Keep the House Divided

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Reason writers around town: At the Orange County Register (free reg. req.), Brian Doherty makes the case for Kerry and divided government.

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  1. *Excellent* article, Brian. I agree completely, and thanks for the eloquent reminder.

  2. The funny thing is, the Founders designed government to be divided – into the three branches. I guess it is a sign of how badly their Constitution has been abused that we now think of divided government in terms of political parties, as if the transient distribution of power among parties is of more import than the structure of government itself.

  3. That still works sometimes, RC. Bill Clinton had trouble with his Democratically controlled House and Senate, because Party loyalty has historically not been that strong in the US. One interesting feature of Bush’s presidency has been how well he’s been able to enforce party discipline, almost like a European party in a parliamentary system.

  4. RC,

    One feature of the past presidential term that doesn’t get enough play is the way the Republican Senate leadership has abandoned the prickly independence that has always defined that institution, and has begun acting like the House in its dealings with the White House. This has become especially pronounced under Frist.

    Time was, a Senator felt more akin to another Senator from the opposition party than to a President in his own party.

    Robert Byrd’s attacks on the White House, and on his fellow Senators, in the run up to the war are very illuminating on this point.

  5. R.C. Dean,

    I’m afraid that you’re dead wrong. Read Federalist #10; in that document Madison goes into detail concerning the nature of the new government’s ability to not end faction (political parties would be one type), but to regulate it. Thus it was designed specifically to work in a world where political factions existed; where they worked in a divided government, but were regulated by that government. Thus the notion that we divide along party lines would not be surprising to Madison, nor would the notion that our political institutions and form of government were so divided.

  6. Sandy,

    Clinton only had Democratic majorities the first two years of his regime. The party disciple that Bush has enjoyed is due to the rally round the Pres. sentiment post 9/11. There are signs that the Republicans in congress are starting to show independence which, given Bush’s proclivity toward big government, is a good thing.

  7. ” One interesting feature of Bush’s presidency has been how well he’s been able to enforce party discipline,…”-Sandy

    To the extent that this is true, I would think it has a lot to do with the Senate being almost evenly divided. However, I don’t think that this is particularly true. The fact is, except for the tax cuts and maybe the judicial appointments, I am at a loss to think of any other legislative issue Bush put the bully pulpit behind that broke strictly on party lines. The House has been more conservative than the Senate, but that has often been at Bush’s displeasure, and Senate liberal GOPers have dragged legislation further left than Bush has wanted.

  8. “The fact is, except for the tax cuts and maybe the judicial appointments, I am at a loss to think of any other legislative issue Bush put the bully pulpit behind that broke strictly on party lines.” Well, there’s the gay marriage amendment.

    But for the most part,the party discipline has expressed itself in things that haven’t come to the floor, rather than things that have.

  9. “One interesting feature of Bush’s presidency has been how well he’s been able to enforce party discipline,…”-Sandy

    Umm, no. When Bush opposes something behind the scenes, but signs it anyway after it passes with the votes of most Democrats and some moderate Republicans, that’s not party discipline. (See, McCain-Feingold.) Similarly, when he threatens a veto on spending bills, but backs down and signs them anyway when the Appropriations Committee bipartisanly fills it with pork, that’s not party discipline either. And he has done that. That’s more like the “Senators having more in common with other Senators” thing.

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