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A Vote for Divided Government:

My belief that John McCain is the lesser of the available evils in this election is largely based on the advantages of divided government. As I have explained in the past, divided government places important constraints on the growth of the state. Congress is more likely to increase federal regulation and spending if the president who gets to do the regulating and spending belongs to their own party. The president is less likely to veto or oppose congressional extensions of government power if those extensions are produced by his own partisan allies. Libertarians justly complain about the vast growth of government under George W. Bush; but that growth was largely a product of Republican united government from 2001 to 2006.

If Obama wins, he will have a strong Democratic majority in both houses of Congress to work with. This state of affairs is likely to lead to a significant expansion of government even in the best of times. However, now is clearly not the best of times. It is a time of economic crisis. And economic crises are also excellent opportunities to expand the powers of government - opportunities that politicians rarely let slip.

Obama's ideological orientation also plays a role in my thinking. While I believe that his foremost objective is to get elected and reelected, I think he's also an ideological big government liberal. His record in Congress and in Illinois reflect that. Obama might be willing to set aside ideology for the sake of political self-interest if the two conflict. But if he takes office at a time of crisis with large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, there won't be any such conflict between political self-interest and his big government instincts. The two will in fact be mutually reinforcing.

Once enacted, extensions of government power are very difficult to reverse, even long after the crisis that allegedly justified them has passed. For example, we are still saddled with the perverse system of farm subsidies and price cartels established by the Depression-era Agricultural Adjustment Act.

The combination of united government, economic crisis, and a president with big government instincts is likely to produce a major, permanent expansion of federal power.

Whatever his other flaws, McCain's election is likely to impede this process, at least to some extent. Moreover, although McCain has some statist tendencies of his own, he does have a pro-market side as well. He is pro-free trade, he was one of only a handful of GOP senators to vote against Bush's 2003 prescription drug plan (the biggest new government program since the 1960s), and he has called for a freeze on most domestic spending and for limits on the growth of entitlements. McCain also deserves a measure of libertarian credit for supporting expanded immigration in the face of opposition by many conservatives. As co-conspirator David Bernstein points out, McCain is also likely to appoint judges who are more sympathetic to libertarian positions than any we could hope for from Obama. On all of these issues except for immigration, Obama is far more statist than McCain. And there are few if any countervailing examples where Obama is more libertarian than his opponent (perhaps electronic surveillance is a rare exception, though Obama's position on that issue is muddled).

That is not to deny that McCain has many flaws from a libertarian point of view. Some of these, however, might be restrained by divided government. For example, like George Will, I worry about McCain's impulsive temperament. However, it will to some extent be offset by a strongly Democratic Congress. Left to his own devices, for example, McCain might be too eager to attack Iran in order to forestall their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. But McCain is a smart enough politician to know that it is politically dangerous for a president to start a major conflict without strong congressional support. Thus, a President McCain will not attack Iran unless he gets backing from congressional Democrats. And, after the Iraq experience, the latter are unlikely to give it to him unless he presents an exceptionally strong case for action.

McCain still has numerous shortcomings. Just consider his positions on issues like campaign finance, national service, and the bailout, among many others. It's possible that I would prefer Obama to him if the latter came to power during a time of optimism and was constrained by a hostile Republican Congress, as Bill Clinton was. I might also prefer a Democratic victory if that party were likely to follow the centrist, market-friendly policies that characterized Clinton's last six years in office. In the current environment, however, that is highly unlikely. McCain is seriously flawed; Obama and a united Democratic government are likely to be significantly worse.

UPDATE: Readers may be interested to know that my support for divided government is not of recent vintage, and cuts both ways. Back in 2006, I argued in this series of posts that it would be good for the country if the Democrats retook control of the House of Representatives.

js5 (mail):
Thanks for giving evil-lite your sanction.
10.31.2008 12:57am
news reader:
GOP takes new approach in ads for Senate races

"We are not by any means suggesting that John McCain is going to lose this election," said Rebecca Fisher, spokeswoman for the Republican senatorial committee. "What we are saying is...
10.31.2008 12:57am
Ilya Somin:
Thanks for giving evil-lite your sanction.

