Divided Party Control of the Government FAQ

Governments throughout history have had a habit of moving outside of their lawful bounds, or of creating laws that are oppressive to the people who must abide by them. The Founding Fathers of the United States sought to avoid this scenario in the fledgling country. They built in a system of checks and balances in order to make sure that no one person or small group of people could use the office for their personal gain, or to impinge on the rights of the general population. Along with dividing the powers into the judicial, executive and legislative branches, powers were also divided along party lines. Divided party control of the government occurs when there are different parties in control of the executive houses.

Why is there divided party control of the government?

Theoretically, keeping the executive branch of government divided along party lines ensures that all legislation stays moderate. Nothing absolutely radical can really happen in the White House, the House of Representatives or the Senate-or, at very least, never all three. The hope in establishing this mechanism was that an oligarchy might be avoided. There are times when there is no divided party control of the government, but short terms in office help keep elected officials in check in the performance of their duties.

What are the primary parties in the United States government?

Today, the primary parties of the United States are the Democratic and Republican parties. The parties also tend to be divided into conservative, moderate and liberal factions. Each of these parties select their stance on various points of concern, and each member of the respective parties then theoretically work to further that platform. These platforms change over time, and are subject to change according to popular opinion and beliefs within the party. Over the course of several election cycles, they may change drastically to conform to the political climate.

What determines which party is in control?

Party control of the House of Representatives and the Senate hinges almost entirely on which party has the most seats in each at any given time. Officials in each house are generally chosen from the majority party, and having more votes from a party makes it more likely that that party's opinion will be the one that prevails. In the White House, the party in control is determined by the party affiliation of the President.

What are some drawbacks to divided party control?

While the fervent hope is that divided party control keeps anything too drastic from being done, sometimes it effectively keeps anything from being done. Most of the time, each party can reach some form of compromise that finds a balance between the desires of both sides. This generally means that a party may only follow through with the most important points of any given action, while any other elements are pieces for negotiation. If an entire party becomes unwilling to negotiate, then they can effectively stop up any potential progress. Whenever compromise can win out, the government works as it should despite only lumbering movement.

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