Voting for Gridlock
Ronald Bailey argues that those who favor small government should vote for gridlock this November. That is, they ought to vote for Democrats.
Today I’m going to do something that I have never done—I will vote in Virginia’s Democratic Party primary. Oh sure, I’ve voted Democratic—once. That was for George McGovern back in 1972. I was 18 years old. Since then it’s been a mix of Libertarian and Republican candidates for various local, state and federal offices. What is motivating me to do this? It’s not the platforms of the Democratic primary candidates. Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb is protectionist-minded and his opponent businessman Harris Miller wants to impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies. So my attraction is not to the candidates or their proposed policies, but to the idea of gridlocked government.
How would gridlock benefit the country? First, Democrats and Republicans might stymie each others spending proposals, thus reducing the budget deficit. It’s not a complete fantasy. During that blessed era of gridlock of the 1990s, total discretionary spending fell by more than 8 percent. We might also be spared disgusting exercises in political posturing on issues like gay marriage and flag-burning. Second, whichever house of Congress is controlled by the Democrats could investigate various Bush Administration assertions of executive authority. With regard to the Iraq war, I don’t think that gridlock will hurt or help much. The situation in Iraq is so badly screwed up now, it’s hard to see how a good conclusion can be reached, though I still hope for one.
I’m inclined to agree. The health of the Republic is much better served by having as much power spread out as possible. Partisan politics and gridlock are an extra-Constitutional separation of powers that helps to minimize government intrusions–mostly.
Unfortunately, it’s also true that sometimes gridlock backfires and you end up with monumentally stupid policies that are heralded as “great compromises.”
Still, divided government, for all its faults, is certainly much better than having one party in charge of the whole thing.