Don't mention it! I'm always willing to support evil-lite relative to evil-heavy if those are the options before me.
10.31.2008 12:59am
MisterBigTop (mail):
Excellent post, Ilya. I'm supporting McCain for pretty much the exact same reasons. (Barr isn't a serious contender. )
10.31.2008 1:00am
Donny:
Ilya wrote, "As co-conspirator David Bernstein points out, McCain is also likely to appoint judges who are more sympathetic to libertarian positions than any we could hope for from Obama."

You buy this argument? Why? Do libertarians only care about takings and guns? Why do you think McCain's judges would be better on the commerce clause, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, or Fourteenth Amendment?

What about climate change? Are there any policy issues that trump your ideological concerns about the size of the state?
10.31.2008 1:07am
Ilya Somin:
You buy this argument? Why? Do libertarians only care about takings and guns? Why do you think McCain's judges would be better on the commerce clause, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, or Fourteenth Amendment?

On virtually all these issues (except perhaps the Fourth Amendment), Republican judges have supported libertarian positions far more than Democratic ones have in recent years. All the dissenters in Raich were Republican conservatives (commerce Clause). Scalia has been the leader in the Court's efforts to expand 6th amendment protection. On the First Amendment, the Republican justices have been far more likely to vote for free speech against "campaign finance" regulation.

As for the Fourth Amendment, it is somewhat of a wash. Some Republican judges have been more libertarian on it than the Democrats (e.g. - Scalia). Others have been on the opposite end of the spectrum.
10.31.2008 1:16am
Tony Tutins (mail):
McCain can't even get support from his own party -- Congress will be driving the agenda for the next two years if McCain gets in.
10.31.2008 1:18am
Carl W. (mail):
So I assume you voted for Kerry in '04?
10.31.2008 1:21am
Donny:
I just don't think that's an even-handed analysis. But I guess a comment thread isn't the place to seriously have that debate.

Sure, Scalia sometimes protects defendant's rights, but you're deluding yourself if you think McCain's appointments are more likely to do so than Obama's.
10.31.2008 1:24am
Ilya Somin:
So I assume you voted for Kerry in '04?

In retrospect, I probably should have.
10.31.2008 1:24am
George Weiss (mail) (www):
ilya-

why not simply vote for barr?

since your vote doesn't matter. why not vote on principal?

the more liberation that vote actually libertarian instead of voting for the closest to libertarian real candidate..the more politicians see a libertarian thinking among the electorate and will change their rhetoric/actions to get elected by those constituents?
10.31.2008 1:26am
Ilya Somin:
10.31.2008 1:28am
Cold Warrior:

Moreover, although McCain has some statist tendencies of his own, he does have a pro-market side as well. He is pro-free trade, he was one of only a handful of GOP senators to vote against Bush's 2003 prescription drug plan (the biggest new government program since the 1960s), and he has called for a freeze on most domestic spending and for limits on the growth of entitlements. McCain also deserves a measure of libertarian credit for supporting expanded immigration in the face of opposition by many conservatives. As co-conspirator David Bernstein points out, McCain is also likely to appoint judges who are more sympathetic to libertarian positions than any we could hope for from Obama.


Yes, and I would gladly have voted for that John McCain. But that guy disappeared in a Rovian cloud somewhere in Iowa in 2006.

Oh, there were occasional glimpses of what might have been. McCain taking a principled stand against torture when no one else on the crowded Republican debate stage would do so. McCain actually having the nerve to come out against ethanol subsidies (at least for a moment) even though he needs to win corn-heavy Iowa.

But every one of those glimpses of an independent and libertarian spirit were drowned in a wave of anti-freedom focus-group tested claptrap. $300 billion to subsidize over-borrowed homeowners. Talk about actually expanding the federal government's role in primary and secondary education. A Vice Presidential candidate who would like to throw billions of additional federal taxpayer dollars for programs for the developmentally disabled. (Governor, I respect the consistency of your convictions demonstrated by your giving birth to a Down Syndrome child. Now respect my decision not to subsidize you in his education and upkeep.)

