166

VOLUME 86, NUMBERS 3 & 4

"Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, March Labonte and Andrew Hanna, "The Impact of Major Legislation on Budget Deficits, 2001-2009," March 23, 2010, 12. '"Haley Barbour, "Obamacare is going too far, too soon, too fast, and costing too much," Washington Examiner, August 12, 2008, http://washingtonexaminer.com/opeds/2009/08/gov-haley-barbour-obamacare-going-too-far-too-soon-too-fast-and-costing too-much (accessed July 14,2011), 1. "Christa Marshall, "Cantwell-Collins Bill Generates Lobbying Frenzy," New York Times, February 16, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/02/15/15climatewirecantwell-collins-bill-generates-lobbying-fre-54450.html (accessed March 14, 2011), 1-2. "•David M. Herszenhorn, "Glass-Steagall Wall Revisited," New York Times, May 6, 2010, http://thecaucus.blogs/nytimes.com2010/glass-steagall-wall-revisited (accessed March 14,2011), 1. "Jennifer Epstein, "Mark Wamer, Saxby Chambliss Hawk Budget Cuts," Politico March 8, 2011, http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/50851 .html (accessed March 14,2011), 1-3. '*Ryan Grim, "TARP Vote: Obama Win, Senate Effectively Approves $350 Billion," Huffington Post, January 15, 2009, http://www.huñ'ingtonpost.com/2009/01/15/tarp-voteobama-wins-350 n 158292.html (accessed June 17, 2011), 1-2; Sunlen Miller, "Obama Praises 3 GOP Votes on Financial Regulatory Reform," ABC News, July 13, 2010, http:// blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2010/07/obama-praises-3-gop-votes-on-financialregulatory-reform-.html (accessed June 17, 2011), 1-2; Alexander Bolton, "Dems Reach Magic Number on Arms Treaty as GOP Support Builds," The Hill, December 20, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/134551-gop-senators-concede-start-will-winenough-votes-to-pass-handing-victory-to-obama (accessed June 17,2011), 1-3. "Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (New York: Mentor Book, 1961), 77-84. ^Jeffrey Toobin, "No More Mr. Nice Guy: The Supreme Court's Stealth Hardliner," New Yorker, March 25, 2009, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/25/ 090525fa fact toobin (accessed March 14, 2011), 4.

DIVIDED WE FALL: THE CASE AGAINST DIVIDED GOVERNMENT
Con: CHRISTIAN JOHN
The Framers of the U.S. Constitution anticipated, and, in fact, were counting on the possibility that, at times, as James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51, "[a]mbition must be made to counter ambition."' But is the Framer's constitutional design still relevant? In other words, in the modem era, is divided government good for the United States? It is not for three reasons: divided government leads to an unjustifiable weakness in government brought about by a lack of accountability; it produces legislative "gridlock"; and it contributes to a diminution of the expression of the popular will. There are numerous reasons for one to believe that the United States benefits from divided government. Some political commentators and politicians maintain that it acts as

