Which political environment produces results? Some people argue that divided government – one party controlling the executive branch and the opposition controlling the legislative – works because the opposing parties serve as a check on the extreme stands of the other and the result is a middle-ground compromise.
The alternative viewpoint – one party controls both the executive and legislative branches – is more efficient because the people’s representatives and the governor or president have the same agenda.
Results from the recently concluded legislative session and ongoing paralysis on major issues in Washington, D.C. prove that neither arrangement delivers results.
But maybe it’s not an issue of divided vs. not-divided government that’s important, but how the people filling the chairs operate.
“The business of politics is the conciliation of differing interests,” British political theorist Bernard Crick wrote in his book “In Defense of Politics.” Conciliation is the alternative to outright warfare. Politics in a democracy assumes we can find ways of living and working together even when we disagree. That’s why we need politicians who take this mission seriously.
Politics is about creating a decent society, a task that can only be accomplished when citizens find ways of cooperating.
That’s not what happened in St. Paul.
The Legislature adjourned without a solution to conform the Minnesota tax code to the federal overhaul passed in December. The Republican-controlled House and Senate sent Gov. Mark Dayton a tax bill that would cut income-tax rates and allow the state to set its own deductions and exemptions. Dayton said it favors tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and he threatened to veto it.
For Minnesota taxpayers, that means confusion, a stressful tax season ahead and some people paying higher taxes.
Despite three months of debate, the governor and Legislature could not agree on measures for school funding and school safety, leaving districts guessing about their own budget decisions.
The $825-million bonding bill for roads, buildings and infrastructure upgrades did pass but it was smaller than the governor wanted. He’ll probably sign it.
The results from Washington, where Republicans control the White House and Congress, are not much better. After 16 months of Republican leadership there’s no action on immigration, including fixing Donald Trump’s cruel executive order on DACA recipients, no action to improve health care, no action to repair and replace bridges, roads, railroads or airports.
The Republicans are very proud of their tax bill, which blows a hole in the deficit by giving the people who least need it tax relief.
With midterm elections five months away, don’t expect any action on those other key issues which were a big part of the 2016 campaign.
When you are making choices of who to elect governor, to the state Legislature, to the U.S. House or U.S. Senate, the priority question for candidates is how they are going to resolve differing interests.
Are they running to give us two more years of conflict and gridlock or are they ready for conciliation and compromise?