I want to address a couple of false beliefs that seem to have driven a lot of the electorate. One is the belief that the Founding Fathers, to ensure the balance of power, intended to create a system that would never see the same party dominate all three branches of government. This is utterly wrong. The balance of power resides in the fact that we have three branches of government, each of which will zealously protect its turf against encroachments from the two other branches. The Founding Fathers cared not a whit about party balance amongst the branches.
The second canard is that the Democrats should win because it is against the country’s founding doctrines that there are poor people in America, especially poor people without adequate medical care. I’ve searched the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and a bunch of statutes, and don’t find anything saying that this country was founded on the premise that there could be no poor people and that everyone should get medical care.
Now, I agree that it would be lovely if there were no poor people and everyone could get medical care. The Soviets tried extreme socialism to achieve that goal, and it was a dismal failure. Everyone got poor and no one got medical care. The Europeans have been using modified socialism for some time, and it seems to be a slow-mo version of the the Soviets. For a long time — the halcyon 70s — it really looked as if it was working, with cradle to grave care and endless vacations. However, the paradigm is falling apart.
These countries have poor economic growth, high unemployment (see Germany and England, for example), major racial problems, etc. (A good place to see these numbers play out is the CIA’s World Fact Book.) It is true that Germany avoids poverty statistics because of its socialism, but that seems to be more a fact of everyone going down slowly together, as opposed to having successfully avoided mass poverty. Certainly the tensions between the “rich” Germans and the completely disenfranchised Turks — called into the country to do the work the Germans cannot or would not do — seems to bear this out.
Now, I recognize that German reunification has skewed German numbers (which are exceptionally bad for economic growth and unemployment), but things aren’t much better in other countries. Check out the Fact Book for England, Holland, Denmark, France, etc., and you’ll see the same picture over and over. They’re hanging on by their teeth and, while it’s true that the poor do better there (which is a good thing), the fact is that they all are in the same economically sinking boat. Take the rich/middle-class down far enough, and the poor are going to sink with them.
Health care in socialist countries is a toss-up. In America, most people get good health care, and some get lousy health care. In countries with socialized medicine, everyone gets slightly better than lousy health care. Take your pick which ineffective system you’d prefer. If, like me, you get good health care, you’d stick with the American model. If you’re suffering from lousy health care, because you have no insurance, you’d logically opt for socialized medicine, which would at least give you a fighting chance to some medical benefits.
As it is, I lived in England during the peak years of socialized medicine (late 1970s/early 1980s). Cancer patients were put on 3-4 month waiting lists for “emergency” surgery. Patients with degenerative joint diseases that could have been aleviated by joint surgery were parked in wheel chairs and put on waiting lists for a year or more. Routine medical care was substandard, although everyone definitely had access to it.
What was fascinating was that, during the time I was there, private medicine was making a resurgence. Those with money were paying vast amounts (despite their tax rates) to buy insurance so that they could avoid the socialized system and get decent care. When I left England in the early 1980s, England had developed precisely the same type of system we have in America: the rich got good care, the poor got government care.
I fear that many of those who voted Democratic believing they were advancing inalienable rights of equal party divisions among branches of government, or the right to high quality medical care for everyone, have been sold a bill of goods. Let’s hope they figure things out in the next 2 years.
UPDATE: Interestingly, America has survived decades of a unified Presidency and Congress. That is, there have been years and years where all elected branches lay under the control of a single party. Even more interestingly, since Roosevelt, this unification has almost invariably favored Democrats, not Republicans. I’m sure were there to be a Democratic sweep in 2008, the silence about its effect on balanced government would be deafening.