The Conversation

The Folly of the One-Party Fantasy

Over at Big Journalism, I challenged Lou Cannon's suggestion that the California exchanges for Obamacare are a "beacon" of hope for the rest of the program. There is another important criticism of Cannon's argument, in addition to its inaccuracy: Cannon seems to buy the Democratic line, endorsed by Bill Maher, that one-party rule is the reason that Obamacare is faring better in California than elsewhere.

Arguably, the state that has the most successful Obamacare exchanges is Kentucky, where the legislature is run by Republicans and the governor's mansion is occupied by a Democrat. But the real problem with the one-party argument is that it mistakes efficiency for efficacy. In other words, one-party rule works better if you want to pass laws and implement them quickly. It does not help if those laws are actually harmful.

Divided government may move more slowly, but it can be better at catching mistakes. That may not save bad policies--there are many problems with bipartisan Romneycare in Massachusetts--but it may mitigate them. Of course, divided government is not a cure-all for bad leadership: it is worth noting that California's decision to embrace Obamacare was made by a Republican governor. But one-party rule is not the answer.


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