Politics

The Coalition of the Divided

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Dyre42 in a recent post.

“I think its important for bloggers to lay their biases out in the open. Particularly if one happens to be a moderate/centrist/independent. Moderates are supposed to be more objective than their more partisan counterparts.”

I agree. I think I have been pretty clear about my own bias here, but thought I’d take this opportunity to get more explicit as we sprint to the electoral finish.

To the surprise of no one who has been reading my recent posts and comments at the Donk, I have made a decision on how I will vote in November. I will be voting for divided government. As I expect that the Democrats will extend their majorities in both houses of Congress, the only way to accomplish that state is to support John McCain for President.

For me, this election choice is not really between “Experience” vs. “Change”, nor is it between “Experience” vs. “Experience”, nor is it between “Change” vs. “Change“. This election is not really even between McCain vs. Obama considered in a political vacuum. Since the Democrats will increase their majority in the House and Senate, this election is actually about choosing between one of these two federal government configurations in 2009:

  • CHOICE A:
    McCain/Palin ( R ) + Pelosi leading an expanded D majority in the House + Clinton/Reid leading an expanded D majority in the Senate.

    Two Republican reformers with a reputation for bucking their own party and launching bi-partisan initiatives working with a Democratic Party potentially holding the largest single party congressional majorities in modern history.

  • – OR –

  • CHOICE B:
    Obama/Biden (D) + Pelosi leading an expanded D majority in the House + Clinton/Reid leading an expanded D majority in the Senate.

    A toe-the-party-line Democratic President and a consummate Washington insider working with a Democratic Party potentially holding the largest single party congressional majorities in modern history.

That is an easy choice. I am voting for what I firmly believe to be in the best interest of the country. By voting for divided government I am voting to distribute power rather than concentrate power. I am voting to reinforce the checks, balances and separation of power enshrined in the Constitution and not voting to undermine those constitutional constructs. To that end I will also vote for my Democratic congressional representative, Nancy Pelosi, and I will contribute to the DCCC to help Democrats extend their majority in the House.


There is a lot of campaigning left. Is it possible that events over the next few months might change my vote? Certainly. I don’t expect it, but it could happen. The single biggest factor would be if the Republicans look like they might retake Congress. Doug discussed this possibility in a recent post.

I don’t believe for a second that will happen and in fact, I expect the opposite and that the Democrats will expand their majorities. Still, I’ll watch it closely. If I come to believe that the Republicans will retake Congress, I will switch and support Barack Obama for President, despite deep personal misgivings about his readiness to be Commander in Chief. I would far prefer that a leader with his limited level of experience spend 4-8 years as Vice President before taking on the top job. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt on qualifications, rather than vote for a president who will take office with a boot-licking Congress from the same party. That always turns out badly.

Despite the fact that Donklephant has recently become primarily a forum for debate about the merits of the Republican VP nominee (a forum in which I have been an overly active participant), Palin was not a factor in my decision. She certainly makes it easier for me to vote for McCain, as I find the ticket much more palatable with her on it than it would have been with one of the hacks (Romney, Giuliani, Lieberman, etc.) bandied about before the selection. I also think she significantly improves the chances for McCain to win (which I still consider a longshot), assuming she does not turn into Dan Quayle between now and the election. So far, so good.

I must admit I am still nursing deep psychological wounds inflicted by JG in a comment on one of my posts earlier in the year:

“…there are simply too many holes in the divided government philosophy for anybody but yourself to really buy into it.” – JG

That comment motivated me to get more aggressive about identifying and promoting like-minded bloggers and pundits writing in support of a divided government voting heuristic.

Between now and the election, I will be accelerating the “Carnival of Divided Government” compilations posted at my blog from a monthly to a weekly cycle. The carnival offers links, excerpts and commentary from writers and pundits thinking about the topic of divided government. Some sample links from the most recent edition here:

In addition, here are a couple of interesting MSM essays commenting on the topic last week, both published too late for inclusion in the last Carnival, but will be in the next and previewed here:

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times has advice for both campaigns, but particularly good advice for McCain in his Op-Ed column “Surprise Me Most“:

If I were McCain, I’d make the divided government argument explicit. The Republicans are intellectually unfit to govern right now, but balancing with Democrats, they might be able to do some good. I’d have McCain tell the country that he looks forward to working with Congressional Democrats, that he is confident they can achieve great things together.”

Duncan Currie writing in The American analyzes what we might expect out of such a divided government led by a McCain administration in “2009: A White House Odyssey“:

“At the forum in Minneapolis, Senator Kyl observed that some of the biggest domestic reforms in recent decades have been produced by divided government. Prominent examples include the 1986 tax reform bill (passed by a Democratic House and signed by President Reagan) and the 1996 welfare reform bill (passed by a GOP Congress and signed by President Clinton). “It’s an interesting and somewhat paradoxical phenomenon,” Kyl said. With a President McCain and a Democratic Congress, “it might be possible to tackle a couple of big things.” As Kyl noted, McCain is “very unpredictable” and has repeatedly “worked on big things with Democrats.What “big things” might be feasible under a McCain administration? Two possibilities are immigration reform and a “cap-and-trade” system to regulate carbon emissions.”

As I’ve mentioned before, I harbor no illusions that strategic voting for divided government will ever be anything more than a small minority view. My guess is -at best- it can serve as an organizing principle for about half of what David Boaz and David Kirby identified as The libertarian swing vote – so maybe 6% of the electorate could be enticed by this voting heuristic at the most. However, if the election is close, balanced and polarized, that six percent – as a true swing vote – could determine the outcome of the election, as it arguably did in the 2006 mid-terms.

To help our small band of blogging Dividicans find each other, I’ve begun to maintain a Coalition of the Divided Blogroll (located in right side bar of my blog – link here) . Any bloggers or commenters I find writing in support of divided government will be automatically included.

I’ve been flogging this concept for a couple of years and think I’ve heard all the arguments against voting for divided government, both in general arguments and those specifically focused on the 2008 election. In my next post I will endeavor to address the arguments I found compelling. Any readers who would like to seem me respond to specific arguments or issues, let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to address them in that post.

Please note that arguments of the form “Republicans are the spawn of satan and Democrats are the agents of angels.” are actually not arguments but statements of your partisan belief system. I can’t help you with that.

Excerpted from the “Carnival of Divided Government 25” at DWSUWF