Author: Ronald Brownstein
If Democrats can’t pass their agenda now, they may not get another chance for years. Here’s why
Over the past roughly 50 years it has grown much more difficult that it was earlier in the 20th century for either party to achieve, and especially to sustain, simultaneous control of the White House and both congressional chambers. Moreover, since the 1970s, neither party has regained unified control of government faster than 10 years after losing it.
With unified control now typically expiring quickly and returning only slowly, both parties have felt enormous pressure to squeeze as much of their legislative agendas as possible into the brief, and widely separated, windows when they hold all the levers of government.
Among Democrats, there’s a widespread fear that if Manchin and Sinema prevent them from moving these bills into law in the current legislative session, it may be years before they get another chance. The difficulty both parties have faced holding unified control for any sustained period over the past half century suggests that anxiety is entirely justified.
Unified government was more the norm
Divided government — in which one party holds the White House and the other holds one or both chambers of Congress — has become so routine in modern politics that it’s easy to forget what a departure it represents from the dynamics through the heart of the 20th century. For most of those decades, the country’s default instinct was to give one party the keys to government and say, in effect, you drive for a while.
From 1896 to 1968, one party or the other simultaneously controlled the White House and both congressional chambers for 58 of those 72 years. Unified control was not only common, but it also was often extended. Early in that period, Republicans held a governing trifecta for 14 consecutive years (1896 to 1910) under Presidents William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft; later Democrats matched that achievement under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman from 1932 to 1946. Republicans controlled all three branches for the entire decade of the 1920s; Democrats controlled all three branches from 1961 through 1968.
Since 1968, the story has been very different. One party or the other has held unified control of government for just 16 of these past 54 years. Neither side has maintained unified control since 1968 for more than four consecutive years. Carter did that throughout his only term (though his congressional majorities depended on very conservative Democrats from what was then still the one-party South who often voted against him.) Bush also had a four-year span of control.
(Bush’s story is complicated: After the razor-thin 2000 election, he came into office with unified control but lost it within months when disaffected GOP Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont quit the Republican caucus and shifted the majority in the previously 50-50 Senate to the Democrats. In the post-9/11 election of 2002, Republicans maintained control of the House and regained the majority in the Senate. Bush defended those majorities in his 2004 reelection, but in 2006, the first time he went into a midterm with unified control, Republicans lost both chambers.)
You can read this complete story at: https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/11/politics/one-party-control-white-house-congress/index.html