In most areas of foreign policy. Such so-called radical changes include the New Deal. if Congress overreaches. In addition. Divided government generally refers to the division of the policy-making functions of govemment. substantial and wide-ranging reform has been needed. and the people all constitute centers of power that can "check and balance" the power of the executive and legislative branches of the federal govemment. too much. the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. but there are plenty of checks and balances elsewhere in the constitutional design of American governance to prevent government from going too far. for example. the Constitution. too fast. notes. it is important to ask whether radical change is necessarily a bad thing. If both Congress and the president overreach. one must ask why divided government works in addressing domestic problems but not foreign issues? Another argument advanced by those who support divided government is that it keeps the government.S. de facto unity in the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy still allows the electorate to hold their president aecountable for diplomatic successes and failures. and when such change occurred it invariably came about during a period of unified government. and could actually prove detrimental. it is absurd and a bit paternalistic to deny the public's wishes by forcing the victorious party to heed the demands of its opponents. This is a good thing when one considers the alternative: How would American foreign poliey be conducted if every policy decision was subject to modification or inffuence by 535 national legislators? The nature of international affairs requires that a president act quickly. chair emeritus of the Cato Institute. As William Niskanen. the president acts as the sole organ representing the United States with limited input from Congress. it may be checked by a presidential veto. from going "too far. thus preventing overreach by one branch of govemment over the other. If this holds true for foreign policy. None of these reforms would have happened . what is deemed "radical" may prove to be good for the country.INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE REVIEW 167 a restraint on government. and the Great Society. government are not merely concentrated in the presidency and Congress. too fast. often in secrecy."" Still. too soon. Too often in American history. further division between the different branches of the federal government is not necessary. have voted for a divided federal govemment for most of the past 50 years. limiting party overreach by forcing politicians to compromise on important issues. in fact. the states and the people have enumerated rights under the Constitution that limit the power of the federal govemment. the states. Even so. The levers of power in the U. The use of the term "radical" has a pejorative connotation. as Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) stated in reference to President Barack Obama's health care initiative. to present clear and unified policies that address intemational concerns. For example. If the electorate votes overwhelmingly for members of a particular party to carry out a specific political agenda."' But can anyone prove that divided government actually produces better results? The claim that a party. they can be checked by the Supreme Court. Often it is used simply to discredit the policy prescriptions of political opponents when.^ Perhaps the most compelling argument made in favor of divided govemment is that it is more representative of the electorate since not all Americans identify exclusively with a particular party. the crucial role the president plays as both chief diplomat and commander in chief. checks and balances are exercised in accordance with constitutional provisions. needs to be balanced by a party rejected at the polls violates democratic principles. in their unarticulated collective wisdom. duly elected by the people to govem. "American voters. Take. Consequently. Even under unified government. The Supreme Court.

"' Thus. without divided government. well-connected. ticket splitting "must be viewed as a product of the incumbency advantage. one can argue that people intentionally "split their tickets. it "intensified inter-partisan conflicts between the two branches for electoral advantage. which has always existed. voters often do not have the opportunity to cast their ballot for their ideal candidate. through the power of judicial review. Thus. then again.. NUMBERS 3 & 4 had government been sharply divided. Roscoe finds that "ticket splitting for most voters is . the possibility of prolonged divided government. an unintentional byproduct of the choices available to the voter. a scholar of American politics and political economy. mainly due to the advantage of incumbency. divided government has brought about a distraction in the body politic that diverts the attention of politicians from addressing issues of concern effectively in order to score points against political opponents. Regrettably." radical change can be reversed.168 VOLUME 86. ticket splitting occurs "when voters carmot express their political preferences in an election because their 'natural' choice is under-ñinded and lacks experience. The Supreme Court.. even when the same party controls Congress and the White House. And failing that. divided government could prevent an "unwanted" radical change." But as divided government became more common in the 1980s. Fortunately. The incumbent is experienced. more substantial and useful change might take place.. Consequently. under extreme conditions states can adopt constitutional amendments. Political scientist Douglas D. the existing system of checks and balances. which greatly diminishes the "fighting chance" of political challengers. would prevent these changes. States can drag their feet in implementing federal mandates that they deem unconstitutional. Rather than choosing divided government.. Of course. But this does not seem to be the case. Again. As political scientist Manabu Saeki points out. and in particular the federal government. short of divided government. and well-financed. Because members of Congress and . A structure of separated powers. why should anyone try to subvert their will? Like Niskanen.. asserts: "the public [is] increasingly unhappy with the workings of government. has manifested itself more frequently over the last four decades. but it cannot be readily explained as a conscious attempt by voters to buttress the system of checks and balances. can declare legislation unconstitutional. not a conscious decision to balance the parties or the result of sophisticated thinking about the relative strengths of the parties and the capacities of the branches ' " Ticket splitting may occur. combined with divided government. will likely result in a weak government." voting for one party to occupy the White House and the other to confrol Congress. one lacking in energy and void of ambition or direction as a resuh of quarrelling between opposing parties over presumably trivial matters. voters actually choose the lesser of two evils. These examples challenge the notion that "radical" change is necessarily bad." Consequently. as David McKay.'^ But."" A more likely explanation for divided government is that it is a structural artifact of America's relatively non-competitive electoral system. As Roscoe explains. "scholars observed that common partisan control of the executive and legislative branches contributed to an effective government. acute problems are simply ignored and the situation worsens. In fact. When the courts adjudge changes to be unconstitutional or the entire nation evokes "buyer's remorse. [T]he separation of powers operating in an age of weak parties is as likely a culprit." responsible for "gridlock" and negative policies. the Constitution includes safeguards against such change. if divided government is what the people want. On such occasions.

