How important is divided government?

I was reading this Telegraph article article, and part of it popped out at me:

Now, I definitely lean more towards the Democrats than the Republicans, and I’ll be voting for Obama, but I don’t really like the idea of one party having control of too much of the government. And it got me thinking - should I vote for a Republican Congresscritter, to prevent it? What’s more important - having a government you agree with, or having a healthy opposition (bear in mind, I’m not even talking about a Republican-controlled Senate, just one without 60 Dems)? What think you all?

Personally, I don’t think California’s 8th District is going to elect a Republican no matter how I vote, but if I was in a different place, I think I might well go for it. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with how a Republican-dominated government policed itself, and I don’t think I trust the Democrats to deny themselves power. That’s the crux of it, for me - that old saw about absolute power and all. I may agree with most Dem positions, but I don’t think it’s good for them to have a blank check.

Was talking to my dad about this. We’re both Republicans, him more than I. And we said, yeah. Two years of a dem-controlled congress will pretty much sweep some of this stuff clean, we hope. We can live with that.

I tend to think that if each branch is doing their job, there will be a balance of power. Did a Democratic Congress bend to the will of Bill Clinton to pass a health care reform act? For better or for worse, no.

I think that the Republican Congresses of early this decade did a horrible job of maintaining checks on a Republican President. The vote for war with Iraq was rushed through with no oversight, tax cuts were profligate, and nobody thought to see if FEMA’s horse-riding director could manage his way out of a paper bag in an emergency.

Whether Reid and Pelosi will adopt this reckless, anti-Constitutional, 100% partisan/political viewpoint is anyone’s guess. I would certainly hope that they would follow through with the checks and balances intended by the Founders. Really, our government ought to be divided by checks and balances, even when not divided by party.

The old pendulum analogy works. The repubs had their way and trashed everything. Now we have to try to get things back toward the middle. We have a long way to swing back. I do not see the dems as dangerous. The repubs have shown that they can be. Hopefully that arm of the repubs has been discredited enough so they will go away quietly.

Divided government works when both parties are relatively sane and focused on actually running the country well. When you have one party that’s gone off the deep end, as we do this election, it’s better to risk a couple of years of one-party rule by the sane party rather than give the crazy people the reins again.

Ha! They’re not going to go away quietly. They’re gearing up for a civil war within the Republican party. You think they purged their moderates the last 10 years or so? That’s nothing compared to the bloodbath that’s coming. Anyone who hasn’t been 100% in lockstep with the McCain campaign and the Cult of Sarah is going to be savaged by the Freeper contingent.

Well, if it turns into a disaster, you can dump the Dem congress and some of the Dem Senators in two years and the Dem president and even more Dem senators in four years, so what’s the big deal?

I guess it depends on the size of the disaster…

Yeah, that’s my view too. I think this notion of divided government only really works when there’s significant time lapse, and you’ve actually been able to evaluate the performance of the sitting president, you’ve looked at the big picture of what needs to be done, and decided that the incentives of partisan party politics might actually be helpful.

But you don’t just hit the reset button for a presidential election. If partisan party politics isn’t likely to helpful it’s not a very good reason to split a ticket. In this case, we’ve had decades of Republican malfeasance, we’ve got economic turmoil and a horizon of myriad other policy challenges that need to be addressed. So, I think it is entirely legitimate to think Obama is going to need some serious legislative muscle to accomplish what needs to be done.

Anyway, this is a topic I don’t think you can meaningfully discuss in the abstract. It should always be about the merit of individual candidates - if they’re good moderate Republicans, then that’s one thing, but electing reactionaries out of some nebulous and ill-defined sense of gridlock isn’t helpful or good civics.

The reality is most voters don’t bifurcate their mind about voting like this - the top of the ticket is usually more determinative.

While I agree that a split Congress / Presidency can generally be considered a good thing, I am extraordinarily fearful of an undivided Supreme Court. As has been mentioned in other threads, the next president is likely to make just two appointments (barring unexpected circumstances), and those two are likely to be more liberal justices. To me, a balanced SC is an order of magnitude more important than a balanced Congress/Presidency.

Parliamentary systems never have a “divided government” in the OP’s sense, but they seem to function well enough regardless.

A divided government is great if you like gridlock. I happen to think the government has some important work to do in the next four to eight years.

Remember, too, that the “one-party government” we’re theoretically talking about would be in the hands of Democrats, who will always find plenty of reasons to squabble among themselves.

I think you’re probably saying the same thing, but just to make it explicit, the status quo balance argument is about which justices are likely to being replaced.

So, replacing a liberal with a liberal is a neutral, status-quo preserving change. Whereas replacing a liberal justice with a conservative, as would be likely if McCain was elected, would be a radical change that shifts the court significantly further to the right.

Thank you for the added clarity – yes, an Obama Presidency would likely keep the Supreme Court in a tenuous balance, whereas a McCain Presidency would likely put the conservative wing in power for many years.

I don’t think, however, that Obama is just likely to pick “liberal” justices – even if more than two openings appear or a conservative justice retires. That is one of the things I’ve noted from earrrrly on in the primaries. As a Constitutional law professor, he is, to me, much more likely to put more O’Connors and swing votes on the court than a more predictably partisan appointment. Not that they won’t be left-leaning or favor a certain outlook, but I think his appointments will focus on jurisprudence more so than outcome.

McCain, however I used to feel, ended that notion with his pick of Palin. This is especially true of there is a vacancy during his first term – looking forward to running again, I think his reach out to the base will continue. I also don’t quite think he has the mental nuance to choose someone for other than political reasons.

Please don’t ask me what I think of a Palin pick.

While this could lead to a lot of 5-4 decisions without a clear rule, I think on balance that is better than a lot of 7-2 decisions that have partisanship at their root.