Unified Government Could Present Risks

This story was written by Saja Hindi, Technician


The Democrats, now in control of both the House and the Senate, will also be in control of the highest executive office of government if Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wins the national election.

Michael Cobb, North Carolina State Universityassociate professor of political science, said there are both positives and negatives to this possibility.

"Unified government makes it easier for actions to occur," he said. "One party is in control and it makes it easier to know who is in charge of the good and the bad [things that happen]."

But on the other hand, there is less introspection of the party's own member's activities.

"We saw that in the last three years where a large number of Republicans were indicted in investigations and found guilty and faced jail time," Cobb said.

The number was almost unprecedented in modern times, he said, not that these people weren't guilty -- but that there wasn't as much scrutiny on the Democrats.

Douglas Massengill from the North Carolina Federation of Democrats, a junior in political science, said a unified government for the Democrats would help Obama implement his proposed policies.

"The only way he can get those things done should he be president is if we have a legislative branch that is indeed veto-proof," Massengill said.

But Massengill said the balance of power should continue to be maintained.

"There are still plenty of Democrats and even Republicans that aren't going to agree with any legislation that potential president Obama or president [John] McCain are going to put forth," he said.

Congress, Massengill said, won't rubberstamp everything like George Bush's Republican Congress.

"They're going to challenge president Obama, and in turn, make him a great leader and a great president if he wins," Massengill said.

But, Peter Barnes, executive director of College Republican and sophomore in forestry management, disagreed.

A Democratic supermajority will make any controversial legislation go through the way the Democrats want it to, he said, whether it's on taxes or abortion.

"They'll be able to push through their legislation a lot easier, and put through stuff that would never ever pass without the supermajority," Barnes said.

And the only system of checks and balances, he said, would be the courts.

"Checks and balances are dead at this point [if Obama wins]," he said. "The courts will keep it to a certain extent, but there's only so much they can do."

The reason, Barnes said, is Obama will be able to appoint anyone he wants to as a judge, including "very ultra-liberal judges without any oversight from the opposing party."

Both Cobb and Massengill agreed that the risk of losing the Democratic majority in the next election exists even if the party doesn't do anything to drastically upset the Republicans.

"The party that wins the presidency tends to suffer electoral losses in the next midterm election," Cobb said. "It's almost always the case. The reason why has nothing to do necessarily with a voter referendum on the activities of the party, but the party typically wins the presidency by getting more people out to vote who wouldn't normally vote."

Massengill, however, said despite these results, the American people elect the president and in turn pick the platform of the next government.

"That's what we have elections for in the first place," he said.

Cobb said the unified government shouldn't be seen as trouble, but "objective reality may not matter," he said. "It's just perception.">

And right now, Cobb said, the climate is leaning toward the Democrats.

Obama's platform of repositioning troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, his healthcare reforms and his new economic policies will be on the top of the list for change if he is elected and has a unified government to back him.

The time it will take to get these things done and how fast Obama will push them is still unclear though, Cobb said.

Massengill thought otherwise.

"I expect that he will be very quickly acting," he said.
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