In November of 2006, Americans will go the polls to elect our congressional representatives once again. All of the members of the House of Representatives and a portion of the Senate will be up for election. Perhaps more than ever, it is vital that at least one house of congress elect a majority that is not of the same party as the current administration installed in the White House. Why? Because as Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The Republican party has enjoyed a majority in both houses of Congress and in the presidency for a number of years now. The result has been an extraordinary failure of leadership in each area of government. The “corruption” here is the erosion of the checks and balances in our government when there is a single party in control.
The Cato Institute has an excellent piece on why divided government works. The major factors of influence by single party control: War and Governmental spending are Cato's points of argument for divided government. Each example they provide shows that at least since the 1950's, our government works better (or as the Cato Institute says, works less, which may be the same thing) when one party is in control of the White House and the other has control of Congress. Ideally, we would see independents grow to the point that would require coalition governments, but that is unlikely in our system.
From the article:
American voters, in their unarticulated collective wisdom, have voted for a divided federal government for most of the past 50 years. Divided government is not the stuff of which legends are made. But the separation of powers is probably a better protection of our liberties when the presidency and the Congress are controlled by different parties
I would add a third factor of influence: Lack of governmental oversight is much higher when a single party controls the White House and Congress. The recent hoopla over Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's finding of the warrantless wiretapping by the Bush administration unconstitutional speaks volumes over the lack of the Congress in doing it's job. The matter of whether or not the Bush administration is breaking the law by conducting wiretaps without a warrant should not have to be settled in the courts. The Congress is responsible for writing the law. They should know whether or not the Bush Administration's behavior violates the statutes they have created or not. It's easy for the Congress to sit back and allow the courts to render a decision that never should have had to been made. It's red meat for some, who love decrying "activist judges" and "legislating from the bench". Had this action been done by a Democratic president, it's safe to say that there would be non-stop hearings on whether the administration had exceeded its authority.
An opposition Congress can have a chilling effect on the executive branch's actions, and it should. As the Cato Institute's article suggests, we seem to have better results with a divided government. This November's election, with luck will see a more balanced government prevail.