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The Causes and Consequences of Divided Government

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  1. Taking into account the initial belief that divided government hinders the number of important laws passed by Congress.
  2. Investigating causes and consequences of divided government.
  3. 1994 elections, voters punished the Democratic Congress for its shortcomings in following through on campaign promises.
  4. Suppose Democrats had compromised with Republicans - legislation more moderate than that proposed by Clinton.
  5. Equation (1) means that the average ideology rating of the Senate is equal to the sum of each member's ideology, divided by the total number of members.
  6. Analysis of veto threats during the Eisenhower presidency.
  7. Divided government is a complex subject, the causes and consequences of which are sometimes dealt with separately in books by different authors

Divided party control of government occurs when at least one House of Congress is controlled by a party to which the President does not belong. Much of the most popular research on divided government was done prior to the 1994 elections, when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 42 years (in addition to their obtaining a majority in the Senate), under Democratic president Clinton. As a result, analysis of periods of divided government can contrast the pre-1994 theories with what happened in 1994. The perceived incumbency advantage held by members of Congress explains some of the important causes of divided government. However, research on the consequences of divided government has led to a derision of the condition; it is seen as a malady afflicting the executive and legislative branches, hindering the passage of major legislation (Brady, 192). In Divided We Govern, political scientist and divided government scholar David Mayhew quotes Woodrow Wilson as saying ?You cannot compound a successful government out of antagonisms? (Mayhew, 2), to which Mayhew responded ?At a concrete level, this means at least that significant lawmaking can be expected to fall off when party control is divided? (Mayhew, 2). Mayhew's goal in Divided We Govern was to show that significant lawmaking, in fact, does not fall off in times of divided government. Mayhew's conclusion is that one of the generally assumed ?consequences? of divided government turns out not to be a consequence. Although Mayhew went through a detailed explanation of how he determined which laws were ?significant,? and ran statistical analyses to show that there is no marked change in the number of such significant laws passed through divided government, he did not discuss several crucial aspects of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches (Mayhew, 178). Taking into account the initial belief that divided government hinders the number of important laws passed by Congress, and Mayhew's subsequent research proving otherwise, this leaves some of those who search for concrete consequences of divided government somewhat befuddled. However, it can be demonstrated that there are consequences of divided government: the theoretical ideology of bills (based on the spatial model of Congress) changes when government is divided, and the President is forced to exercise his veto in a manner different from when government is unified. The latter consequence is a real-life manifestation of theoretical changes upon the division of government.

[...] Mayhew did not discuss the relationship between the President and Congress to the extent that is necessary to understand how the ideology of bills is changed in divided government versus unified government. For the models above, specifically plots 2 and assume that the ideology of Congress reflects the ideology of a bill that Congress would want to have passed and signed by the President after filibuster threats and conference committees have taken place. Thus, plot 4 reflects the ideology of the bill that the President would want to have passed, and what Congress would want to pass. [...]


[...] One of the causes of divided government in 1994 derived from use of the filibuster by minority members of the Senate. Jacobson observes when Minority Leader Bob Dole led a successful Republican filibuster against Clinton's economic stimulus package, [it showed that] divided government had not ended at (Jacobson, 178). Jacobson insists that the two years of ostensibly unified government under Clinton actually suffered from divided partisan control of policy making, because the Democrats did not have the requisite 60 seats in the Senate to end a filibuster. [...]


[...] If voters elect a unified President and Congress, good results are to be expected; divided government results because so many voters are moderate, and their votes from two years prior, handing Congress to the other party. Since the number of laws passed during divided government is roughly the same as the number of laws passed during unified government, it is not correct to identify a drop off in legislation as a consequence of divided government. However, theoretical modeling of Congress, the Presidency, and the relationship between the two, can identify a consequence of divided government. [...]

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