Separate but Equal Branches: Congress and the Presidency

By Charles O. Jones | Go to book overview

Introduction

The post- World War II period has witnessed remarkable developments in presidential-congressional relations. Between 1901 and 1947, it was rare for there to be split-party arrangements between the White House and Capitol Hill. Each of three cases--the 62d Congress ( 1911-13), the 66th Congress ( 1991-21), and the 72d Congress ( 1931-33)-- occurred in the last two years of an administration, presaging a party change in the White House. In two of the cases--the 62d and 72d Congresses--only one house had a majority of the other party. Since 1947, there have been split-party arrangements a majority of the time--eight years with a Democratic president and Republican Congress ( 1947-49; 1995-2001), twenty years with a Republican president and a Democratic Congress ( 1955-61, 1969-77, 1987-93), and six years with a Republican president and Senate and a Democratic House ( 1981-87). Three Republican presidents, Richard Nixon in 1969, Ronald Reagan in 1981, and George Bush in 1989, entered office with the Democrats in a majority of one or both houses of Congress. And three Republican presidents--Dwight Eisenhower in 1957, Nixon in 1973, Reagan in 1985--and one Democratic president--Clinton in 1997--reentered office under conditions of split-party control.

A feature that occurs 63 percent of the time may properly be cited as common and therefore worthy of serious attention by students of politics. Unfortunately many observers prefer simply to decry the emergence of divided government as an aberration to be rectified, concentrating their attention on the palliatives. Meanwhile large numbers of American voters continue to split their tickets, sending mixed signals and doubling the checks and balances by separating the politics as well as the powers in Washington and many state capitals.

These developments in the post- World War II period have interested me greatly, and from time to time I have written articles and book chapters that chronicle developments and seek to identify and analyze their importance for the national political system. I should

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