WASHINGTON - The United States no longer has a "majority" political party.
It has two minority parties instead - one dominating the presidency and one ruling Congress, both expected to maintain their realm of control for the foreseeable future.At least that's how political analysts at a Congressional Quarterly seminar in Washington last week said they expect the parties to behave after last week's election - meaning both sides will have to work together without frequent confrontation if either is to accomplish much.
Analysts also said America may have that unique split-government because Americans have split personalities.
Americans want less government, lower taxes, strong defense and powerful foreign relations - and polls show they generally believe a Republican president can better provide that for the country.
While they may want that austerity for the nation, analysts say they don't want it for their own districts. They would rather see lots of good old-fashioned, pork-barrel money flowing there. So they vote for the incumbent - usually a Democrat.
Columnist Mark Shields said it this way: "Ask someone if they want lower taxes. They will say yes. Ask them if they want less government, and they'll say yes. But if you say that in Pocatello, Idaho, they've found one can of tuna with botulism, the first reation is, `Where the heck was the federal government?' "They want a federal government that can keep them safe and happy 24 hours a day - and cheaply."
That split-personality helped give George Bush the largest popular-vote win for a first-term president since Dwight Eisenhower, but re-elected 99 percent of incumbent House members (mostly Democrats) and helpd the Democrats gain three seats there and one in the Senate.
Analysts also say that split-government won't change soon.
They say Republicans have the right issues, the political stars and machinery to keep winning the presidency. Also, younger voters are developing GOP voting habits, in part because they can't personally remember any strong Democratic presidential leadership.
But on the congressional level, Republicans are having trouble finding qualified candidates. "It's tough to have a party that says we need less government, then tell someone, `you run for the government," an analyst said.
Candidate recruitment for 1988 came at the height of the Iran-Contra scandal, and shortly after the stock market crash. Republicans did not come up with one Senate challenger who had ever run in a statewide race before. Democrats fielded several ex-governors, ex-lieutenant governors, and ex-attorneys general.
As one analyst said, "With Reagan, Bush, Bob Dole and Jack Kemp, the Republicans have a great starting lineup, but no bench and no farm system. The Democrats have a great bench and farm system, but no starting lineup."
Because the parties share power and likely will for a long time, they cannot afford to be too arrogant with each other.
Sure, some Democrats who perceive that Bush was too negative in his campaign have vowed to make life miserable for Bush appointees at confirmation hearings, but they also have to live with Bush and his veto power for four or more years. So they may not want to make him too upset either.
And while Bush is said to be more prone to veto bills than was Reagan, he must not upset Democrats too much if any of his priorities are to progress far in Congress.
So look for Bush to have Democratic leaders over to the White House often for dinner or a game of tennis. Look for both sides to compliment each other publicly, at least at first. Don't look for too much open confrontation. Look for effort to build concensus. Look for compromise. Look for bi-partisan efforts.
Look for all that until Americans cure their political split personalities - or until politicians think they have.