On Nov. 4, the United States set out on course to elect Barack Obama as President Bush's successor in the White House. For the first time since the turn of the millennium, we have a Democrat in the pilot seat of the American flagship. What is going to be different from last time, based on a partisan stance, is that the Democrats will have control of much of the government: the president, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and potentially the Supreme Court (depending on how many appointments the President will make).
The implications of this uni-partisan government are as vast and diverse as the parties themselves. Some would argue that a single party in power would make government policy making and enforcing much more effective.
Afterall, in the UK Parliamentary system, the model that many democracies use, a single party is in the majority and the Prime Minister or President is from that party as well. The theoretical reasons for the increase in productivity are simple; if a particular bill needs to be passed, the Democrats in their majority will be able to send it through the legislative process, a Democratic president will sign it into law, and a Democratic Supreme Court will tend to not override it. In addition, with the momentum of a new, motivated president riding on a tidal wave of American voters' support, more of the Obama administration's agenda will be placed into action.
However, historically, even when a single party has had complete dominance of the government, there has not been a significant increase in effectiveness. President Carter had a Democratic Congress to back him up in the 1970s, but his administration was not greatly more productive in passing laws than, say, President Clinton's divided houses.
Contrarily, a uni-partisan dominated government goes against the very ideals set forth by our forefathers. First of all, a single party can never encompass the views of all the Americans; true, it may represent a majority of them, but this still leaves a considerable percentage of Americans whose views cannot be efficiently passed through Congress.
Yes, the voters chose the dominant Democrat leaders, but the Republicans need to have some strength in the government to balance it out. The democratic (relating to the ideal, not the party) nature of our country necessitates multiple viewpoints within the government; with the Democrats in charge of all areas, the checks and balances system is rendered futile.
Regardless of whether one party in charge is better than two, the U.S. does seem to be headed towards a uni-partisan government. What does this mean for the Republican Party? With the loss of the 2008 Presidential campaign as well as the incumbent President Bush, the Republicans are going to have very little influence within the lawmaking sectors of our government. As a result, the Republican Party is going to have to make changes to their platform; clearly, the McCain platform set forth this past summer was not appealing enough to capture the votes of the American people.
One way the Republican Party can change is to lean more to the left, become more middleground on the political spectrum. They would still be more conservative than the upcoming Obama administration but would be more in-line with what most Americans want. The country as a whole seems to be leaning towards a more liberal-minded government, and so both parties must shift down the political spectrum in order to accurately reflect the views of the voting public.
The Republicans have lost power because they have abandoned their principles of limited government and fiscal responsiblity. The big problem for Republicans in this year's election was alienating moderate, independent and libertarian voters to the Democatic candidate. This was not always the case. For years, the Republican party united libertarians and conservatives against the big-government Democartic party. The Republicans need to re-think their strategy for the future.
However, I think it is more likely that, since McCain himself was somewhat more liberal than the average Republican, the Party could become more right-wing. This way, there would still be a strong conservative hold within American politics which could have some effect upon the decisions made within the chambers of Congress. Furthermore, a more conservative Party will maintain the values of the status quo Republican supporters in the hopes that the tide of American politics will once again shift towards the right wing. After all, looking back in history, there have always been two parties with different ideals.
Whenever one party becomes the sole dominant party, such as when the Jacksonian Democratic Party took control in the 1800s, another party will always form out of the minority factions; in the case of the Jacksonians, the Whigs came into being. So more than likely, the Republican party will maintain its conservative platform for its constituents, and when the tide of politics shifts again in upcoming elections, the Republicans may regain some control.
But for the next few years, America is certainly going to be running at full speed with a Democratic captain at its bow and a Democratic Congress dominating its engine. Time will tell what the fate of the party system will be, but for now, the United States will be controlled by the Democrats.