Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections. The 2022 election produced a divided government. Previous periods of divided government produced landmark legislation such as the National Security Act of 1947. But this time is different because the margins are so narrow and the partisan divisions are so deep.
One month in, the 118th Congress is off to a spectacularly sluggish start, frustrating some lawmakers and foreshadowing a messy two years of divided government in a presidential election cycle where very little is expected to get done.
Forget making historic laws. It’s not even clear the new Congress can agree to keep the government functional or prevent a self-imposed economic meltdown.
“I have very low expectations,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said in an interview. “I would predict — and I hope I’m wrong — this will prove to be one of the least productive congresses in modern history because of the dysfunctionality of an unstable majority.”
House Republicans have a mere four-seat majority that empowers just a few rabble-rousers to wreak havoc in the chamber. They spent their first five days squabbling with each other over whether Kevin McCarthy should be speaker. After 15 ballots — the most since 1859 — he finally won the gavel, but not before a physical altercation broke out on the House floor.