Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Is it a Good Thing that the Republicans didn't also take control of the Senate?

Strangely enough, the answer to that question is probably "yes". See why:

So ... We now have a House solidly under the control of the Republicans. As things stand now the Democrats will have a three seat advantage in the Senate. I'm not upset with this scenario. I've been wondering aloud for weeks what the effect might be on 2012 if the Republicans had both the House and the Senate ... with Obama standing alone as the champion of the Left at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It would be a classic "me vs. them" and would be so easy to spin in to an "Obama as besieged underdog" scenario. If the Republicans had taken the Senate it doesn't mean they would have been able to accomplish anything more than they can right now. Remember, it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass important legislation, and there was no way the GOP was going to have those seats. I think the Republicans are better off following their agenda and sending bills to the Senate ... if the Democrats and Obama want to block that legislation - a repeal of ObamaCare, for instance, or an extension of the Bush tax cuts - then the voters will clearly see where the roadblocks are being erected.


But for the time being, we will now have (as of January) a divided government. This is a government where at least one chamber of Congress is controlled by the other party of the president. For all of the kicking and screaming we are prepared to endure from the Democrats, for the rest of us concerned about our future, divided government can actually be a good thing. The Cato Institute has some insight for us ...

Our federal government may work better (less badly) when at least one chamber of Congress is controlled by a party other than the party of the president. The general reason for this is that each party has the opportunity to block the most divisive measures proposed by the other party. Other conditions, of course, also affect political outcomes, but the following types of evidence for this hypothesis are too important to ignore:

  • The rate of growth of real (inflation-adjusted) federal spending is usually lower with divided government.

  • The only two long periods of fiscal restraint were the Eisenhower administration and the Clinton administration, during both of which the opposition party controlled Congress.

  • The probability that a major reform will last is usually higher with a divided government because the necessity of bipartisan support is more likely to protect the reform against a subsequent change in the majority party.

The fact is, folks, is that we are headed into a crucial time in this country. We are at a crossroads. Yesterday, all we were doing was picking the people who would lead us down these roads. Now the journey begins. OK .. enough of the sappy metaphors. But do you understand what these next two years represent? We need fundamental change in this country - to our tax code, to Social Security, to Medicare and Medicaid, to deficit reduction - but I am not talking about the "fundamental" change that Barack Obama desires. Barack Obama, with the Democrats he has left, would prefer for our country to head down a path which punishes wealth, redistributes wealth, expands entitlements and expands government. The fundamental change that we now seek is not just stopping the Obama agenda from "moving forward" but reforming our nation in such a way that Americans can once again prosper.

So it's all for the good. The Democrats have been left with control of the Senate. If they block changes from Congress, they will have to accept full responsibility for it. They have been given enough rope to hang themselves. Of course, they don't HAVE to hang themselves. They could try working with Republicans. But I don't have a lot of faith that would happen. Not if they follow the president's lead:

After November, Obama will NOT be like Clinton

I could be wrong about that; time will tell. It's just that, Obama so far has shown a deplorable unwillingness to work in a bipartisan manner. He seems too ideologically rigid, too inflexible. Can he change? I doubt it, but the ball is in his court now. It's up to him, and his party, to make the most of it. Or not.

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