Carnival of Divided Government

By mw | Related entries in Ideas, The War On Terrorism


The latest edition of the “Carnival of Divided Government” has been posted at Divided We Stand United We Fall. The carnival is a periodic compilation of posts, articles and commentary from the blogosphere and main stream media on the topic of government divided between the major parties. As expected, there has been an increase in commentary on the topic as the election looms. Excerpted here, some traditional media selections:

Andrew Romano from Newsweek interviews Morris Fiorino in “Making Sense out of McCains ‘Divided Government’ Argument“:
AR: “Is there an audience for McCain’s divided-government message?”
MF: “We actually asked a question on a recent AP poll…. there was about 20 percent who still wanted divided government constellations. And there was more McCain-Democrat than Obama-Republican. So there is a set of voters out there that has this as their most preferred outcome. So if you added that set to the set that prefers a unified Republican government, you got about a tie. So if the McCain people have the same kind of data, that’s obviously a place to go fishing.”

Rebecca Sinderland at CNN quotes Rick Davis in “McCains Closing Argument: A push for Dived Government“:

“Do we really believe that the American public is going to feel safe by having both the head of the Congress and the head of the White House from the same party that has had so many challenges with the way they’ve run Washington over the last couple of years?” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis asked on Fox News Sunday. It’s a strategy popular with some high-profile conservative voices.”

The Dallas Morning News endorses John McCain:

“Mr. McCain is the one who promised to freeze domestic spending his first year and then limit it to 2.4 percent growth the rest of his term. He also has been clear about the urgent need for entitlement reform. You don’t see that kind of independence with Mr. Obama, who has marched in spending lockstep with his party and mostly ducked questions about entitlement reform and budget cuts. The last time the nation saw Washington make real progress on deficit reduction was the 1990s, when a Democrat controlled the White House and Republicans held Congress. True, Republicans failed to cover themselves in deficit-reduction glory when they held the executive and legislative branches, but we read that as an argument in favor of divided government.

The Economist analyzes “John McCain’s Last Chance“:

“But Americans have a strong preference for divided government. America has only had one-party rule (with the same party controlling the White House and both chambers) for six years out of the 28 since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980—two years under Bill Clinton and four and a bit under George Bush. Mr McCain should argue forcefully that, as an experienced legislator who has worked with left-wing Democrats as well as right-wing Republicans, he will be the perfect man to check Congress where necessary and work with it where desirable”

The Wall Street Journal opines – “A Liberal Supermajority”:

“Though we doubt most Americans realize it, this would be one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven’t since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s. If the U.S. really is entering a period of unchecked left-wing ascendancy, Americans at least ought to understand what they will be getting, especially with the media cheering it all on…

The Journal story received a lot of attention across the blogosphere, including links from me and Alan at here at the Donk.

My view is that this is the only argument that can still move votes for the McCain campaign in the short time that is left. However, I doubt it can move the polls more than a point or two. If the gap between Obama and McCain remains large, it won’t make a difference. The fundamental question is whether American’s preference for divided government will be sufficient to overcome their anger and desire to punish Republicans for the disaster of the Bush administration.

Speaking for myself, I was happy to see the Republicans lose the majority in Congress in 2006. I will be happy to see Republicans punished again in 2008 with an even smaller minority in Congress. However, I do not want to see Obama and the Democrats granted virtual monarchical power, one party rule, and license to govern unfettered by any meaningful opposition.


This entry was posted on Monday, October 20th, 2008 and is filed under Ideas, The War On Terrorism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Carnival of Divided Government”

  1. CaptainUltimate Says:

    I’d be so much more open to a divided government argument if Republicans exhibited some degree of quality leadership. After 8-years of “my way or the highway” philosophy and a complete demonization of any idea that deviates from the party line, they’ve lost me.

    Just look a the current conservatives going out on cable news shows explaining how anyone who is disagrees with their them are un-American.

  2. Avinash_Tyagi Says:

    Sorry mw, but the GOP has lost the chance to have any say in govt, beyond howling from the wilderness. Its time to cast them out

  3. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Cap and Avi, are you looking for similar performance like the stellar accomplishments executed by the democratic Congressional mandate of 2006? Fewer fillibusters and more pointless political theater in the form of non-binding resolutions maybe? Now THAT’S leadership.

  4. CaptainUltimate Says:

    ExiledIndependent-

    Don’t even try to make the equivalence. I’m not happy with either brach of government, but George Bush with a compliant Congress has us engaged in two foreign wars, ran up the largest budget deficient, failed to oversee the credit default swap markets, tortures people, and Republicans are still out campaigning about the difference between Democrats and “real Americans”.

    Like I said, don’t even try.

  5. Trescml Says:

    I think in general the there is a desire not to have one party or the other unchecked. This year, however, I don’t think it will influence people as much due to the number of people who are very unhappy with the direction of the country. This could change quickly in 2010/12 though if the Dems don’t appeal to the moderates in the country.

  6. mike mcEachran Says:

    1. It is a testament to McCain’s flawed campaign that the “super-majority” scare is not getting much traction. He’s scarier than one-party rule. He could have won on this issue alone had he not proven so erradic and to have such incredibly poor judgement.
    2. In the recent Rolling Stone interview, Obama makes a point that he anticipates some “tough decisions” in light of the current financial problems, and also anticipates resisting Democrats desires to push through new spending.