it was higher for older and white voters two years later. and that divided government produces long-lasting. different election cycles usually produce divided government because different electorates dominate each election cycle. The outcome of an election determines what represents the electorate. They flirther contend that the public wants compromise. If a good idea is proposed but is then diluted by compromise. bipartisan legislation secure ftom future attempts at repeal. "the American people clearly repudiated what [Obama Democrats] had put forward the last two years. it is not sufficient to put two opposing parties in Congress and call the result of that experiment the will of the people. The electorate does not necessarily represent all of the people. one has to determine the composition of the electorate. but it would be divorced from fact. there is structural bias in the Constitution toward divided government. minority or non-white voters) and urban voters to the polls. Separation of powers along with other constitutional mechanisms may be necessary. General elections will attract relatively greater numbers of first-time voters (i.'"" One could make such a claim. To validate this claim. If one wants to know the will of the electorate. The last two election cycles offer good examples of this phenomenon. the presidency every four years. Motivations change from one election to the next. ineffective legislation. This may be the most compelling argument for divided government. younger voters. which better reflects the will of the majority. Election results may represent the will of the electorate. Surely the electorate (and. thus. and one third of the Senate every two years). the result of elections should not be called the will of the people. it is likely that the resulting legislation will have little or no effect on resolving the policy issue in dispute. current House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stated that in the 2010 mid-term elections. Adding to this problem of representation is that the outcome of elections or legislation adopted by Congress is the will of the people. but one election under dramatically different circumstances determined by a vastly different (and smaller) electorate does not offer sufficient evidence for understanding the overarching will of the people." as opposed to compromise. In a democracy. only the results of an election represents the will of those people who are motivated to vote. In other words. what positive purpose does that serve? The idea may get lost in the compromise.. true compromise seems to produce watered-down.e. This argument falls flat both on the surface and in substance. is more than that. the current political system is the result of constitutional design. There is a problem with ftill representation in elections. Rather. Advocates of divided government believe that it is more representative of the electorate. as does the electorate (see graph on page 170).'^ In preferring compromise over perceived party overreach.' Due to dissimilar electorates. general and midterm elections produce different but not necessarily representative results. supporters of divided government believe that bipartisanship produces better policy results. For example. the will of the people). Consequently. not a structural artifact of the Constitution. Whereas voter turnout was higher for minority and young voters in 2008." Is splitting the difference necessarily a good thing? Generally. The will of the electorate can be discerned through an election. Here one finds a noticeable difference in voter turnout in the general elections of 2008 and the midterm elections of 2010. And if bad legislation is proposed by one party but is made slightly better by the . Another claim put forth by advocates of divided government is that in a unified government party overreach threatens the will of the people. '" If two opposing parties actually agree on some statutory provisions. but for a robust democracy it is certainly not sufficient.INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE REVIEW 169 the president are not elected in the same election cycle (the entire House membership faces an election every two years.

