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Divided We Govern: Party Control, Lawmaking, and Investigations, 1946-2002, Second Edition 2nd ed. Edition
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The book can be a tough slog for a casual reader like myself. Working through the extensive footnotes and supporting material that some would consider dry, maybe even Sahara desert-like, requires some perseverance. But Mayhew has a clean, approachable style, writes with clarity, and if you are a political wonk and/or bring a curiosity of why things really get done (or don't) in Washington - it is a fascinating read.
There is a pervasive belief - a nugget of "conventional wisdom" - that if you want to "get things done" in Congress, whether legislation, investigations to clean up governmental abuses, or just promote "change", a single party must control the Presidency and both legislative branches to avoid gridlock. It certainly seems intuitively obvious that the federal government would be more productive if all branches are run by one party. In this book David Mayhew proved the conventional wisdom flat wrong, at least in the modern era. He put the proposition to the test by rigorously quantifying and analyzing all legislation and investigations (the two primary functions of Congress) from 1946-2002. First published in 1991, the book was updated with a second edition in 2005. It is the seminal reference work that debunked the notion that the federal government functions more effectively with unified single party control.
But if unified vs. divided government does not correlate to congressional productivity, what are the factors that prompts congress to "get things done"? Mahew analyzes some of the possibilities in the book.Read more ›