Nary a word spoken on immigration. Absolutely not a single word about the folly of the prescription drug benefit. More pandering to the obnoxious agenda of the religious right. Remember what that brought us over the last 8 years? The antithesis of "Country First," when a 32-year old religious nut named Monica Goodlng was given the power to veto the appointment of Bill Hochul (prosecutor of the Lackawanna Six, absolutely the model for counterterrorism prosecutions since 9/11) as Chief of the Department of Justice's Counterterrorism Section simply because his wife is a leading western New York Democrat. The appointment of ridiculously unqualified persons to lesser federal posts because they were right (and I quote) on "God, guns, and gays." Yes, these people need to be purged from the federal government, and if John McCain wins, he will owe them an awful lot of favors. And jobs.
10.31.2008 1:31am
Baseballhead (mail):
Cold Warrior, thank for so eloquently expressing all the reasons why this former Republican will not be voting for John McCain this year.
10.31.2008 1:43am
Smokey:
Donny:
What about climate change?
Yeah, what about climate change?

The climate always changes; that's why it's called "climate," and not "stasis."

The climate is well within its historical parameters. In the past it's been much hotter, and much colder. The current climate is absolutely normal. Carbon dioxide does not cause detectable global warming. And the planet is getting cooler, not warmer.

But you go on believing the globaloney propaganda, Donny. Since the Divinity School flunkout Al Gore is your HE-RO and all.
10.31.2008 1:45am
Jameson (mail):
Ilya,

Out of curiousity, are you voting for Democrats for the House/Senate on the same principle, or do you think it doesn't matter given the trend in the rest of the country? I can see arguments both ways.
10.31.2008 1:47am
Donny:
Smokey:

I know you're just schtick, and it's amusing. But on a serious note, we can all be thankful that your character's brand of anti-intellectualism is about to be defeated by the American people.
10.31.2008 1:52am
Ilya Somin:
Ilya,

Out of curiousity, are you voting for Democrats for the House/Senate on the same principle, or do you think it doesn't matter given the trend in the rest of the country? I can see arguments both ways.



I did support the Democrats on divided government grounds in the congressional campaign in 2006 and blogged about it right here at the VC. I probably won't vote for them this year because 1) their majority is already secure anyway, and 2) I expect McCain to lose, and so would want to limit the size of the Democratic majority Obama will get. Also, my Democratic representative is the egregious Jim Moran (known for his corruption and anti-Semitism), and I can't swallow voting for him.
10.31.2008 1:58am
Loophole1998 (mail):
Divided government is over-rated. It's great when times are good. Keeps the mischief away. But when times are bad, we rally behind the leader. I'd rather have that be the best leader. The big moves happen based more on the character of the President than on whether the government is divided.
10.31.2008 2:05am
Cold Warrior:
I lived in Jim Moran's district many years ago, and I shook his hand while on my way to my polling place in Arlington, VA. Even at that time (side note: I was on my way to vote for Ross Perot), I was struck by one thing. You usually think these local political hacks will have some redeeming quality; that quality is typically the glad-handing, back-slapping, seems like a nice guy type of quality. Moran, however, has none of that. He's weirdly stiff and uncommunicative in person. A Man Without Qualities, as Robert Musil put it.
10.31.2008 2:08am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
One of the things I've heard several times at Federalist Society meetings is "The libertarians have all the best ideas". They also seem to get more applause when they speak, amd more laughter at their jokes. When at the 2005 Convention someone suggested appointing a panel of Randy Barnetts to the Supreme Court, there was a standing ovation.

I get a lot of libertarian-envy from social conservatives.

Amusingly, I got the same comment at a conference of "progressive" (socialist) lawyers, the American Constitution Society. (I claimed the name "Constitution Society" first, so they couldn't use it.)

Now someone needs to do an analysis of the originality of legal reasoning in law review articles, and their citability. I sense a libertarian tide here.
10.31.2008 2:12am
anon100:
Professor,
Does Palin being on the ticket (combined with McCain's advanced age) make you nervous about your decision to vote Republican?
10.31.2008 2:13am
A. Zarkov (mail):
McCain is likely worse than Obama on the immigration issue. Unrestrained immigration poses one of the biggest existential threats to nationhood of the US. If you want a look at the future, visit southern California.

