I like conservative government. I like government that does a few things well—specifically those enumerated in the Constitution—and little else. The federal budget should be much smaller than it is. There's more value in dismantling government programs than in creating new ones. All three branches of our government should stay out of the economy, protect and defend the Constitution, and otherwise let people run their own lives.
Unfortunately for those of us who favor a strong, unified conservative government, the closest thing we are likely to get is a federal government split between President John McCain and a Democrat Congress. Both sides will fall back from the daily, take-no-prisoners blame-gaming that has left Congress and the president the most unpopular in history. McCain will reach out to Demo-crats, getting positive press and high approval ratings all around. (I hope his overtures are rebuffed, preventing him from becoming Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's rubber stamp, but that's just me.) After a while, something will happen—a Supreme Court opening, one of the government's financial takeovers collapsing—and bad feelings and gridlock will prevent much from happening. (Conservatives should then remember five of the most beautiful words in the English language: "Congress shall make no law...")
Those things that must happen—passing spending bills and filling vacant Supreme Court seats—will leave McCain and conservatives in a strong position. Budget-cutting is one of the things McCain really enjoys doing, and conservatives should relish the chance to have an outspoken critic of wasteful spending in the White House. And the Harriet Miers fiasco showed presidents that their word isn't good enough when it comes to judicial nominations. Conservatives have a growing list of favored nominees, and when the time comes, McCain will choose one. And a fight between a reasonable jurist and unhinged, claws-out Democrats is one conservatives should anticipate with some comfort.
Liberals amok. But the train wreck awaiting President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi would make the most recent of such Democrat tandems look like, well, toy train wrecks. Backed by swooning media and faced with an economic meltdown that has already led a GOP administration to imitate the New Deal, their agenda will include health care nationalization written (again) by Hillary Clinton, national security policy written by the troops-slandering Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a financial services bill written by Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, who have both already been plagued by scandal with that very industry, a de facto prohibition of conservative talk radio, a "card check" bill that will strip labor's right to a secret ballot, government funding of "partial-birth" abortions and federal validation of Obama's ghoulish opposition to the human rights of abortion survivors, socialization of the energy industry, and billions in new taxes on small businesses, and the resulting job losses and wealth evaporation.
The last times this crowd had unchecked power—and attempted far less—the party ended quickly. Four years of Jimmy Carter and Democrat Speaker Tip O'Neill of Massachusetts welcomed Ronald Reagan to Washington, and two years of Bill Clinton and Speaker Tom Foley, a Washington Democrat, produced the 1994 Republican Revolution. It will be almost impossible for Obama and Pelosi to avoid this fate. Divided government is in everyone's best interests, except maybe for Obama staffers vying for West Wing jobs.
Not all divided governments are created equal, of course. It's far better to have conservatives in control of the House of Representatives (and the purse strings) than the Senate and—all told—the presidency itself. Congress can keep a president in check—at least politically. Democrats made sure Reagan only achieved a quarter of what he wanted domestically, and Clinton accomplished little of note after 1994, when he ceded the agenda to House Republicans. Divided government isn't perfect, but in the long run, it's usually better.