In other words, dog bites man.
University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps wrote a piece in the Atlantic entitled “Imperfect Union: The Constitution Didn’t Foresee Divided Government” that discussed the likely confrontations between the President and the newly-Republican Congress:
What’s coming will be painful, frustrating, and dangerous—and it will illustrate a constitutional malfunction unforeseen in 1787. The country will survive, and it’s possible it can even make progress—but at tremendous cost in polarization and missed opportunity. The country is like a car driving with the handbrake on: Any movement forward will be accompanied by smoke and internal damage.
So we might profitably put a six-month moratorium on paeans to the wisdom of the Framers. The problem of divided government is a bug, not a feature, and the Constitution itself provides no guidance on how to work around it.
This sent the right wing into “gotcha” conniptions and Twitter giggles. It even prompted the World’s Dumbest Lawyer to write Professor Epps’ employer, the University of Baltimore Law School, in order to demonstrate that the founders indeed envisioned separation of powers (as shown by the Constitution as well as The Federation Papers).
Of course, educated people and people NOT on the lookout for gotchas could read Epps article, and could tell that Epps was talking about DIVIDED GOVERNMENT… which is not the same as “separation of powers”. And the reason you can tell he is talking about “divided government” is because — in the very quote that sent conservatives off the rails — he uses the phrase “divided government”.
To people who actually know what they are talking about, “divided government” does not mean the separate branches of government and the various powers they hold. Go ahead and google “divided government”. I’ll wait. You’ll find it explained thusly:
In the United States, divided government describes a situation in which one party controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of the United States Congress, thus leading to Congressional gridlock. Divided government is suggested by some to be an undesirable product of the separation of powers in the United States’ political system. Earlier in the 20th century, divided government was rare, but since the 1970s, it has become increasingly common, mainly in part because of the Watergate scandal, which popularized the idea that a divided government is good for the country
Emphasis mine. Clearly “divided government” does not mean “separation of powers” or the above sentence would not make sense. It has to do with POLITICAL PARTIES, a concept that does not appear in the Constitution. Nor are political parties spoken of favorably in the Federalist Papers.
So, Epps’ point is not incorrect. It is accurate. At worst, it can be criticized for being obviously true. The framers — who did not anticipate or promote political parties — set up a government which has separation of powers, but did not anticipate a divided government and Congressional gridlike. That is simply a fact.
Twitchy and The World’s Dumbest Lawyer have once again exposed their own ignorance and blamed it on someone else.
It must suck to be so wrong so often. And right now, Yale Law School must be so embarrassed.