McCain also supports AGW, but he can't seem to make the connection between immigration and carbon emissions. From CIS.
The findings of this study indicate that future levels of immigration will have a significant impact on efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions. Immigration to the United States significantly increases world-wide CO2 emissions because it transfers population from lower-polluting parts of the world to the United States, which is a higher-polluting country. On average immigrants increase their emissions four-fold by coming to America.
10.31.2008 2:57am
Kazinski:
I'll note that when Clinton was elected in 1992, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. It was having Democrats in control that manufactured the big Republican victories in 1994. If the Democrats as expected do win the White House and consolidate control of Congress, I look for a reprise in 2010, they go to far and get slapped down.
10.31.2008 2:58am
Wicked the Engineer:
I know how you feel. I feel the same way about divided government on the SC. Given that the liberal block on the court is, well...., older than John McCain on average; I want to replace them with a similar block and not Scalias and Alitos.

I'm with Economist magazine. "America should take a chance and make Barack Obama the next leader of the free world"
10.31.2008 3:12am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"America should take a chance and make Barack Obama the next leader of the free world"

Isn't it fun to gamble with other people's money? Or in this case someone else's future.
10.31.2008 3:20am
Wicked the Engineer:
Zarkov,

"someone else's future". You should ask the Iraqis.
10.31.2008 4:02am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
In 2006, you argued "that it would be good for the country if the Democrats retook control of the House of Representatives" (update). I presume you also voted that way.

So how'd that work out? Has the House accomplished anything good under Pelosi that it wouldn't have under whatsisname, or anything good at all, or killed anything bad the Republicans would have done? We know Congress rejected several attempts by Bush to head off the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac crisis. What else have they done?
10.31.2008 7:51am
The River Temoc (mail):
McCain might be too eager to attack Iran in order to forestall their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. But McCain is a smart enough politician to know that it is politically dangerous for a president to start a major conflict without strong congressional support.

I think you're vastly overestimating Congress' ability to check the executive's ability to start wars.

Congress tends to defer strongly to the executive in areas of national security for reasons that are well known -- the need for the nation to speak with one voice, high monitoring costs, and so forth.

You might argue that partisanship, and general public opposition to the Iraq war, might trump this traditional deference to the executive. But this is wrong.

First, if an executive is determined to go to war, it's easy to gin up a pretext to do so -- look at the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, the yellowcake debacle, etc. That's particularly true in an environment where the costs of miscalculation are high, such as in the Middle East.

Second, you're overlooking the fact that on issues relating to the security of Israel, everyone in Washington competes to take the most hawkish position possible.

On the issue of sanctions against Iran, congressional Democrats are more hawkish than the Bush administration. This may be due less to partisanship and more to the fact that the administration has to be the adult in the room (and bears much of the political cost if the hawkish stance goes badly), but nevertheless a hotheaded Congress won't check a hotheaded president.
10.31.2008 8:40am
The River Temoc (mail):
Remember what that brought us over the last 8 years? The antithesis of "Country First," when a 32-year old religious nut named Monica Goodlng was given the power to veto the appointment of Bill Hochul

It's not just Monica Goodling, either. It's people like "Heckuva Job" Brownie, Harriet Miers, and now Sarah Palin.

I had sincerely hoped that McCain would reorient the GOP back towards the path of his hero, Teddy Roosevelt. The choice of Palin shows that he won't (or more probably, can't) do that. I endorsed Obama on the day of the Palin announcement have no regrets.
10.31.2008 8:43am
The River Temoc (mail):
If you want a look at the future, visit southern California.

I for one would welcome a future that looked like southern California. Would you really rather it looked more like, oh, Pittsburgh?
10.31.2008 8:44am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Would you really rather it looked more like, oh, Pittsburgh?"

Yes. Pittsburgh is still part of America.
10.31.2008 8:48am
sputnik (mail):
yeah, those arguments somehow did not bother you and many others when GOP was majority in all branches of government.
This argument is an escape and if one thinks about it is anti-progress...
In the times like this, times of extreme dangers to the country and economic crisis I and many thinking honest people( including plenty of true conservatives) prefer to have undivided government, which does not have to deal with opposing party' obstructionism. And judging by the last 2 years republicans in congress are not the cooperating and by-partisan minority .
I think the electoral slaughter of the republicans is very good to the country and actually may help the sane conservatives to rebuild GOP based on human principles , not warmongering lies and trickle down hocus-pocus....
10.31.2008 9:23am
Sarcastro (www):
[what about the virtues of keeping an ideologically split split Supreme Court?]
10.31.2008 9:57am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Republican united government from 2001 to 2006.

