Do we have to accept the premise that a divided government is a bad government? That seems to be the assumption that many have had over the years. (Until this week's campaign, when our progressive friends told us that the House of Representatives had to be a check on the bigly badly guy at the White House.)
But now that the Democrats have taken the House, if not the Senate, will it be back to gridlock? And if so, is that necessarily a bad thing?
Was one-party government a good thing when Obamacare was pushed through Congress without one Republican "aye" vote?
Going back even further, after the 1932 presidential and congressional elections the Democrats held 313 seats in the House and padded their lead in the Senate. Which led to Franklin D. Roosevelt's first 100 days and the passing of all kinds of legislation--which made the Great Depression even greater.
The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 was supposed to stimulate economic activity by regulating wages and prices. We're not kidding. If regulating wages and prices could stimulate economic activity, Venezuela and Cuba would be world-beaters today. But after the market crash of '29, Dr. Fix the Economy was trying anything. Thank goodness, another part of the government that wasn't under his control, the United States Supreme Court, threw out the NIRA in 1935, and it was never heard from again.
Then there was the booming 1980s. How many years did Ronald Reagan have with a Republican speaker in the House of Representatives? Try none. In fact, in the election in which he trounced Walter Mondale--back in 1984--Tip O'Neill managed to hold onto the House with 253 Democrats.
We seem to remember the nation doing well in the 1980s.
Then there was the election of 1994, in which Newt Gingrich promised to hold votes on many matters important to the people if they'd only give Congress to his Republicans. He called his plan the Contract With America. When the people agreed, and gave a Democratic president a GOP House and Senate, what followed was balanced budgets, welfare reform and some very fruitful years for Americans and their government. Which also, it should be noted, led to a second term for Bill Clinton.
But still, the premise among many in the commentariat seems to be that for government to "work," it has to do something big "for" us. Why?
The mail can be delivered with a divided government in Washington. Checks to Social Security recipients can be electronically deposited with a divided government in Washington. Veterans can be treated in hospitals with a divided government in Washington. The Coast Guard can stop drug runners from washing ashore in Florida with a divided government in Washington.
If there's an emergency, sure, We the People will want our government to take action. If a hurricane hits, or a belligerent country makes a move, or if the economy tanks, we'll want acts of Congress, literally.
But the economy is running along nicely, there's no wolf at the door, there's no pandemic in our hospitals, there's no revolution in the streets. At times like this, why not tell the feds: Don't just do something, sit there.
And when there is an emergency, Americans of both parties can still come together. To wit: In the last month, the Congress addressed the opioid crisis with a sweeping bill that helps first responders stock an anti-overdose drug, lifts certain restrictions on treatments, and allows states more flexibility to combat addiction. The president signed the bill, but only after the House had passed it 393-8 and the Senate 98-1. Our founders would be proud.
Gridlock means, on the federal level anyway, that politicians will have a tougher time passing laws the rest of us will have to obey. But gridlock doesn't necessarily mean dysfunction.
Fact is, there were a few years recently when many of us would have preferred a little gridlock. For specifics, see above.
Editorial on 11/09/2018
Print Headline: When gridlock works