washingtonpost. Thus. "First-term Presidential Midterms since 1990. 2011). in a unitary government the contrast between parties is easier for the voter to discern.png (accessed July 13. even with unified govemment. that is. supermajority in the Senate. and control of the White House. A party can express dissent whether or not it has power." Washington Post. In fact.com/ezra-kein/assets c/2010/08/first term presidential midterms since 1990 thumb 454x274-23964." Would it not be better for the voter to see the fruits of bad legislation adopted by one party. not some watered-down product of compromise. In American politics. the opposing party can generally assume a position that can bring the gears of govemment grinding to a halt. if things go wrong. NUMBERS 3 & 4 How the electorate changed from 2008 to 2010 • 2008 • 2010 Female White Black Hispanic Percentage of the electorate . and good legislation by the other and decide who deserves blame or credit for the bill with full knowledge of which party is responsible for the policy he/she prefers? Accountability. other. a filibuster-proof. 2010. November 1. no one is to blame. is the virtue of action under a unitary govemment. http://voices." . overreach is possible only when the party in power enjoys an overwhelming majority. Another problem with compromise is that it dispenses with accountability. dissent would be more frequent and create a clearer contrast when the opposing party is completely removed from power. overreach is merely an expression of the will of the people. what good comes out of that situation? A half bad idea is still a bad idea.170 VOLUME 86. Perhaps in those instances when the public and govemment are united in purpose. Source: Ezra Klein.'« But in ordinary times. Once the opposition party gets involved in shaping legislation. 2. a clear majority in the House of Representatives.

2.org/blog/jborowski/reins-act-no-major-regulations-without-congres. but it often brings govemment to a standstill." FreedomWorks. 2010. and the outcome of an election becomes a referendum on the actions of that party Second. Julie Borowski and Dick Amery. 1. 13-16. 1961).freedomworks. thus allowing govemment to function more efficiently Supporters of divided govemment might champion gridlock. The Federalist Papers (New YorkMentor Books. gridlock is not an issue.cnn. if allowed to participate in the decision-making process. divided govemment is harmful to American govemance. http://washingtonexaminercom/op-eds/7009/ns/ gov-halev-barbour-obamacare-going-too-f'ar-too-soon-too-fast-and-costing-too-miich (accessed December 13. "A Case for Divided Government.INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE REVIEW 171 To be sure. 2010. September 23. "Gridlock in the Government of the United States: Influence of . http://transcrints. This may prove quite damaging because the party out of power. which empowers voters to hold those in power accountable. 322." Washington Examiner." watered-down legislation.st com/wpdvn/content/article/2010/10/08/AR2010100804315. Worst of all. unified government allows the public to hold a party accountable for the consequences of the policies it adopts. USA. "November Election Results Will Vindicate or Undercut Obama. "I'm on Speed Dial Now. How can anyone remain convinced that divided government should be equated with good governance for the United States when all of the problems associated with it could be largely eradicated through a unified govemment that operates in accordance with constitutional principles? ENDNOTES 'Alexander Hamilton. It further complicates an already complex process of rewarding and punishing political parties for the state of the union. First. too fast. too soon. unified government removes the headache of gridlock. for example. 1-2. limiting discussion on issues while subjecting essential legislation to partisan politics. "Obamacare is going too far. It creates more problems than solutions by causing gridlock and producing "centrist. there are disadvantages to unified govemment. 'William A. It generates a political climate where gamesmanship takes priority over leadership. Niskanen.washingtonpo. 1-2. the electorate will be well informed of the ruling party's objectives. the party in power is unequivocally responsible for legislation enacted. and costing too much. but its advantages far outweigh the flaws of divided govemment. http:// www. August 12. "REINS Act: No Major Regulations without Congressional Approval. 2011). 2010)." John King.2010).html (accessed May 19. George F Will. 2011). ^See. October 10.'* In sum. 'Manabu Saeki." Washington Post.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1011/04/ikiisa 01 html (accessed May 19. This increases the quality of democracy. Under unified govemment. 2011). "Haley Barbour.s (accessed May 19. Under unified govemment. November I4' 2010.php?pub id=3088 (accessed December 13. This has become a particulariy acute problem lately because of the increasing frequency of divided government which has been accompanied by a significant rise in partisanship. may be less inclined to support policies that could benefit the country than it would like to see a good policy fail (to the detriment of the country) if it reflects badly on the party in power.cato. the American voter has shown no preference for divided govemment. Mitch McConnell. James Madison." http://www.org/pub displav. httD://www. 2009.org. and John Jay.

