functioning divided federal government in "Divided Government hits K Street":
"Divided government hasn’t been too great for K Street. On Wednesday, lobby firms began to disclose their first quarterly revenue for 2011 as required under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). Records show that most firms’ earnings either flat-lined or fell off when compared to 2010’s first quarter. One reason for the decline is that Capitol Hill has not been the legislative factory it was when Democrats controlled both chambers."
Not that we needed any additional reasons, but this one is particularly satisfying.

Sheila Kennedy is looking at the recently installed One Party Republican Rule in the Indiana Statehouse and wonders "Where is Divided Government When You Need It?":
"I used to argue with friends who deliberately voted for divided government. It didn’t seem logical to install a system where little would get done–where agendas could easily be blocked. A vote for divided government was a vote for gridlock rather than action. Gridlock has never looked so alluring. For the first time in several years, the Republicans hold all the power in Indiana–they have a majority of the House and the Senate, and they have the Governor’s office. And they are using their unconstrained power with a vengeance. There’s been the stuff we all expected: we’ve seen the redistricting maps, for example, and as we all know, had the Democrats held all the power, the maps would have been no less politically motivated. But they haven’t stopped there, and some of the shenanigans have been truly outrageous...It’s often said we get the government we deserve. If that’s true, we the people have been very, very bad."
Two things of note in Professor Kennedy's lament. First, the Dividist is always gratified to see an acknowledgement that there are others who deliberately cast their vote for divided government. It is further gratifying to note that the Professor will be arguing less strenuously in the future with my fellow dividists. It also never fails to amuse when partisans recognize the virtues of divided government only when their party of preference is excluded from the seat of power. She has one good point though - when voters fail to restrain their elected leaders by assuring power is shared between the parties, they get the government they deserve. It cuts both ways.

Caitlin of LiveCitizen rips one of the Dividist's early graphics and asks the question "Do You Approve of Divided Government?":
"How do you feel about the clear division of party lines in the Republican led Congress and the Democrat led Senate? How do you rate the work they have done so far? Do you approve a divided government, where all the work being done is opposing one another instead on helping the country move forward?"
Heh. You betcha. The Dividist thinks that Caitlin would benefit from a little deeper appreciation of exactly how our constitutionally divided government was designed and was intended to work by the founders. Or maybe any appreciation at all. Perhaps a class in American history would help. Finally, Caitlin should consider that policies "helping the country move forward" according to Caitlin may very well be policies "helping the country move backward" according to the Dividist. Settling those policy differences by opposing one other in a divided government is exactly how our government is supposed to work.

George Washington is cross-posting at Zero Hedge and observing that "Obama Gives Up the Fake "Hope and Change" Act ... And Adopts the Neocon FEAR Playbook". A good post, but Quatum Nucleonics' comment is the thing:
"Anyone who bought into the "hope and change" marketing pitch was a kool-aid chuging moron. It was pretty obvious who Obama was before the election. McCain wasn't much better, but a divided government might have at least given us a bit less debt and a lot less ObamaCare."
True. And a divided government in 2002 and/or 2004 might have also given us a bit less debt and a lot less war. As George Washington wonders in the post itself -
"Are we going go back from koolaid drinkers of false hope to mindless terrorized sheep? Or are we going to stand up as brave, independent, thinking people and demand real change?"
The Dividist reminds both George and Quantum that a few independent thinking people voting to keep the government divided by voting to re-elect Obama in 2012 can at keep our ship of state from crashing into the partisan rocks on either the starboard or the port.

GoldmanUSA is thinking globally but blogging locally at Blue Virginia, and psychoanalyzing the "The Obama-Allen Voter vs. the McDonnell-Kaine voter":
"Under this explanation, these Obama-Allen voters are voting for the President but in reality they don't really support his policies. Thus, they are voting for Allen as a way of making sure Obama can't enact what the voter feels is bad policy. In today's parlance, it is a voter who wants divided government so each side is blocked... Net, net: right now, the Obama-Allen voter, or perhaps more accurately the "Obama-I probably need to make sure the Senate doesn't back Obama's policies" voter, is the margin of victory in the Kaine-Allen race. "
A good analysis. Even if GoldmanUS is not the first to connect those particular dots:

"Sweet Virginia" - Rolling Stones

Wadin' through the waste stormy winter,
And there's not a friend to help you through.
Tryin' to stop the waves behind your eyeballs,
Drop your reds, drop your greens and blues.

But come on, come on down Sweet Virginia,
Come on, come on down, I beg of you.
Come on, come on down, you got it in you.
Got to scrape that shit right off you shoes.

