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Mustafa Moiz & Mark Strong
#33 Divided We Govern (1991)
By: David R. Mayhew
Thesis: A phrase we sometimes hear when dealing with politics reads “divided we fall”. Rarely on the American scene do we hear the words “divided we stand”. David R. Mayhew holds that this is an inherently true statement and believes the key to the mystery can be found by looking at the big picture. According to Mayhew, bipartisan government may showcase a detrimental image from one presidency to the next, but in the grand scheme of the nation’s history its effects are near minimal.
On a small scale, it appears to the confined temporal eye that a divided government works against itself. Mayhew quotes V.O. Key, Jr. “division of party control precludes [energetic government]”. One theory claims that congressional oversight will run rampant in a House or Senate that runs contrary to the executive branch. This holds true for the Supreme Court as well, as shown best by the Republican court the Democratic FDR dealt with in the first six years of his presidency. This division also seems to restrain two facets of government which at times are necessary: ideological coherence and budgetary coherence. Mayhew also hypothesizes that foreign policy could suffer if division was present during times of crisis or otherwise. In these instances and countless others contradicting policy appears harmful, but does this stand true in the long run?
In fact, the legislative record in the postwar era trends independently of divided party controls.   Mayhew points to the ability of both the Johnson and Reagan administrations to pass efficient and coherent legislation, when these administrations operated under unified and divided control, respectively.   Circumstances which would seem to suggest the contrary – the counterproductive slew of Congressional hearings and micromanaging during the Nixon administration, for instance – are refuted as products of extenuating circumstances (in this case the Watergate...