The Senate was 50/50 from January to May 2001. The parties ruled the committees jointly under special rules. The Senate was 51/49 Democrat from May 2001 until January 2003 after the Jeffords jump.
10.31.2008 10:31am
Justin (mail):
That Ilya didn't vote for Kerry makes me believe he's sort of self-justifying rather than creating ex ante principles. A liberterian would by nature prefer a Democratic president and a Republican Congress than vice versa - Congress sets the tax and spending agenda, whereas the President has the run of things when it comes to enforcing civil liberties - but Somin voted for Bush in 2004. His weak "I probably should have" voted for Kerry notwithstanding, the advantages of a Kerry-GOP divided government should have been immediately obvious. Instead, this seems to be a post-mea-culpa way of defending Republicanism, by blaming unitarian government rather than the Republican agenda.

I do agree, however, that Somin is right that the Democrats will hardly be liberterianism on taxes, which is what most self-described liberterians mean when they call themselves that, as they generally could care less about civil liberties (see, e.g., Reynolds, Glenn). But Somin should be honest and simply say that - that the Democratic effects on taxation and the ease of getting spending across simply outweighs his interest in the restoration of civil liberties, rather than relying solely on the divided government, which explains partly but nowhere near fully his voting preferences.
10.31.2008 10:58am
the gipper:
There may be an additional consideration here. We are assuming that divided government with Dem Pres/Rep Congress is equal to Rep Pres/Dem Congress. As we have seen, with the aggregation of power to the Executive branch, particularly post-9/11, the Legislative Branch seems incapable of curbing the excesses of the Executive Branch.

As a result, a divided government in the Rep Pres/ Dem Congress model is (at least in this election) really a vote for Republican control. The last eight years demonstrate the danger of this idea.

Moreover, a Dem Congress in a blowout year, where many of the coalition members are from swing districts (and are therefore likely to be more conservative), has the perverse effect of making a Dem congress more conservative, as more members of the caucus must come from the middle/right of the spectrum.

Since a Rep Pres/ Dem Congress is unlikely this election year, the question is whether it is better to have a Dem Pres/Dem Congress or Rep Pres/ Dem Congress.

If you really want divided government (that is a real change from the last 8 years), strangely enough a Dem Pres/ Dem Congress is more likely to arrive at moderate positions than a Rep Pres/ Dem Congress. The former (Dem Pres/ Dem Congress) may divide on a large number of issues, but a Rep Pres/ Dem Congress is really a vote for continued Rep hegemony.
10.31.2008 11:01am
Jim Miller (mail) (www):
"Back in 2006, I argued in this series of posts that it would be good for the country if the Democrats retook control of the House of Representatives."

And when will you apologize for making that argument?

If the necessity for an apology is not obvious, consider these two points: (1) Nancy Pelosi actively backed John Murtha for Majority Leader. (2) Nancy Pelosi was willing to accept Alcee Hastings as chairman of the intelligence committee. (And actively blocked Jane Harman, who is entirely qualified for the post.)

Have you learned from your error, or do you still think that Pelosi has been better than the alternative? If so, do you have any evidence for that view?
10.31.2008 11:15am
flyerhawk:
This just seems like a rationalization that is following the current argument being made by the McCain campaign.

I heard not a peep about divided government 2004 from ANY self-proclaimed libertarians.

And what of the Supreme Court? Do you feel that the Supreme Court is best served with an ideologically divided court or do you think that the country would be better off with an overwhelmingly Conservative Supreme Court?