2011).com/ezra-klein/2010/1 I/what drives elections. December 20.washingtonpost." Wall Street Journal." Washington Post.org. the Ronald R. The provisions in the act concerning derivatives 'watered-down or eliminated those requirements" that could prevent future implosions of the derivatives market.w e e k e n d . http:// transcripts. http:// transcripts.Ol. '"John Boehner.freedomworks. http://www. nobody can really be . Simon Johnson. November 3. 2. no. no. '"Citi Weekend' Shows Too-Big-to-Fail Endures." John King.com.t o o . 2010. 1-3. "REINS Act: No Major Regulations Without Congressional Approval. "In his criticism of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Roscoe. 1. Johnson has expressed concern that the world's largest banks cannot be regulated effectively by the provisions of the bill. "Ezra Klein. 1-2. the govemment lacks any legal authority to handle that situation.s h o w s .b i g .bloomb e r g . *Ibid (both quotes). Democrats might have accepted compromise to gain quick passage of financial regulation reform. November 14." British Journal of Political Science 24. 2011). Another complaint against the bill is the failure to include effective derivatives regulation.172 VOLUME 86. http:// voices. c o m / n e w s / 2 0 1 1-01-18/-cit i . 4 (November 2003): 1160. "The Choosers or the Choices? Voter Characteristics and the Structure of Electoral Competition as Explanations for Ticket-Splitting. some of which have been blamed for the recent financial crisis and economic recession. 13-16. January 17. 'Douglas D.html (accessed May 19.f a i l . 2011). "November Election Results Will Vindicate or Undercut Obama. http://www. USA. 1. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. public policy and finance consultant Richard Eskow maintains that "by using compromise as an excuse to dilute the authority of regulators. though passed under a Democrat-controlled House and Senate.html (accessed December 9. disagree. September 23. November 1. 2011). 3 (July 2009):587. 2010. Several renowned economists. http://voices. "Democrats Lost Big Because Young Voters Stayed Home." Bloomberg. Ezra Klein." Journal of Politics 65.html (accessed June 25. including Simon Johnson. 4 (October 1994):534." Washington Post.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/10/08/AR201010084315.html (accessed June 25. http://online.washingtonpost. 2010.2011). http://www. 1-2. 2010.wsi." Washington Post. Some believed that the act would be strong enough to effectively reform Wall Street financial practices. 2010).Ol.org/blog/ jborowski/reins-act-no-major-regulations-without-conpress (accessed May 19. 2010). 'David Mckay. 2009. "I'm on Speed Dial Now.html (accessed May 19. USA. "How Overhauling Derivatives Died.cnn.html (accessed May 19. contained many concessions to Republicans. '"The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. "McConnell. 1. "Will." Freedomworks. 2011. Wall Street lobbying and Republican opposition thwarted that plan. 2010. "What Is GOP's Agenda?" John King.t o .html (accessed May 24." British Journal of Political Science 39. no. Randall Smith and Sarah Lynch. '-Borowski and Amery. NUMBERS 3 & 4 Divided Government and Veto Players.com/article email/SB 10001420527487047182045761647081768 8220 IMvOjAxMDA5MDlWNDYvWi. 2010. October 10. "Divided and Govemed? Recent Research on Divided Govemment in the United States.e n d u r e scommentary-by-simon-johnson.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1011/04/jkusa. 2011). He argues that if one of those banks were to go bankrupt.cnncom/TRANSCRIPTS/lOll/04/ikusa. November 4. "What Drives Elections.washinptonpost.com/ezraklein/2010/11/democrats lost big because vou.

