Divided government in the United States

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In the United States, divided government describes a situation in which one party controls the executive branch while another party controls one or both houses of the legislative branch.

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Divided government is seen by different groups as a benefit or as an undesirable product of the model of governance used in the U.S. political system. Under said model, known as the separation of powers, the state is divided into different branches. Each branch has separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with the powers associated with the others. However, the degree to which the president of the United States has control of Congress often determines their political strength - such as the ability to pass sponsored legislation, ratify treaties, and have Cabinet members and judges approved.

The model can be contrasted with the fusion of powers in a parliamentary system where the executive and legislature (and sometimes parts of the judiciary) are unified. Those in favor of divided government believe that such separations encourage more policing of those in power by the opposition, as well as limiting spending and the expansion of undesirable laws. [1] Opponents, however, argue that divided governments become lethargic, leading to many gridlocks. In the late 1980s, Terry M. Moe, a professor of political science at Stanford University, examined the issue. [2] He concluded that divided governments lead to compromise which can be seen as beneficial, but he also noticed that divided governments subvert performance and politicize the decisions of executive agencies.

Early in the 19th century, divided government was rare, but since the 1970s it has become increasingly common.

Party control of legislative and executive branches since 1861

Party control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (including president's party): 1855-2021 Combined--Control of the U.S. House of Representatives - Control of the U.S. Senate.png
Party control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (including president's party): 1855-2021
Party divisions and control of the house and senate.pdf

D denotes the Democratic Party and R denotes the Republican Party

Bold indicates a divided government.

YearPresidentSenateHouseNew President
1861–1863RRRLincoln
1863–1865RRR
1865–1867DRRA. Johnson
1867–1869DRR
1869–1871RRRGrant
1871–1873RRR
1873–1875RRR
1875–1877RRD
1877–1879RRDHayes
1879–1881RDD
1881–1883RRRGarfield/Arthur
1883–1885RRD
1885–1887DRDCleveland
1887–1889DRD
1889–1891RRRHarrison
1891–1893RRD
1893–1895DDDCleveland
1895–1897DRR
1897–1899RRRMcKinley
1899–1901RRR
1901–1903RRRT. Roosevelt
1903–1905RRR
1905–1907RRR
1907–1909RRR
1909–1911RRRTaft
1911–1913RRD
1913–1915DDDWilson
1915–1917DDD
1917–1919DDD
1919–1921DRR
1921–1923RRRHarding
1923–1925RRRCoolidge
1925–1927RRR
1927–1929RRR
1929–1931RRRHoover
1931–1933RRD
1933–1935DDDF. Roosevelt
1935–1937DDD
1937–1939DDD
1939–1941DDD
1941–1943DDD
1943–1945DDD
1945–1947DDDTruman
1947–1949DRR
1949–1951DDD
1951–1953DDD
1953–1955RRREisenhower
1955–1957RDD
1957–1959RDD
1959–1961RDD
1961–1963DDDKennedy
1963–1965DDDJohnson
1965–1967DDD
1967–1969DDD
1969–1971RDDNixon
1971–1973RDD
1973–1975RDDFord
1975–1977RDD
1977–1979DDDCarter
1979–1981DDD
1981–1983RRDReagan
1983–1985RRD
1985–1987RRD
1987–1989RDD
1989–1991RDDG.H.W. Bush
1991–1993RDD
1993–1995DDDClinton
1995–1997DRR
1997–1999DRR
1999–2001DRR
2001–2003RD*RG.W. Bush
2003–2005RRR
2005–2007RRR
2007–2009RDD
2009–2011DDDObama
2011–2013DDR
2013–2015DDR
2015–2017DRR
2017–2019RRRTrump
2019–2021RRD
2021–2023DD**DBiden

*The 2000 election resulted in a 50–50 tie in the Senate, and the Constitution gives tie-breaking power to the vice president. The vice president was Democrat Al Gore from January 3, 2001 until the inauguration of Republican Richard Cheney on January 20, 2001. Then on May 24, 2001, Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party to caucus with the Democrats as an independent, resulting in another shift of control. [6]

**The 2020 election resulted in a 50–50 tie in the Senate, and the Constitution gives tie-breaking power to the vice president. The vice president has been Kamala Harris since January 20, 2021.

