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Divided We Will Fail To Govern

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As Matt notes, David Mayhew — argbuably the country’s most important Congress scholar — has shown that while divded government affects the type of legislation passed, it has had suprisingly little effect on the quantity of legislation passed.   (You can see a quick summary of his reserach in this symposium.)   It’s always important to remember, though, that past patterns never guarantee future results in politics.    The relative similarity of united and devided government is a contingent result of certain norms and partisan alignments that for the most part don’t obtain.    Looking at Seyward Darby’s analysis of the (non)prospects for bipartisan education reform, for example, it’s clear that Senate Republicans in particular take their self-conscious obstructionism seriously, and since from a cold. self-inererested perspective their read on the incentives are correct, I’m not sure what’s going to stop them.    And even granting that the normalization of the filibuster does allow for an enormous amount of minority obstruction in periods of nominally unified government, I still find it implausible under current norms that the Republican takeover of the House won’t have much effect on the ability of Congress to pass legislation implausible.    I think the next Congress is where we see the patten Mayhew idenfitied start to break down.

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