You can vote for whomever you like for whatever reason you like but this seems to be nothing more than an excuse to vote for the party you always vote for.
10.31.2008 11:16am
cboldt (mail):
-- A liberterian would by nature prefer a Democratic president and a Republican Congress than vice versa - Congress sets the tax and spending agenda, whereas the President has the run of things when it comes to enforcing civil liberties - but Somin voted for Bush in 2004. His weak "I probably should have" voted for Kerry notwithstanding, the advantages of a Kerry-GOP divided government should have been immediately obvious. --
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I lean strongly libertarian, and wouldn't vote for Kerry because he supports big government, he's extremely hostile to the 2nd amendment, and he's an elitist, lying poseur. He's anti-American, and has been for years.
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Your logic doesn't persuade me in the least. Not saying it's unpersuasive per se, but you need to connect with more issues than the ones you've identified, in order to sell the Democratic party.
.
One big domestic issue is the fact that the Democratic party, be it running for Congress or for the presidency, is more to the left as a matter of financial redistribution. It's the party of entitlement. It cultivates, rewards, and nurtures laziness.
10.31.2008 11:27am
Floridan:
I'm not at all sure that the divided government argument is valid.

The idea seems to be that with divided government nothing significant gets done. To the extent that this is true, problems fester and are kicked down the road.

Partisans on both sides blame the people aross the aisle (or on the other end of Pennsylvania Ave)and feel righteous.

Finally, the problems are so large and so immediate (see, for instance, the recent financial crisis)that precipitous action is taken. Short-term objectives may be met, but with problematic long-term consequences.

But that's OK, becuase the partisans can blame and demonize the other side.

On the other hand, with the White House and Congress controlled by the same party, actions and inaction is, for the most part, easily attributable to those in control. Irresponsibility is then no longer a luxury the results of which can be blamed on the opposition. The party in power is accountable.
10.31.2008 11:37am
flyerhawk:
On the other hand, with the White House and Congress controlled by the same party, actions and inaction is, for the most part, easily attributable to those in control. Irresponsibility is then no longer a luxury the results of which can be blamed on the opposition. The party in power is accountable.



Absolutely right, Floridan.

If the Democrats overreach or waste their opportunity to lead they will pay the price in 2010 and/or 2012.
10.31.2008 12:26pm
cboldt (mail):
-- If the Democrats overreach or waste their opportunity to lead they will pay the price in 2010 and/or 2012. --
.
I'm not so sure of that. All parties are skilled at blaming the other, and at obfuscating the assignment of responsibility. See, e.g., the "collapse" of the mortgage bubble, which is blamed on the GOP. To the extent the public is hoodwinked (and that scale is massive), a party can maintain power on a lie.
.
And too, the GOP and DEM are going in roughly the same leftward direction, just at different rates. Overreaches by the "grow the government" wing might be partially rolled back, but never rolled back all the way. See Federal Department of Education for example. Other programs are "eliminated," but that's a bit of a misnomer as the funding just shifts to a program with a different name.
10.31.2008 12:50pm
Amateur Grammar Scold:
Is there something about libertarians that we don't know how to use the word "latter" properly?

Illya: "It's possible that I would prefer Obama to him [McCain] if the latter came to power during a time of optimism and was constrained by a hostile Republican Congress, as Bill Clinton was. I might also prefer a Democratic victory..."

In the first quoted sentence, McCain is the latter, but Illya clearly means it is possible that Illya would prefer Obama if Obama came to power during a time of optimism...

David Bernstein in the immediately preceding post: "...the ONLY votes the libertarian side received were from Republican appointees, and all of the Democrat appointees, plus the more liberal Republican appointees, ALWAYS voted against the libertarian side. The latter did so even in cases in which their political preferences were either irrelevant (Term Limits), or should have led them to sympathize with the plaintiff (Lopez, Kelo, Raich)."

Here, if latter refers to the last referred person/group/item, then "the more liberal Republican appointees" are the "latter" to which David refers. But then the latter do not have political preferences to sympathize with the plaintiffs in Lopez, Kelo, and Raich. David obviously meant for "latter" to signify "Democratic appointees".

Guys, from Merriam-Webster: "latter: ...2. of, relating to, or being the second of two groups or things or the last of several groups or things referred to"

I only point this out because the error was in back-to-back posts. This could become like the bastardization of "literally".....
10.31.2008 12:55pm
Curmudgeon:

Whatever his other flaws, McCain's election is likely to impede this process, at least to some extent.


I wonder if it will cut the other way . . . given McCain's own statist tendencies, will the Republicans be a more effective limiting force when free to act as a pure opposition party? Will being 'forced' to follow McCain's lead cause them to abandon their limited government ideology?

