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Voters Prefer Divided Government

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Election official Bill McClure assists voters at a polling place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Looking back on the midterm elections, we should acknowledge a clear message from the electorate: voters asked Washington to “get back to normal” by restoring the divided government Americans have preferred for 50 years.

Since Nixon’s first term in 1968, Americans have chosen to limit most presidents’ power; they’ve placed the opposition in charge of at least one house of Congress nearly 70 percent of the time. Now President Trump must adjust to this familiar reality, remembering that his successful predecessors—like Reagan—learned to deal with the opposition, while our least successful leaders—like Jimmy Carter—failed in spite of their single-party control.

Voters want the chief executive to work with the other side, and not lurch off in scary, abrupt, starkly partisan new directions. Maybe they distrust both parties so deeply that they want the opposition to block any rash, irresponsible moves.

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