Argument: One-party rule under Bush administration was a failure

Issue Report: Divided government vs. one-party rule


Jonathan Rauch. “When One Party Rules, Both Parties Fail”. The Atlantic. 7 Nov. 2006 – The 2003-2006 Republican era is not the first four-year run of one-party control, but it is the first to have taken place when neither party speaks for—or even to—the political center.

Ideological purity, party loyalty, and Republican control have thus produced an experiment in which a fiercely partisan and ideologically compact minority runs the entire government, locking out Democrats and alienating many independents. Like a one-armed canoeist, this lopsided rule has delivered neither efficiency nor effectiveness.

In September, with the session almost over, The Washington Post noted that the House was “on pace to shatter all records for inactivity.” The current House, wrote The Post’s Dana Milbank, had passed barely 400 measures. “The ‘Do-Nothing’ House of 1948 was positively frenetic by comparison, passing 1,191 measures.”

If the portions were small, at least the food was bad. Unless you count a temporary cut in dividend tax rates, the creation of a national intelligence directorate, or some patching of the federal pension guarantee program, the Republicans have managed only one major program reform, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and that was an exercise in irresponsibility, making the government’s main domestic problem—long-term fiscal insolvency—much worse. Laws creating a legal framework for terrorism war detainees were important but flawed and overdue. Other than that? Social Security reform, no. Tax reform, no. Immigration reform, no. Fiscal probity, no.

Disaster response after Hurricane Katrina was abysmal. The preparation for and conduct of the Iraq occupation was little better. Abroad, world trade talks are stalled. North Korea is expanding and testing its nuclear arsenal. Iran is marching toward nuclear status. American prestige is at a low ebb.

Those are unarguable facts. Obviously, they are not all the fault of Republicans, President Bush, one-party rule, Washington, or, for that matter, America. But a search for policies enacted since 2003 that have enjoyed either substantive success or broad public support yields results that can only be called dispiriting. No other four-year period in memory looks as bleak.