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.

FILED UNDER: 2006 Election, Congress, LGBTQ Issues, Political Theory, US Constitution, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. anjin-san says:

    Divided government worked pretty well in the 90’s with Clinton in the White House and a Gingrich led congress. (If you overlook the sham imprechment). My guess is it would be better then what we have now.

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    Good God…I’m going to agree with anjin-san…holy smokes, this could be the second time as well. I think I need to see a doctor…or anjin-san does.

    I’ve been thinking it is time for Gridlock again. Having one party in control of both the Congress and the White House seems to be a recipe for short term fiscal disaster, and maybe long terms as well.

  3. anjin-san says:

    I am a pretty reasonable guy Steve, I just think Bush has been a disaster for our country…

  4. anjin-san says:

    BTW Steve, I was a Reagan Republican. He was a damn good President…

  5. DL says:

    “The health of the Republic is much better served by having as much power spread out as possible.”
    There was a time that I would have believed the GOP should get as much power as possible to run the country correctly. No longer -they have betrayed the trust of all with their insane stand on illegal immigration to get votes.

    I would like to have a voting system that measure and allows votes against to take the wind out of all their arrogant sails and to stop this silly poll controlled thinking in America.

  6. McGehee says:

    The health of the Republic is much better served by having as much power spread out as possible.

    So we’ll help the country by making the Stupid Party share power with the Batshit Crazy Party.

    There’s a plan.

  7. Another way to look at it is not look for perfection in the politician, but relative improvement. In the primaries, measure the candidates who are closer to your ideal. They won’t hit your ideal. In all honesty, most of us wouldn’t hit our ideal of a politician if it was us in the office. In the general election, again look to which is closer to your ideal.

    Putting people in place that you think would do a worse job (in your political calculus) because they are in the opposite party just doesn’t make sense to me. Especially given the incumbent advantages that make it so hard to get them back out. Much better to make incremental improvement towards the ideal than to deliberately push the ball back because it was not perfect.

  8. Herb says:

    While some of you think that a divided government is best, I reflect back and think of what would have happened if Gore or Kerry were elected President or the Dems. were in control of Congress during this time of the War on Terror.

    The very thought of that just scares the hell out of me and anyone with a ounce of thought and common sense would think the same.

    If we had Gore or Kerry as President and with the Dems in control of Congress, OBL and Zarcowi would have each and every American wearing a towel on their heads. Be headings and mass graves as a common site and you could Kiss your A goodbye to any freedoms you knew.

    When it comes to fighting Terror, The Dams are just plain CS.

  9. anjin-san says:


    Why does the thought of finishing the job in Afghanistan instead of going after non-existant WMD in Iraq scare you?

  10. Herb says:

    I guess I must confess that I do not find it difficult to do more than one job at a time. I know there are those who find it impossible for to chew gum and walk at the same time and it does not supprise me to fine that it applies here to some on OTB as well as in everyday life.

    I am very Glad to see that our military also has the capacity to preform more that one job at a time. If one thinks back to WW11 the military did one hell of a job when they fought a 2 front war with Germany and Japan (Both at the same time). I guess the military did not learn a thing from that war and figured that Afghanistan and Iraq was a norm in fighting wars. (Sarcasm)

    It’s no wonder that Californians have such high automobile accident rates when people drive and try to think at the same time like some people here seem to think is difficult or impossible to do. (like fighting both in Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time)

    Oh Well?

  11. floyd says:

    let’s see, “TWEEDLE-D & TWEEDLE-R” more scaring than sharing, don’t ya think??[lol]

  12. Roger says:

    Yep, Al Qaeda defeated, Bin Laden executed. Pretty scary thought if your goal is establishing despotism by flaming the fears of the people. Good thing we didn’t elect Gore!