Andrew Taylor and Stephen Ohlemacher writing at Bloomberg Businessweek offer a civics lesson on how compromise takes place in a divided government, explaining how a "Group of 6 senators hones plan tro cut US deficits":
"The six have met in private for several months, even as House Republicans and Obama developed more partisan plans that have little chance of being enacted into law because of Washington's divided government... The senators' work is rooted in a simple political reality: Getting anything actually passed into law given the present balance of power in Washington requires both Democrats and Republicans to embrace proposals that make each uncomfortable. An approach that leaves politically challenging topics off the table simply won't make a dent in deficits averaging $1 trillion a year or so over the upcoming decade."
It is pretty simple really. Divided Government prevents the worst impulses of both parties from becoming law. For legislation to pass it will either be a compromise, or it will not become law. Either is better than steamrolled partisan abominations like Porkulus and Obamacare.

Bill Ferguson opines at the Macon Telegraph on this very subject, and concludes "So far, so good":
"The truth is I am not completely opposed to some combination of tax increases and spending cuts if (and this is a very big “if”) it is part of a budget plan that seriously deals with our debt situation. Realistically speaking, any deficit reduction plan that would have a chance of passing our currently divided government will need to represent a compromise between the two parties. Rich folks (as defined by the Democrats) are probably going to have to pay at least a little more in taxes and we have to come up with some way of capping entitlement spending that won’t cause the AARP to have a meltdown.I’m not sure how likely it is that we will see the two parties reach such a compromise, but it seems that a sense of urgency is at long last present in their deliberations.."
It is easy to understand. Ryan set up the right goal post, Obama erected the left goal post, the solution will be kicked in between. The only ones who will be disappointed are those who think we should kick the ball directly at the right or left goal post. Welcome to Divided Government.

Jeff Bartelli blogging at at Distant Observer, wonders "Should Congress Be Run Like Jury Duty?": posted at Distant Observer, saying, "The idea of divided government has often been cherished but that division frequently leaves out the American people. Perhaps a number of changes should be considered that would actually include the people of this country in one of those divisions." :
"Rather than a body of individuals who meet to discuss and pass legislation, the U.S. Congress is now an arena where the party bosses dictate what decisions their people can make and what legislation will be proposed or passed. This highly undemocratic means of running a nation is the outcome of the status quo and neither the republicans nor the democrats are willing to change it. Consequently, we know that this system of divided government is flawed and stands little chance of becoming effective short of a transition to a single party system. Of course, that prospect would represent the wishes, needs, and desires of an even smaller percentage of the population that the current regime. So, what can be done to fix this?
Jeff proposed the rather radical suggestion that legislators be selected by lottery, much like jury duty. Ignoring the vanishingly small probability of anything remotely like this ever being enacted into law, Jeff appears to fundamentally misunderstand why our divided government was designed by the founders to function exactly as it does.

Jeff complains that "An elected legislature has proven to be largely incapable of meeting the needs of society. Partisan bickering prevents meaningful immediate action while frequent elections prevent coherent long term plans from materializing or being maintained at the state and national levels" Of course, Jeff is simply articulating the flip side of the coin represented by Caitlin in an earlier link who has a similar complaint.

What is the likelihood that the policies"helping the country move forward" wished for so wistfully by Caitlin would comport with the "meaningful immediate action" or the "needs of society" that Jeff thinks is so obviously being blocked by divided government. While the policies that comprise these memes are obvious to Jeff and Caitlin, they may not be agreeable to each other or anyone else. This should be patently obvious to anyone.

The founders recognized the country was comprised of vastly different and competing interests that could never be reconciled into a single view of what comprises the "needs of society". So they built a government architecture that give all these interests access to power, and permanently institutionalizing the ensuing argument. If we cannot agree or compromise on our collective perception of the "needs of society" - then nothing gets passed. This is by design.

I've quoted this here before, but I'll do it again now. The concept and rationale for a constitutionally divided government cannot be explained any better than it was by the architect of our constitution - James Madison in Federalist #10:
"A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and factions [special interests] in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government...

Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary...

The influence of factious leaders [special interests] may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State."
Partisan polarization does not start with divided government. Divided government simply assures that everyone in our deeply divided country has a seat at the table when sweeping policies are proposed. If such a policy cannot find bipartisan support, then that policy should not be enacted into law. Divided government stops it. This is as it should be.

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 means - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock.

For this edition, there wasn't anything in the off-topic bin that was worthy of inclusion. Instead, we'll finish with the alternative, spike-the-ball, dancing in the end-zone, alternative "Obama Got Osama" speech:

And with that, we'll conclude this edition. Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government Quînquâgintâ (L) - Special 50th Carnival and Belated 5 Year Blogiversary Edition - sometime between now and Independence Day. Please submit your blog article at the carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Further on up the road.

"Where the road is dark
and the seed is sowed.
Where the gun is cocked
and the bullet's cold.
Where the miles are marked
in the blood and gold.
We'll meet you further on up the road."

- Bruce Springsteen - Further on up the road. - The Rising (2002)

The road was longer and darker than we thought, but we got there. As the Secretary of State put it so well: “You cannot wait us out, you cannot defeat us... justice has been served.”