07 November 2018

America Voted, And The Winner Was...."None Of The Above"

The results are in, and once again the American electorate has voted for gridlock.

With a number of races still to be called in the House, the Democrats thus far have an absolute minimum of seats needed to control that chamber.  The Republicans, meanwhile have added at least 3 seats to their majority in the Senate.

The legacy media is already giving their typical partisan spin on the results: Dana Milbank at the highly left-leaning Washington Post titled his assessment "America Steps Back From The Abyss". Fox News, ever the reliable establishmentarian conservative outlet, reaches the opposite conclusion with "Thanks to Trump, the Blue Wave Becomes a Ripple.".

Ultimately, both are wrong.

One of the enduring myths of government in the modern era is the notion that Americans want government to do much. Historically, Americans take a dim view of activist government. Since World War II, there have been only 14 out of 37 sessions of Congress (including the upcoming session) where the same party controlled the Senate, the House, and the Presidency:

During that same period, America has had 20 sessions of Congress with a Republican President and only 17 sessions with a Democrat President. Republicans have controlled the Senate for 13 sessions and the House for 11 Sessions. Only once has America voted to give a President a unified Congress, and that was in 2002, when President George W. Bush was handed a Republican Senate to go with a Republican House. In 2010 and now again in 2018 the voters have responded to unified government by giving control of the House to the opposition party.

What America rejects is not so much Democrat and Republican politicians, but rather unified and effective government under either.  If there is any historical consensus among the electorate, it is for a Republican President with at least one chamber of Congress in Democratic hands. Partisanship is not the expressed will of We The People, not over the long term.

America's notion of good government, then, is not government that is either Democrat Blue or Republican Red. Good government in this Republic is Democrats and Republicans together addressing the nation's issues and attending to the nation's business.  Divided government produced the 1986 tax reforms under Ronald Reagan, and the 1996 welfare reforms under Bill Clinton.

In contrast, the unified Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson ended in the social upheaval and chaos of 1968. The unified Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter resulted in "stagflation" which ushered in the Reagan era. The unified Republican administration of George W. Bush authorized Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unified Democratic administration of  Barack Obama resulted in Obamacare.

America's experience of unified government does not encourage us to indulge in it often.

If there is an election mandate arising from the 2018 midterm election results it is this: Democrats and Republicans must work together, and the Congress must work with the President to conduct this nation's business. If there is an electoral rebuke to be derived from these results it is to the notion that either party is much trusted by the American electorate with untrammeled power.  America prefers government that does what is necessary but no more than that--Americans prefer government to do too little than too much.

When given the choice between Democrats in power and Republicans in power, the choice of We The People has been once again "none of the above."

Hopefully, our elected officials in Washington will understand this and will behave accordingly.

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