Divided government has many under-appreciated virtues. As the Cato Institute's William Niskanen has pointed out, divided government is the best recipe for fiscal restraintsomething America will urgently require, come the recovery. Divided governments are also less likely to charge into war. "In 200 years of US history, every one of our conflicts involving more than a week of ground combat has been initiated by a unified government," Mr Niskanen observes.
Though the electorate is mostly unaware of these benefits, the historical record suggests a fairly stable and long-standing preference for relative gridlock.
Lexington also sees an upside:
[T]he need for the Republicans to be seen to be more constructive and less ideological will grow as the presidential contest of 2012 approaches. That suggests that the Republican leadership will indeed cut some deals with Mr Obama even if the ideologically excitable have to be provoked. As for Mr Obama, he might relish the excuse to cast off the left wing of his own party and tack towards the centre. And the centre, contrary to the wilder Republican propaganda about his "secular socialist" tendencies, is precisely where I [believe] he would like to be.