Editor’s Note: The Lake Geneva Regional News presents “Party Lines,” a monthly discussion of political issues featuring side-by-side guest columnists from the local Democratic and Republican parties. The column below represents one side of this month’s discussion. Click here for the other side.
Our politically divided country now has a divided government, as does our state. Divided government in the United States and in Wisconsin refers to the executive (president or governor) being of one party and one or more branches of the legislature being of the other.
Nationally, divided government was unusual before 1970. Voters tended to unify their votes between one party or the other. In the past 38 years, however, there has been a united government for only 10 years.
Our founding fathers favored divided government. Our Constitution mandates the presidential rather than the parliamentary system. In a presidential system, the chief executive is directly elected and has power independent of the legislature.
A parliamentary system is less divided. The executive (prime minister) is not elected by citizens, but is a member of the legislature (parliament) and is both elected and terminated by it.
Democrats, with typical disregard of our Constitution, ran in 2018 with little on their agenda except destroying President Trump. They will focus on efforts to remove him from office, as would be done by a parliament.
In the lewd words of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), “We’re gonna go in there, and we’re gonna impeach the ----.”
While the impeachment drama unfolds, we are in a three-week pause in the government shutdown, the longest of the modern era. We had a partial shutdown; seven of the 12 bills that fund the government were passed in September.
The dispute centers over the president’s request for $5.7 billion for the long-promised border barrier or wall. No progress was made during initial meetings, and subsequently Democrats have refused to negotiate unless the shutdown ends.
President Trump offered a compromise that extended protections for three years for people living here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, i.e. the “Dreamers”, and for those fleeing disaster zones in return for the border wall funding. Hearing of the plan, Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to accept it before the president was even able to formally announce it. The “Dreamers” still have no legal clarity re: remaining in this country.
Pelosi calls a barrier “immoral,” though in past years she voted to build hundreds of miles of such barriers. Perhaps a more comprehensive immigration plan such as Bush’s 2006 proposal needs to be considered. That proposal passed the Senate 62-36. Unfortunately, as long as Democrats believe the issue favors them in the next election, progress seems unlikely.
Other issues provide possibilities for compromise. Hopefully there will be progress on improving infrastructure. Environmental activists, union work rules, competing regions, conflicts of cities versus rural interests may hamper this.
Another chance for cooperation is on the trade deal to replace NAFTA. The deal (USMCA) has been signed by the three countries, but needs ratification. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the president and Big Labor have worked through issues on this.
The current gridlock in Washington contrasts with Wisconsin.
Here, Republicans retain a majority in the state Assembly (63-36) and Senate (19-14), but a Democrat, Tony Evers, was elected governor. Although not my preferred outcome, I think Wisconsin government will not falter. Leaders of both parties have urged bipartisanship, encouraging their colleagues to build on prior cooperative work on the state’s opioid crisis.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) urged legislators to engage in civil dialogue. He has already been working with Gov. Evers on a bill protecting health coverage for patients with preexisting conditions. A vote on the bill will occur soon.
It is said that the pros of divided government are oversight of those in power, less expansion of detrimental laws and less spending; the cons gridlock on legislation that is needed, and polarization.
We may disagree on the pros, but let’s hope together that compromise limits the cons.
Pamela B. Wolfe of the town of Geneva is a member of the Republican Party of Walworth County.