Presidential impact

Many presidents' elections produced what is known as a coattail effect, in which the success of a presidential candidate also leads to electoral success for other members of his or her party. In fact, all newly elected presidents except Zachary Taylor, Richard Nixon, and George H. W. Bush were accompanied by control of at least one house of Congress.

Presidents by congressional control and terms won/served

Most columns are in numbers of years.

No.PresidentPresident's PartyElections wonYears servedSenate withSenate opposedHouse withHouse opposedxCongress withCongress opposedCongress divided
1 George Washington None288044404
2 John Adams Federalist144040400
3 Thomas Jefferson Democratic-Republican288080800
4 James Madison Democratic-Republican288080800
5 James Monroe Democratic-Republican288080800
6 John Quincy Adams Democratic-RepublicanNational-Republican140422022
7 Andrew Jackson Democratic286280602
8 Martin Van Buren Democratic144040400
9 William Harrison Whig10.10.100.100.100
10 John Tyler WhigIndependent03.93.901.921.902
11 James Polk Democratic144022202
12 Zachary Taylor Whig110101010
13 Millard Fillmore Whig030303030
14 Franklin Pierce Democratic144022202
15 James Buchanan Democratic144022202
16 Abraham Lincoln RepublicanNational Union24.14.104.104.100
17 Andrew Johnson DemocraticNational Union03.903.903.903.90
18 Ulysses Grant Republican288062602
19 Rutherford Hayes Republican142204022
20 James Garfield Republican10.500.50.50000.5
21 Chester Arthur Republican03.53.501.521.502
22 Grover Cleveland Democratic140440004
23 Benjamin Harrison Republican144022202
24 Grover Cleveland Democratic142222220
25 William McKinley Republican24.54.504.504.500
26 Theodore Roosevelt Republican17.57.507.507.500
27 William Taft Republican144022202
28 Woodrow Wilson Democratic286262620
29 Warren Harding Republican12.42.402.402.400
30 Calvin Coolidge Republican15.65.605.605.600
31 Herbert Hoover Republican144022202
32 Franklin Roosevelt Democratic412.212.2012.2012.200
33 Harry Truman Democratic17.85.825.825.820
34 Dwight Eisenhower Republican282626260
35 John Kennedy Democratic12.82.802.802.800
36 Lyndon Johnson Democratic15.25.205.205.200
37 Richard Nixon Republican25.605.605.605.60
38 Gerald Ford Republican02.402.402.402.40
39 Jimmy Carter Democratic144 [7] 040400
40 Ronald Reagan Republican286208026
41 George H. W. Bush Republican140404040
42 Bill Clinton Democratic282 [8] 626260
43 George W. Bush Republican284.53.5624.521.5
44 Barack Obama Democratic286226224
45 Donald Trump Republican144022202
46 Joe Biden Democratic100 [9] 000000
No.PresidentPresident's PartyElections wonYears servedSenate withSenate opposedHouse withHouse opposedCongress withCongress opposedCongress divided

See also

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References

  1. "Would Divided Government Be Better?". Cato Institute . 3 September 2006. Archived from the original on 7 July 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  2. Moe, Terry (1989). "The Politics of Bureaucratic Structure" . Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  3. "Party In Power - Congress and Presidency - A Visual Guide To The Balance of Power In Congress, 1945-2008". Uspolitics.about.com. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  4. "Chart of Presidents of the United States". Filibustercartoons.com. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  5. "Composition of Congress by Party 1855–2013". Infoplease.com. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  6. Langer, Emily (2014-08-18). "James M. Jeffords, Vermont Republican who became independent, dies at 80". The Washington Post . ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  7. Carter served the last 17 days of his presidency with a Republican majority Senate.
  8. Clinton served the last 17 days of his 2nd term with a 50-50 majority in the senate with Al Gore being the tie breaker for the democrats after they won control in the 2000 elections until Republican vice president Dick Cheney was sworn in and broke the tie in favor of the republicans.
  9. Biden served his first term with a 50-50 majority in the senate with Kamala Harris being the tie breaker for the democrats after the senators elected in Georgia's senate runoff elections and the senator appointed by the governor of California were sworn in on January 20th, 2021.

Further reading