leaving nobody in particular in charge of looking out for consumer interests.house.S. "Party Divisions in the House of Representatives. Approximately twenty-four percent of all clôture motions filed since then have occurred during the last three Congresses (109"^-l 11*) when the Republicans have been in the minority. Government.249 clôture motions since 1950. November 13. Senate. Rather. and other tactics.2011). 2011). Both argue that the compromise was the wrong policy. See U. See Alan Fram. 2010. and Bush and Republicans could take political cover in the fact that a Democrat-contt-olled White House and Congress extended the Bush tax cuts.htm (accessed June 13. to the same policy Obama could blame Bush for the resulting debt from his tax cuts. Rachel Maddow and Simon Johnson offer a similar assessment concerning the compromise that extended the Bush tax cuts. "During periods of unified government. Democrat and Republican. A minority party can also stall government by assuming an unrelenting position that slows down government through the use of false amendments. respectively. htm (accessed June 13. March 1. For example.gov/pagelayout/reference/cloture motions/clotureCounts. Similar policy packages have not been successfully adopted in the era of divided government over the past four decades. 1789-Present. filibusters. '"Under unified government in the pre-Nixon era. 2011).gov/house historv/partvDiv aspx (accessed June 13.msn. with the exception of the Eisenhower presidency Since 1969.2011)." Hufflngton Post.S.senate. the United States has been under divided government. Rachel Maddow and Simon Johnson. This is a stunning increase in the use of legislative maneuvers to stall legislation or produce a more desirable result for the minority party. and the budget battle of 2011. MSNBC. [Compromise] difïuses authority and responsibility." Richard Eskow. 2011). when one party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress. as shown in the adoption of New Deal and Great Society legislation in the 1930s and 1960s. $20 Billion for Bonuses—and Dodd Still Wants to Compromise. 2. legislation enacted by Congress and executed by presidents should be perceived as the will of the people due to the consistency of the people electing the same party to govern. During periods of unified government in the pre-Nixon era.msnbc. "The Rachel Maddow Show. the possibility of overreach is quite low. 1995." Seattle Times.seattletimes . "No Accountability in NY or DC: $15 for Jobs. U. in the U." http://senate.S. http://communitv. '"Instances of unified government were more frequent in the pre-Nixon era. The United States was mostly under unified government from 1921 to 1969.gove/pagelavout/history/one term and teasers/partvdiv. Senate. 1993-1995. and that such a move ties President Obama to President Bush.S." http://www. "Clinton Vetoes Borrowing Bill^Government Shutdown Nears as Rhetoric Continues to Rail. U.html (accessed June 13. http://www. 1-2. U." http://artandhistory.S. 2010. Government. 9-16. Senate. Government. Since divided government has become the norm in recent years.com/ rieskow/no-accountabilitv-in-ny-j b 481049. U. com/id/40566739/ns/msnbs tv rachel maddow show (accessed June 13. 5-6.S. the overreaching policies of those governments were clear. there have been 1." December 7. "Senate Action on Clôture Motions.INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE REVIEW 173 blamed when things go wrong. in recent times divided government has produced gridlock that has led to a government shutdown following a budget battle in 1995. the debate over extending the Bush tax cuts. 1789-Present. and 2009-2011.huffingtonpost. except for the periods 1977-1981. the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton. "Party Division in the Senate. Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. 7-9. http://www. the minority party usually relies on pariiamentary procedures to slow down or stop undesirable legislation favored by the majority.

com/archive/?date= 1995113&slug=2152355 (accessed June 13. Peter Baker and Helen Dewar. http://www.html (accessed June 13. Jonathan Bernstein. http://www." Washington Post. "Why Reaching a Debt Deal is So Hard.174 VOLUME 86. July 15. Says Government Shutdown Will Be Obama's Fault. 2010. 1-2. 2011). 2011). "Hill Extends Stop-Gap Bill. "The Senate Acquits President Clinton. Amanda Terkel.com/wp-sry/politics/special/clinton/stories/impeachO21399htm (accessed June 13." Huffington Post. November 7.com/news/stories/1210/46569. 2010.html (accessed June 13.politico. 2011). com/2010/11/07/eric-cantor-compromise-tax-cuts-obama n 780029. 2011). 1999. October 17. 1-2.huffingtonpost.html (accessed July 25. February 13." Politico. 1-2. "Eric Cantor Opposes Compromise on Extending Bush Tax Cuts. 2011). http://www. 1-2.washingtonpost. http://www. 2011. .com^logs/plumline/post/why-reaching-a-debt-deal-isso-hard/2011/07/15/gIOAjWyhGI blog. NUMBERS 3 & 4 newssource.washingtonpost. David Rogers. 1-7." Washington Post.

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