Legislative Politics

Let’s Check Some Predictions on Divided Government

Oct 4 '11

Matt Bai, January 7, 2010:

bq. Sure, all things being equal, a president would rather have his allies firmly in control than not. But recent presidents have had more success when forced to work with slim majorities in Congress, or even none at all.

Jonathan Rauch, March 25, 2010:

bq. Under those conditions, the only way to achieve sustainable bipartisanship is to divide control of the government, forcing the parties to negotiate in order to get anything done. That pulls policy toward the center, which encourages reasonableness.

Brendan Nyhan, March 30, 2010:

bq. However, many of the “remaining challenges” that Rauch describes as “daunting” — “the economy (especially employment); financial reform; energy and the environment; above all, an impending fiscal train wreck” — are likely to be more, not less, difficult to address with a Republican House…If the new median voter in the House or the new filibuster pivot in the Senate is more conservative than the current filibuster pivot, then the “gridlock zone” expands to the right, blocking action on more issues even if those proposals would move the policy status quo toward the center. The relevant change in policy is likely to be more gridlock, not more policy compromise on important issues.

Me, October 29, 2010:

bq. Divided government creates gridlock. And when it does produce legislation, the president finds that legislation much less palatable than if his party were in control…Political scientist Sarah Binder…measured both the size of the policy agenda and the number of agenda items that failed to be addressed with any enacted law. Divide the latter by the former and you have a measure of gridlock. Binder found that gridlock increases under divided government.

[Hat tip to this tweet by Brendan.]