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Friday, September 19, 2008

Divided We Govern?

The speed with which the Congress and the Administration have agreed in principle to sweeping legislation costing potentially a trillion dollars is quite breathtaking. Can one imagine this happening in either unified Democratic or Republican control? I can't!

Both parties' rank and file find this Wall Street bailout enormously distasteful, albeit for different ideological reasons. Both would dearly love to wash their hands of the matter and blast the opposition for saddling the taxpayers with this frighteningly enormous obligation. But both parties currently share in power, and everyone is also deathly afraid of what will happen if the government fails to act. So they share the pain together and act together.

But if one party actually controlled the entire government and passed this bailout legislation, it surely could obtain no support from the opposition party. Instead, the opposition would excoriate it from here until eternity. That governing party would probably suffer enormous losses as a kind of accountability for doing what everyone is agreeing to do right now.

Of course, as it stands, divided government makes it possible for the blame to be shared all around in an utterly unaccountable fashion. And that unaccountability is precisely what allows the government to act in a bipartisan fashion.


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