Home > News, Politics > Did Americans Vote for Divided Government?

Did Americans Vote for Divided Government?

Divided voters mean divided government. Source: CNN.

A columnist in today’s New York Times recycles the idea that “the public strongly prefers divided government.”

Divided government means that different political parties control the major institutions of government. For the last two years, the Democratic Party has had “undivided” control of the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.* In January, Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives, so the government will officially be divided.

According to Jonathan Rauch, who is a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, that’s how voters like it:

Consistently, when either party, never mind which, obtains total control, its popularity collapses and the voters take the first available opportunity to bring in the other side.

I suppose it depends on what he means by “the voters,” but that statement seems kind of silly.

Does any voter base her vote on a desire for divided government? To ask that question is to answer it.

Nobody says, “I like my representative, but there are too many Democrats in the House, so I’d better vote Republican.”

A lot of voters last week were just bitterly disappointed in the Democrats. Others were fooled or frightened by Republican campaign ads and Fox News (like there’s a difference). And a few people honestly believed that, for all their faults, the Republicans would do better for the country.

But nobody, regardless of party or ideology, based her vote on a desire for “divided government.”

That’s it for me, for today. Time to have dinner, then study. I hope that you have a great week!

* Republicans control the Supreme Court, but that’s not usually included in discussions of divided government.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

  1. November 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    I based my vote partially on the desire for a divided government. As an Independent I have reached the point where I do not trust the Republicans or the Democrats with complete control of our country. I think there is value in compromise. A single party with a super-majority in congress and control of the white house does not foster compromise. I have also been writing about it on my blog http://www.theindependentamerican.wordpress.com

    • November 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      Hi, Independent American —

      Well, then thank you! You have disproven my argument, which means that I now know more than I did before. 🙂

      I still believe that voting for divided government is rare. I wonder if there are any surveys that would give us both some real, solid information about it.

      Seriously, thank you for your comment. Winning an argument means finding out what’s true. And we have.

  2. David
    November 9, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Personally, I vote for those most anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-same-sex marriage, anti-embryonic stem cell research, and anti-cloning. Rarely is there one person in any race who is all of those, so I vote for the evil of two lessers.

    Sanctity of life is the biggest issue, all others pale.

    That said, I do believe that divided government will cause us to really look more closely at the things our government is doing. And public scrutiny is a good thing.

    • November 9, 2010 at 10:38 pm

      Hi David 🙂

      We agree about the basics, such as the sanctity of life, though I know you are more conservative than I am. I wasn’t even aware that euthanasia was an issue, and I am not sure what I think about cloning.

      Public scrutiny is definitely a good thing, though!

  3. November 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Rinth,
    Just to reinforce Indy America’s comment – I also vote specifically to maintain a divided government state at the federal level. In fact, I have been beating the drum for this voting heuristic for the last four+ years on my blog.

    Anyway – this is a courtesy comment to let you know that I’ve linked and commented on your post in my latest Carnival of Divided Government – a periodic compilation of writing on the topic.

    • November 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

      Hi Dividist —

      Thank you for the link and the nice comment!

      I admit that, from common sense, it was hard for me to believe that some people vote to divide power between the two big parties. But I found that some political scientists have studied the issue and it’s a real thing. Now I know! 🙂

  1. November 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm

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