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What a Democratic Victory Will Mean.

Assuming a big Democratic win today, where will that leave the country?

First, Democrats will add dominance of the executive branch of the federal government to their control of the legislative branch, the press, the universities, and Hollywood and the arts.

The only major areas of split control are state governments, the federal judiciary, and big business, with Democrats having the upper hand in most states and Republicans having the upper hand in part of the judiciary, the US Supreme Court. (Although most of the military are Republicans, the control of the military is effectively in the hands of the executive branch.) Big business is relatively non-partisan (or equally partisan).

Second, 2009 is likely to mark the high water mark of Democratic control of federal and state governments over the next 4 to 8 years. As a paper that Steve Calabresi and I wrote for the Yale Law Journal shows, the President is a lightning rod for whatever goes wrong, leading to the pendulum usually swinging back toward the party who doesn't hold the White House. This occurs in state legislatures and governorships, as well as in Congress.

Remember, in 2000 Bill Clinton was accused of having destroyed the Democratic Party in Congress and the states when the decline in Democratic control was only what usually happened. Today, George Bush is accused having destroyed the Republican Party in Congress and the states. In Bush's case, the charge is probably more justified than in Clinton's case, but a large Republican decline would have been expected in any event.

Third, an increase in the size of the federal judiciary is likely. Increases in the number of federal judges tend to occur in situations of one-party control, which we will have for at least the next two years. Thus, we can expect the federal judiciary to become substantially more Democratic for four reasons: (1) the ordinary power of a President to nominate politically compatible judges; (2) the last Senate's blocking of large numbers of nominees for existing vacancies; (3) a Senate that is nearly filibuster-proof; and (4) an increase in federal judgeships.

Fourth, having a community organizer as President will likely lead to big changes. But precisely which ones we will have to wait to see. For example, though Barack Obama has indicated his intent to impose national service programs on children and co-opt private charities with public-private joint ventures and federal monitoring of charitable organizations, it is unclear how much of that agenda he will be able to achieve.

Next: What we are NOT likely to see.

wm13:
"The only major areas of split control are state governments, the federal judiciary, and big business, with Democrats having the upper hand in most states and Republicans having the upper hand in part of the judiciary, the US Supreme Court. (Although most of the military are Republicans, the control of the military is effectively in the hands of the executive branch.)"

Prof. Lindgren left out the churches, which are pretty Republican. Remember, a lot more people hear a sermon every week than hear a university lecture.
11.4.2008 1:30pm
Specast:
A few predictions of things that will happen continually over the next 4-8 years:

1. The sun will rise in the East.

2. X + Y will equal Y + X.

3. Jim Lindgen will mischaracterize Barack Obama as wanting to "impose national service programs on children."

On an unrelated note, Starbucks has announced its intention to impose coffee on millions of American citizens (by offering it for free to all voters). Vote Dunkin Donuts 2008!
11.4.2008 1:35pm
Anderson (mail):
their control of the legislative branch, the press, the universities, and Hollywood and the arts.

Not necessarily in order of importance.

Also, dogs and cats are reportedly planning to live together.
11.4.2008 1:43pm
David Warner:
"First, Democrats will add dominance of the executive branch of the federal government to their control of the legislative branch, the press, the universities, and Hollywood and the arts."

This is a libertarian law blog, right? Where's the law?

As for the church, the few, the proud, with actual power or influence who also attend church are likely to hear predictably soft-pedal progressive sermons from their mainline pulpits.
11.4.2008 1:51pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Second, 2009 is likely to mark the high water mark of Democratic control of federal and state governments over the next 4 to 8 years.

Depends. If Obama is popular after his first couple of years, the Democrats may well get the magic 60 Senators in 2010.
11.4.2008 1:51pm
The General:
we're likely to see the biggest expansion in the welfare state since the misapply named "great society" of the 60's. We're likely to see our taxes skyrocket. We're likely to see unemployment go up. We're likely to see stagflation. We're likely to see our enemies grow bolder knowing there is a spineless wimp in the White House. We're likely to see the end of talk radio with the imposition of the Fairness Doctrine and other FCC regulations that impose great burdens on the industry. We're likely to see prosecutions of Bush Administration officials and the criminalization of policy differences. We're likely to see every critic of the Obama Administration labeled a racist. We're likely to see socialized medicine and employers dropping health insurance because workers can just get government insurance. We're likely to see the government take over 401(k)s and end IRAs. We're likely to see Social Security turned into a welfare program. We're likely to see the expansion of affirmative action programs by government and the courts. We're likely to see unions get whatever they want.