    I think people are more likely to trust Obama’s ability to keep his own party in check for the sake of the country, than in McCain’s ability to lead.

  7. mw Says:

    “It is a testament to McCain’s flawed campaign that the “super-majority” scare is not getting much traction.He’s scarier than one-party rule…” -mm

    I agree that the lack of traction is due to McCain’s “flawed” campaign, at least to the extent that they have not promoted this argument in any meaningful way. All they have done with this is inject a few quotes from Rick Davis and some surrogates into some msm interviews. They’ve put nothing into promoting it. I am even more surprised that we have not even seen any 527′s hit this in a big way. If they put the level of funding into promoting divided government that they did with the old Ayers story that no one cares about, we might see some real movement in the polls.

    Regarding the “scary” McCain comment, you are just parroting the Axelrod Democratic Smear Machine personal attacks. Grist for the partisan faithful. No one buys that bs any more than the Ayers story.

  8. mike mcEachran Says:

    @ mw – “Regarding the “scary” McCain comment, you are just parroting the Axelrod Democratic Smear Machine personal attacks. Grist for the partisan faithful. No one buys that bs any more than the Ayers story.”

    I’m not promoting the “scary” argument – I’m interpreting how people feel (via poll numbers) in light of all McCain’s – yes I’ll say it – erratic behavior. One doesn’t need Axlerod to come to that conclusion – Palin, “fudementals of the economy are strong”, suspended campaigns, and “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” are plenty.

    Yes – He missed an opportunity re: divided governement, but it seems to be one a million miss-fires. A better candidate could have ripped Obama to shreds with:

    1. Inexperience in a dangerous world (Palin! Whoops)
    2. Liberal tax and spend economics (fundemental are strong – grossly out of touch)
    3. Divided Government (too little too late)
    4. War hero (overused at the wrong times)
    5. Maverick (Embraced Bush at the bottom of Bush’s poll numbers – what the…?)
    6. Stateliness (bomb, bomb, bomb…)
    7. Judgement (All of the above, and then some)

    I still think Obama is the man for our time, but McCain really wasted his opportunity. Like Hillary – I think we’re dodging a bullet.

  9. kranky kritter Says:

    Hey, maybe the GOP’s strategy all along has been give ‘em enough rope.

    So, fine, blame the GOP for all this, give the keys to the democratic party. We’ll see what we get. But riddle me this:

    If (when) the democrats can’t deliver all their promises while holding the Presidency and both houses of congress by a substantial majority, what’s our next move?

    During the bailout bill show, the GOP tried out the “you guys are the majority, do what you want, don’t ask us for help, and don’t blame us if it doesn’t work” strategy. And they sure seemed to enjoy it.

    So we know for sure that we’re going to see a LOT of the GOP hardcore folks simply saying “oh, no, go ahead democrats, it’s ALL YOU!” Hard to argue with that.

  10. shawn Says:

    It’s not about “punishing” the republican party, think of it more like rehab than exile. You might not agree with the conservative ideal of limited government and limited spending, but at least there’s some sort of logic to it and an argument that can be made that it could be good for the people.

    But the GOP is so far from those supposed principles, having been taken over by neocons and the religious right. We’ve had those people in charge for 8 years, and not only do I disagree with their principles, I can’t even respect them, and the results of allowing them in government are very apparent.

    Parts of the Republican party have started to admit that they might have a problem. But more of them need to be convinced before they can fully accept it and then start taking steps to correct it. The voters need to have yet another intervention with the GOP, to help it realize that it needs to change how it lives and who it chooses to hang out with.

  11. mw Says:

    @Shawn
    I agree with you to a point. The GOP can be thought of as having three legs. Social Conservatives, Security absolutists (neocons), Fiscal Conservatives (libertarians, limited government advocates, deficit hawks). It is the the last faction that is without a home in GOP, and they have recognized it for at least four years. In 2006 there were many fiscal conservatives that advocated a vote for Democrats and Divided Government (this 2006 Washington Monthly article was indicative).

    Problem being, the fiscal conservatives cannot win national elections on their own. They need fusion with the social conservatives (see Ryan Sager’s “Elephant in the Room”). What neither of those two factions seem to understand, is that they don’t need the neocons. Exorcise them and replace with renewed commitment to the Constitution, bill of rights, rule of law, habeus corpus, freedom of the press, privacy rights, protections against search and seizure, “live and let live” tolerance for individual freedoms, and keeping the government out of the bedroom as well as the wallet and you’ve got a viable party again.

    In the meantime, while fiscal conservatives try to figure out if they have a home in the GOP or need to look elsewhere, it would be prudent to have John McCain in the White House for 4 years to keep some small measure of restraint on Pelosi, Reid, Clinton, Rangel, and Franks.

  12. L Says:

    Fortunately there are elections held for Congress every two years. The American people actually prove quite adept at adapting to current political circumstances (see 2006). I can’t see many people changing their vote for president (and in that sense the direction of much of the legislation moving through Congress and his/her impact on the judicial branch) because the Democrats might “go too far.” There are a lot of bonuses to a divided government, but for one thing it isn’t necessarily better and for another it isn’t necessarily more important than the leader of the executive branch, especially when Congress is held accountable every 2 years (well most of it).

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