Why do voters endorse dysfunctional government? Like everyone else, I am thrilled that the presidential primary season has turned into such a good show. I had been steeling myself for a snorefest in which the “inevitable” candidates slouched toward their destinies before a bored and distracted nation. Instead, we have big turnouts at the polls and George W. running out of money. Many thanks, of course, go to John McCain, who rescued us–and the media–from an endless drone of campaign-trail clichƒs devoid of grammar and syntax. Nevertheless, the real credit for turning the primaries into first-rate entertainment goes to the wild and wacky American voter. I’d like to conduct an exit poll that collars crossover Democrats as they emerge from Republican primary voting booths and ask, “What were you thinking?” Are these people supporting McCain for the sheer pleasure of voting against George Bush twice? Or are they voting for McCain now in order to vote against him in November? Do they really want McCain to be president–in which case, given his pro-life, pro-gun views, why are they registered as Democrats? Or is it all of the above? I have a few questions for the Republicans, too. In George Bush, they have a candidate in whom millions were invested because he was “electable.” But McCain’s popularity proves the nomination wasn’t and isn’t a sure thing. Campaign 2000 gets stranger still. We don’t yet know if McCain can defeat Bush, but it is clear he’s commandeering the mantle of maverick and charming the press with his unscripted candor, effectively knocking off Bill Bradley. Poor Bradley, who imagined one could win the hearts of American voters by having a healthcare policy. Recently, he wondered whether he had to rob a bank in order to get attention for his fading campaign. Too little, too late, sport. American voters have been acting flaky for some time now. Take the electorate’s taste for splitting the executive and legislative branches between two parties. Between 1968 and today, the president and Congress have been of the same party for a mere six years. That is slightly less than 19 percent of the time. Go back another 32 years and you find that from 1936 to 1968 one party controlled both branches of the federal government 75 percent of the time. What once was an exception in American political life has become the rule. A reverse coattail effect is emerging. Which is to say, if you think George W. will end up in the Oval Office come next January, place a side bet on a Democratic Congress. You won’t lose. Perhaps the preference for split government reflects a post-Cold War easing of ideological passions among the great electoral middle. Maybe citizen-consumers don’t know what they want from government or, more likely, they want several contradictory things and are determined to have it all. The results of split government are neither productive nor pleasant. Consider the fate of the Clinton administration. Here was a president who effectively enacted the agenda of the opposition party, which, in turn, used its majority power to shut down the government and impeach him while dissolving into ineffectuality and pork grabbing. A classic lose-lose scenario. Yet dysfunctional government may be exactly what American voters want. In essence, they elect governments that prove their anti-government sentiments were right all along. The more voters have contempt for politicians, the more likely they are to elect governments that deserve their contempt. Disgusted with partisan bickering, they create a divided government in which partisan bickering is guaranteed. History tells us that a government without a mandate is unlikely to get much done. Which brings us to the phenomenon of McCain. For those who believe government doesn’t work, President McCain would be a dream come true. He takes us beyond the impossible dream of a third-party president; he would be a no-party president. A year ago, it was difficult to imagine a president the GOP stalwarts could hate more than Bill Clinton. Now we have a candidate for that role–and he’s running on the Republican ticket. Imagine: a president that neither party will cooperate with. Nothing would get done! McCain is more than the candidate for voters who want to “take back” government. He’s the perfect choice for those who don’t want a functioning government at all.