And that's just the stuff they say they're gonna do.
11.4.2008 1:53pm
David Warner:
The long march through the institutions has reached fruition. Will the Boomers finally grow up?
11.4.2008 1:55pm
Sarcastro (www):
I predict reeducation camps, all gunpowder devices being illegal, Sharia law and a mandatory draft into a gay army.
11.4.2008 2:12pm
Cornellian (mail):
Party does well in election, inevitably becoming less popular over time as hard decisions are made, resulting in other party doing better in subsequent elections.

Not exactly a profound insight.
11.4.2008 2:12pm
ofidiofile:
The General:

We're likely to see prosecutions of Bush Administration officials and the criminalization of policy differences.



torture as "policy difference"? ha, now that's some straight-up gonzales sophistry there! and so many conservatives decry the 'moral relativism' of the liberals... well, no problem here, i guess, as long as you stick to the crazy end of the swimming pool, hehe.
11.4.2008 2:15pm
Rooj (mail):
In the last couple of years i would occasionally be drawn to this blog by interesting, thought-provoking articles. Because of my previous experience i decided to go ahead and subscribe to this blog.. and what i have found dismayed me.

For every interesting and thought-provoking piece, there seems to be a requirement of at least 3-4 pieces of what can only be described as garbage. This is garbage. There is no forethought, no reasoning, and just odd conclusions that means nothing such as "having a community organizer as President will likely lead to big changes." But goes on to state we have no idea what changes?

Why don't you go ahead and post,
"Having someone with the name Barack as president will lead to big change."

Or,
"having someone who played high school basketball, and attended Columbia, and has two small daughters as President will bring big changes."


I guess i expected more from this blog than what i can already get on cable news. I don't actually care about partisanship, if i can read something that makes me think and see things differently. These posts do nothing of the sort.
11.4.2008 2:18pm
EH (mail):
It's interesting to note that (so far) the Baby Boomer turn at the levers of power only lasted for two Presidents. The previous 30 years (seven Presidents) were all a part of the Greatest Generation.
11.4.2008 2:39pm
Randy R. (mail):
The General: "And that's just the stuff they say they're gonna do."

Then perhaps a one way ticket to Tahiti might be in your future plans?
11.4.2008 2:43pm
hattio1:
Since when has big business been split between the parties? If you look at who business hires after K Street and who it donates to, it's a largely Republican base of power.
11.4.2008 2:45pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
and Hollywood and the arts.

Is this snark? I wasn't aware we voted for this.
11.4.2008 2:49pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):

This occurs in state legislatures and governorships, as well as in Congress.

I don't have exact numbers handy, but in California only one or two legislature seats have changed party in the last four or five elections.

And of course, 90% of Congressional incumbents are re-elected.

I see no reason to expect things to change any time soon.
11.4.2008 3:00pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Regarding Item #4, read Michael Barone's column on "Obama's New Deal No Better Than Old One" here:
The purpose of New Deal legislation was not, as commonly thought, to restore economic growth but rather to freeze the economy in place at a time when it seemed locked in a downward spiral. Its central program, the National Recovery Administration (NRA), created 700 industry councils for firms and unions to set minimum prices and wages. The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), the ancestor of our farm bills, limited production to hold up prices. Unionization, encouraged by NRA and the 1935 Wagner Act, was meant to keep workers in jobs that the unemployed would have taken at lower pay.
[snip]
Obama seems determined to follow policies better suited to freezing the economy in place than to promoting economic growth. Higher taxes on high earners, for one. He told Charlie Gibson he would raise capital gains taxes even if that reduced revenue: less wealth to spread around, but at least the rich wouldn't have it -- reminiscent of the Puritan sumptuary laws that prohibited the wearing of silk. Moves toward protectionism like Hoover's (Roosevelt had the good sense to promote free trade). National health insurance that threatens to lead to rationing and to stifle innovation. Promoting unionization by abolishing secret ballot union elections.

The impulse to social engineering is unmistakable. Government officials will allocate resources, redistribute income, and ration good and services. Use government stakes in banks, insurance companies and Detroit auto manufacturers to maintain the position of those already in place, at the cost of preventing the emergence of new enterprises that might have been spawned by the capital being allocated.
[snip]
When financial crisis looms, there is an impulse to freeze everything in place and accept what is as the best there can ever be: Barack Obama's new New Deal. The history of the old New Deal suggests this is not a sustainable approach in the long run.
11.4.2008 3:12pm
CaDan (mail):
And after that, at night, the ice weasels come and urinate all over your copies of "Atlas Shrugged."
11.4.2008 5:02pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Cornellian,

1. If you read the paper, you'll see that this presidential lightning rod effect applies to state governorships. No one had shown that before.

2. Most states have moved their governor elections to off years to avoid a presidential election effect. Our work suggests that this INCREASES the presidential effect, not decreases it. Not only is that a new finding; it was thought to be highly counter-intuitive when we discovered it.

3. Even for expected effects, it's important to determine and document the SIZE of the effects.
11.4.2008 9:21pm