Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A word of caution on split government

I've seen an idea start to spread around the conservative blogosphere, and I'm nervous that people are buying into it. The idea usually goes a little something like this:

Remember what happened after the Republican Revolution in 1994? The split government led to lower spending, a budget surplus, compromise by Bill Clinton on Republican issues, etc., etc., etc.

This idea is usually presented as something of a silver lining to the possibility of Democrats winning Congress this fall. The problem is, it isn't a silver lining but a fantasy caused by people making the wrong comparison. If the Democrats take Congress, I guarantee you will not see any comparison to the post 1994 time frame. Back then, Republicans had momentum created by their conservative "Contract with America". They used those conservative ideas to try to paint President Clinton into a corner as a stereotypical Democrat at a time when stereotypical Democrats were not all that popular in this country. That's why split government accomplished what it did back then.

2006 would be a different story. Democrats would have momentum, and they certainly wouldn't use it to accomplish conservative friendly things like cutting spending. They would run Congress similarly to the way they did under Reagan, and if you recall they spent like drunken sailors under Reagan. Reagan had political capital to broker deals and to threaten legislation with vetoes, though. President Bush does not have that. What we would face would be terrible deals brokered by a weakened President that would see spending increase even more than it already has, some sort of tax increases, and a whole boatload of social legislation that would leave conservatives besides themselves.

The only silver lining to be had from a split government with Democrats in control of Congress is that it would bring many CINO/RINO Republicans back into the conservative fold for '08. That's all. So be very cautious when reading comparisons between a potential 2006 split government and the one that followed the 1994 election. They are two different beasts.

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