A frequently-encountered bit of wishful thinking is that Democratic (or, less frequently, Republican) control of the White House and both house of Congress would solve all of our problems. There is, apparently, empirical evidence of the existence of this belief:
The Gallup survey found that Democrats currently favor one-party government much more than Republicans do. That fits a historical pattern, wrote Andrew Dugan of the Gallup organization, “in which members of the president’s party have the strongest desire for one-party government when an incumbent is competing for a new term.”
In 2004, when George W. Bush was seeking a second term, Republicans preferred unified government and Democrats favored divided government. However, when one party controls both the White House and Congress, as in 2006 and 2010, all voters favor divided government.
Morris P. Fiorina, a thoughtful Stanford political scientist, believes divided government produces “reasonable compromises when there are reasonable people on both sides,” as happened in 1983 on Social Security. But, he cautioned, it leads to gridlock “in today’s climate of a political tong war.”
Gridlock may be the best that we can hope for. While the belief in the need for single-party rule is persistent the evidence for its effectiveness is pretty darned hard to come by. Chicago has had complete Democratic control of City Hall and the City Council for generations. Chicago is broke and recent moves to raise taxes have produced less revenue than their advocates had projected.
I do not think think that single-party rule is ipso facto pernicious but it’s no panacea, either. Until relatively recently Chicago was the “city that works”. But that was back in the early 60s in the Richard J. Daley days (before the 1968 convention) when big cities all over the country were collapsing in decay while Chicago kept ticking right on. Nobody who lives in Chicago can possibly hear the claims that Democratic control of the White House, House of Representatives, and Senate will solve all of our problems without chuckling.
What has changed for Chicago? Too many people with too many hands in a cookie jar with only so many cookies in it.