I think the answer depends on whether they maintain 41 senators.
10.31.2008 12:57pm
cboldt (mail):
-- In the first quoted sentence, McCain is the latter, but Illya clearly means it is possible that Illya would prefer Obama if Obama came to power during a time of optimism... --
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I'll wait for Ilya's confirmation to be sure, but I think your interpretation here is incorrect. Ilya prefers McCain, and this is a time of "not optimism." OTOH, if this was a "time of optimism," Ilya would prefer Obama. At least that's how I took it, and it made sense in full context.
10.31.2008 1:02pm
Amateur Grammar Scold:
cboldt: Ilya prefers McCain, and this is a time of "not optimism." OTOH, if this was a "time of optimism," Ilya would prefer Obama.

That is right, but the sentence is (if we change latter to either Obama, as I think Illya meant, or McCain, as I think the sentence means as written):

1. It's possible that I would prefer Obama to [McCain] if the Obama came to power during a time of optimism and was constrained by a hostile Republican Congress, as Bill Clinton was. I might also prefer a Democratic victory...

2. It's possible that I would prefer Obama to [McCain] if the [McCain] came to power during a time of optimism and was constrained by a hostile Republican Congress, as Bill Clinton was. I might also prefer a Democratic victory...

The first sentence makes sense to me, but so Illya really meant former (Obama) rather than latter (McCain).

The second sentence makes little sense to me. Illya would prefer Obama if McCain was constrained by a hostile Republican Congress? That can't be right. Surely he means if Obama was restrained by a hostile Republican Congress. (Either, presumably, would be coming to power during a time of optimism in his hypo.)

Thanks for caring.
10.31.2008 1:12pm
Amateur Grammar Scold:
My apologies for referring to "the Obama" and "the McCain." Proofread, then post.
10.31.2008 1:13pm
cboldt (mail):
Here's the substitution I did, mentally ... "It's possible that I would prefer Obama to [McCain] if the latter [McCain] came to power during a time of optimism and was constrained by a hostile Republican Congress, as Bill Clinton was."
10.31.2008 1:35pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov writes: McCain is likely worse than Obama on the immigration issue. Unrestrained immigration poses one of the biggest existential threats to nationhood of the US. If you want a look at the future, visit southern California.

I live here, and I've written literally thousands of posts against illegal/massive immigration.

But, I'm not that worried about either of them being able to get anything passed. We blocked amnesty before and we can do it again. And, if people would get smart and go out and ask politicians questions the problem could be solved fairly easily.

Meanwhile, there are many, many reasons to oppose BHO. Here's my list of nineteen reasons. Anyone who isn't an authoritarian far-leftie or a complete hack will hopefully agree that all or most are very troublesome.
10.31.2008 2:02pm
TheRadicalModerate (mail) (www):
This came down to a choice between divided government and competence for me, and competence narrowly won--I held my nose and voted for Obama.

It's important to realize that the failure of the Bush presidency has come down to only a handful of bad decisions, most of them having to do with hiring the wrong people. Things would have been a lot different without Powell, Rumsfeld, and Gonzales. Things would have been a lot different without the "happy talk" PR strategy on Iraq and the set of constraints that it placed on prosecuting the war.

The conduct of McCain's campaign is pretty good evidence that McCain doesn't hire any better than Bush. And McCain's personal conduct during the financial brouhaha doesn't bode very well for his ability to make crisis decisions. Obama's certainly no prize but it's hard to argue that he hasn't performed the executive aspects of his campaign competently, if not brilliantly.

The odds of getting through the next four years without some form of existential crisis cropping up are very small. Much as I'd like to make sure that the vast majority of Obama's agenda goes down in flames, I'd rather endure some of the legislative aggravation than suffer through the aftermath of some horrendous screwup. As usual, there are only people to vote against, but I'm sad to say that I am now one of the Ones That I've Been Waiting For.
10.31.2008 2:24pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Ilya, did you just give a principled, reasoned explanation of your vote for McCain? And to think, you did it even without mentioning Obama's secret alliances with Hamas and COMINTERN.
10.31.2008 2:33pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
24AheadDotCom:

"We blocked amnesty before and we can do it again."

