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Be careful what you wish for

This isn’t an official installment of the “Imperfect Union” series, but I’m sticking in an extra point on the side after noticing a fresh Gallup. Gallup found in September that a record number of Americans say it would be “better for the country” if the president and the Congress were all controlled by the same political party.

Calling it a record number is a little bit of hype (by me). Gallup has asked the question 11 times since 2003, so we shouldn’t speak for much of U.S. history. Also it’s a mere 38 percent plurality who say now that one-party conhtrol of all the elected branches would be best. Twenty-three percent say it’s best to have divided control and an astonishing 33 percent say it makes no difference. Not sure what they’re smoking.

Still, the percentage who wish for single-party control is the highest Gallup has ever found, up from the previous high of 35 percent. The big jump comes from Democrats, of whom 49 percent express a preference for one-party rule, compared with 36 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of independents. Gallup’s writeup says that since they’ve been asking the question, there has always been a surge in a presidential election year and especially among members of the party that controls the White House and has a candidate up for reelection.

On the other hand, Gallup finds, the number favoring single-party rule goes down on the occasions when we have actually had single-party rule. Oy.

The element missing from the analysis — and it’s also missing from the question — is whether very many Americans would favor single-party rule if the single party that ruled was the party that they don’t belong to. You can’t cross-examine a poll result, but I suspect that number is very low.

Americans don’t like gridlock. And the latest version of gridlock is about as bad as it’s ever been with increasingly frightening consquences (see the on-rushing “fiscal cliff”). But there is no sure-fire way to bring back the old norms of compromise and nothing built into the system to end gridlock.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/02/2012 - 09:55 am.

    When powers are split between the two parties…

    …there is a certain advantage.

    Since the public trusts NEITHER party, hamstringing them both can restrict the HARM either can do. Think of it as self-defense for the electorate. But then there are problems with this, too – especially in the current environment.

    Let’s not forget that even when the powers have resided substantially with one party, over the years it has still been necessary to court the votes of the other side – e.g., the civil rights legislation of the 60s comes to mind.

    But when one party spits on the very idea of compromise, when every last little thing is “us vs. them” to the leaders of both parties, the national interest takes a back seat. It’s not just the Republicans, either – the Democratic House in Obama’s first term shoved it to the Republicans to the extent the GOP swore revenge. What goes around comes around.

  2. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/02/2012 - 10:45 am.


    I favor a strong two party system.

    But I also favor one where both sides are willing to compromise.

    Since that isn’t presently possible in Minnesota with the current leadership of the Republican party, then I strongly support trying to elect as many DFL legislators as possible.

    If this effort is successful, in the long run, it will force some changes to be made on the GOP side. Currently the party seems to be run by a strange mixture of Tea Party types, PaulBots, and what I will politely call right wingers.

    My less than confident prediction is that there will eventually be a tsunami of reaction to the status quo and that something will have to give.

    Hopefully it will be the GOP.

    There are plenty of good Republicans and fiscal conservatives in the GOP. It is time for them to re-take control of their party.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/02/2012 - 11:03 am.

    Careful, careful

    Indeed, be careful what you wish for. It’s more than a little astonishing that 1/3 of those polled think it makes no difference, and the temptation is to assume that these are people uninterested and unengaged – until very recently, I was inclined to lean toward that assumption myself. Recently, however, I’m more and more coming around to, if not that viewpoint exactly, at least something that’s sympathetic to that view, and my change in viewpoint is primarily due to the increasing, and increasingly obvious, influence of a relative handful of “people of money,” and the financial “industry,” on national policy.

    If they weren’t so neofascist about so many other things, I might be able to get on board the Tea Party express, largely on the basis of disgust with the way that office-holders of almost every stripe, once elected, become pawns (a polite term I’m using today instead of the word typically used to describe what is often referred to as “the world’s oldest profession”) of whatever special interests did the most to help them secure the office. Instead of running for office to serve the public, and even when someone DOES run for office to serve the public, the enterprise turns, all too quickly and all too often, into serving the interest(s) of the biggest campaign contributors.

    I do think a parliamentary system would go a long way toward eliminating the current recurring gridlock at national and state levels, but adopting it would require a “go back to square one and start over” constitutional convention, which I believe would be the death of the republic if it were to take place in something resembling the current political climate.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/02/2012 - 03:14 pm.

      Perhaps there is another way besides “square one”

      A rise of 3rd and 4th parties could solve the impasse if they earned enough legislative seats – then, in order to be able to enact a legislative program, the major parties would have to bargain with the lesser parties, by forming coalitions, as in the parliamentary systems. I’m not saying this would be without its problems, but it would be better than where we’re at now.

      So what stands in the way? The MSM and other significant entities consistently marginalize those lesser parties, assuring they are not given a fair hearing in front of the voting public. Another factor is the way the public financing of campaigns is restricted. More lenient business rules to qualify for public financing, at all levels of government, would allow third parties to grow. If lesser parties were to grow, the major parties would be weakened.

      The major parties are utterly in the thrall of their major campaign contributions and the special interests who generate them. It is hard to see a way out of this, and I expect the current political class in office will be of no help.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/02/2012 - 01:02 pm.

    It’s easier to say ‘they’re all crooks’ and write the whole process off than to do the homework necessary to make an informed decision about which party is significantly more crooked than the other.
    And in the Day of the Net it’s almost as easy to simply cut and paste from a source whose bias agrees with yours. Try Googling on phrases pasted by some members of this list — there really should be quotation marks around them.

  5. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/02/2012 - 06:24 pm.

    Let Me Ask the “Impossible”

    Since it’s probably the only solution to the problem at hand:

    We desperately need state and federal constitutional amendments to provide for strict time limits (weeks, rather than months and years) and strictly-enforced public financing of political campaigns.

    The ONLY way to encourage politicians to be responsive to those who vote for them (rather than selling their souls to the big money contributors who finance their campaigns) is to level the campaign playing field and make each politician win election through their ability to engagingly and efficiently convey their ideas and ideals and proposed solutions to their region’s and our nation’s problems,…

    to the general public.

    Although our big money, big business friends would scream bloody murder if we cut them off from buying up our government, lock, stock and barrel, (including the media companies who are absorbing so many $Billions in this year’s campaigns media buys that its a wonder they bother to provide programming between the political ads)…

    the need to protect the interests of the general public would guarantee that politicians would treat the businesses in their districts, states, and our nation fairly even without such massive political contributions to influence them.

    Enshrining campaign finance reform in our constitutions is the only way to revert to government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” from what we currently have far too much of: government of those with the most money, by those with the most money, for those with the most money.

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