1. Republicans are most principled when someone they despise holds power. ... President Clinton fought for significant increases in the size and scope of the Department of Education. The Republicans wouldn�t allow it. President Clinton asked for significant campaign finance reform. It died in the Congress. President Clinton wanted an overhaul in the health care system, particularly a prescription drug benefit for seniors. He never got it.
In the three years President Clinton has been out of office, the Republican Congress has passed all three of those ideas into law. It�s pretty clear now that the GOP of the 1990s acted not out of principle, but out of spite. ... They simply didn�t want to give President Clinton any political victories. In contrast, the Congress has been so kind to President Bush, he may become the first American president since James Buchanan (search) to go an entire term without using the veto.
2. Divided government gets less done (always a good thing in Washington). The Cato Institute�s William Niskanen points out that in the last 50 years, the only two periods of extended fiscal restraint from the federal government came during the Eisenhower and Clinton administrations, both under divided government. The two eras when government expanded were the Kennedy/Johnson administration, and the current administration, both under united government. Note that party affiliation really doesn�t factor into the equation. A government that can�t pass laws can�t spend money. It can�t raise taxes. It can�t create new federal agencies or benefits.
3. Republicans are more principled when they�re not in power. Remember the Contract With America? (search) It was introduced in 1993. At that time, Republicans were in the minority, and had been, for the most part, for decades. The Contract With America proposed a radical downsizing of the federal government, including eliminating entire Cabinet departments. It was born of a �nothing left to lose� mentality. It was bold, brash and refreshingly principled. Of course, as soon as the Republicans won, largely because of the Contract, they promptly abandoned its most controversial provisions. They feared offending mainstream voters. They now had something to lose � their power.
What Balko misses in his analysis is the fact that the GOP is less about conservative ideals and more about power for its own sake. The GOP is not a party of fiscal conservatism, or any kind of conservatism - the GOP has become the Corporatist party. It's a machine-style politics with three Big Bosses - Tom Delay, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney. This ideological triumvirate maintains smooth machine operation with strict enforcement of party loyalty at all costs.
Balko thinks that electing Dean will motivate the GOP to do the right thing out of spite, but forgets that the infrastructure of the corporatist hold over the party has solidified during the Bush Administration. It's doubtful that the GOP can ever find it's way back from the hinterlands of ideology that it has sold itself to. And we haven't even mentioned the Religious Right...
I welcome the argument, however, because in making it Balko superficially acknowledges what Dwight Meredith has documented in extensive detail. The economy AND the lives of ordinary Americans improve under Democratic rule, relative ot the GOP.