Elec­tion shows di­vi­sions in US are only grow­ing wider

The Island Packet - - Opinion - BY RAMESH PONNURU

Di­vided gov­ern­ment has been the Amer­i­can norm over the last 50 years. It has been our con­di­tion 70 per­cent of the time, and vot­ers have ended ev­ery pe­riod of uni­fied party con­trol of both Congress and the White House af­ter at most four years.

In that re­spect, we just had a very nor­mal elechave tion. Vot­ers ex­pe­ri­enced two years of of unchecked Repub­li­can dom­i­nance of Wash­ing­ton, and de­cided they had had enough of it – just as they de­cided that two years of Demo­cratic con­trol was enough af­ter Bill Clin­ton’s first two years and Barack Obama’s first two years. But largely be­cause so many of the Se­nate races were on Repub­li­can turf, Don­ald Trump’s party man­aged to gain seats in that body.

The prin­ci­pal con­se­quences of th­ese elec­tion out­comes are three. Re­pub­li­cans will be able to keep con­firm­ing the pres­i­dent’s nom­i­nees to the ex­ec­u­tive and the ju­di­cial branches. (They may be able to get more con­ser­va­tive nom­i­nees through than they did be­fore.) Democrats, how­ever, will be able to use the sub­poena power to con­duct over­sight of the ad­min­is­tra­tion or, as Re­pub­li­cans will soon be call­ing it, ha­rass­ment. And leg­isla­tive grid­lock will con­tinue. Re­pub­li­cans quit try­ing to ad­vance ma­jor leg­is­la­tion a year ago, and now both par­ties will use leg­is­la­tion mostly to score po­lit­i­cal points rather than to ac­tu­ally get it en­acted.

This last con­clu­sion runs counter to some happy talk on elec­tion night about the pos­si­bil­ity of bi­par­ti­san co­op­er­a­tion on in­fra­struc­ture. But the par­ties don’t ac­tu­ally agree on much beyond their com­mon lik­ing of the word “in­fra­struc­ture.” For ac­tion to take place, ei­ther one party would have to sur­ren­der or both would have to com­pro­mise on the pol­icy ques­tions.

Ad­di­tion­ally, House Democrats would have to be will­ing to help the pres­i­dent score a bi­par­ti­san achieve­ment. And all this would have to take place in the midst of le­gal bat­tles be­tween the White House and the U.S. House.

The split be­tween the Se­nate and the House showed that our par­ti­san di­vi­sions are deep­en­ing rather than be­ing re­solved. Dif­fer­ences be­tween ru­ral and ur­ban vot­ers, and be­tween whites with and with­out col­lege de­grees, have con­tin­ued to widen. The elec­tions also showed some of the ob­sta­cles each party will face if it seeks to at­tain a gov­ern­ing ma­jor­ity in 2020.

The Repub­li­can coali­tion is not a ma­jor­ity, and is not hold­ing. Trump won sup­port from some white work­ing-class vot­ers who had pre­vi­ously backed Obama, but Re­pub­li­cans not yet ab­sorbed those vot­ers into their party – and at the same time Trump has driven away col­lege-ed­u­cated sub­ur­ban­ites.

The Democrats may have a na­tional ma­jor­ity, but if so it is a small one ge­o­graph­i­cally dis­trib­uted in a way that may put the Se­nate and the pres­i­dency out of reach.

Nancy Pelosi con­cluded her vic­tory speech by sug­gest­ing, sweetly if fan­ci­fully, that Amer­i­cans had cast a vote for “unity.” What we can more re­al­is­ti­cally look for­ward to is two more years of so­cial di­vi­sion, par­ti­san ran­cor and gov­ern­men­tal scle­ro­sis – all of that, plus a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion that we can now con­sider un­der­way.

THE SPLIT BE­TWEEN THE SE­NATE AND THE HOUSE SHOWED THAT OUR PAR­TI­SAN DI­VI­SIONS ARE DEEP­EN­ING RATHER THAN BE­ING RE­SOLVED.

Ramesh Ponnuru is se­nior ed­i­tor of Na­tional Re­view mag­a­zine.

Bloomberg

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