I don't share your confidence. With a new Congress aided by Democrat super majorities, Obama will become a virtual dictator. A large in-migration from Latin America will cement their control much the way Partido Revolucionario Institucional, (PRI) ruled in Mexico.
10.31.2008 2:36pm
nlcatter:
good statement except you forgot 1 thing

PALIN
10.31.2008 2:39pm
cboldt (mail):
-- competence narrowly won--I held my nose and voted for Obama ... Much as I'd like to make sure that the vast majority of Obama's agenda goes down in flames, I'd rather endure some of the legislative aggravation than suffer through the aftermath of some horrendous screwup. --
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Ooooo-kaaaaay. But if he's competent, then he'll be effective at implementing his agenda.
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If I understand your rationalization, it's that his administration won't make what you think are serious policy errors, and will be open, honest, and consistent.
10.31.2008 2:40pm
cboldt (mail):
-- I don't share your confidence. With a new Congress aided by Democrat super majorities ... --
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I think both parties will advocate and eventually implement massive immigration. Population growth is essential to extend the various entitlement Ponzi schemes.
10.31.2008 2:44pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
On the First Amendment, the Republican justices have been far more likely to vote for free speech against "campaign finance" regulation.

You act as if the only First Amendment issue that reaches the court is campaign finance reform.

Meanwhile, the conservatives vote against free speech claims relating to sexually-themed speech, speech by school students, speech by government employees, licensing schemes, etc. Thomas also voted against free speech in the cross burning case.

Look, a libertarian can certainly prefer Thomas' or Scalia's or Kennedy's approach to free speech to Souter's or Ginsburg's or Breyer's, I understand that. But a better description of what happens on the Court is the conservatives vote for free speech claims that are popular among conservatives, and the liberals vote for free speech claims that are popular among liberals.
10.31.2008 3:13pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
river:

if an executive is determined to go to war, it's easy to gin up a pretext to do so


Yes.

On another thread here, someone said that McCain will not be quick to take military action, because he doesn't have to prove he's tough. And that Obama is the more dangerous one in this regard, because he will feel a need to avoid looking weak.

I think it's important to notice that even though his military background is a major part of his political persona, McCain has never commanded other men in battle (unlike Kerry, for example). And he's never commanded other men, period, except for 13 months 30 years ago (a job that is oddly omitted from his campaign bio, even though it's his only executive experience, ever).

Therefore I think he's itching to do this thing he's never had a chance to do: order men in battle. And I think various bellicose statements he has made (bomb bomb Iran) are a reflection of this impulse.

Just a hunch.
10.31.2008 4:10pm
Amateur Grammar Scold:
Michael Kinsley observed some time ago that, while Republican presidential candidates talk a good free trade game, they usually are worse on that type of issue than Democratic presidents. For example, compare George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

This is why my support for free trade is part of why I am voting for Obama. He has not made protectionism a central plank of his candidacy and, as a Democrat, he can make sensible free trade deals rather than selling out to try to win blue-collar votes (as George W. Bush did so often on this issue).

Reasonable minds may differ, but I find it hard to think that free trade is anything more than, at best, a wash. As I said, I'll put my chips on Obama there. (McCain is going to get a free trade deal through the Democratic Congress?)
10.31.2008 4:52pm
Suzy (mail):
Divided government is also another way of achieving gridlock. I don't think policies that result will necessarily be better for having been subjected to a wildly partisan tug of war, just because they were the common denominator everyone could agree on. When it comes to solving the economic problems we face, I'm not sure that cobbled-together moderate measures are the effective route.

This is not to say that a one-party solution from either party is the best way. However, I consider myself very much a moderate, square in the middle ideologically between the two parties, and even I don't feel warmly about divided government as a safeguard when it comes to some of these issues.
10.31.2008 4:55pm
davidddf (mail):
McCain is the guy who held congressional hearings on steroids in baseball!

He is the poster child of conservative statism.
10.31.2008 5:25pm
David Warner:
Sarcastro,

[what about the virtues of keeping an ideologically split split Supreme Court?]


]That's what Kennedy's for. (rim shot) [
10.31.2008 8:01pm