A government trifecta is a type of government in which the same political party controls both the executive and legislative branch. The situation occurs in governance systems that follow the separation of powers model. Under said model, the state is divided into different branches. Each branch has separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with the powers associated with the others. The typical division creates an executive branch that executes and enforces the law as led by a head of state, typically a president; a legislative branch that enacts, amends, or repeals laws as led by a unicameral or bicameral legislature; and a judicial branch that interprets and applies the law as led by a supreme court.
Government trifectas are seen by different groups as a benefit or as an undesirable product of said separations. Those in favor argue that government trifectas are efficient and that they avoid gridlocks. Opponents, however, argue that trifectas discourage policing of those in power by the opposition and that they do not limit spending and the expansion of undesirable laws. They also argue that government trifectas do not tend to lead to compromise as one party may simply implement its resolve unopposed. Consequently, the incumbent party may alter the structure of executive agencies when it's bound to lose its incumbency. These alterations are performed to secure control over the agencies for when the party is no longer incumbent. Examples of these include political appointments that extend beyond the political cycle, contract or grant awards, and debt issuances.
The situation is common in developing nations but rare in developed ones. Early in the 20th century, for example, government trifectas were common in the United States, but since the 1970s they have become increasingly rare.
Government trifectas are contrasted by divided governments—a different situation in which one party controls the executive branch while another party controls one or both houses of the legislative branch.
Because of the coattail effect, most newly elected Presidents have a majority with them in both chambers of Congress. The six-year itch conversely means that the last two years of a two-term President rarely have trifectas. The most recent federal trifecta was held by the Republican Party from 2017 to 2019, and the last one before that was by the Democratic Party from 2009 to 2011.
State government trifectas
- "Would Divided Government Be Better?". Cato Institute. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- Moe, Terry (1989). "The Politics of Bureaucratic Structure". Retrieved 2016-05-04.
- "Ballotpedia: Who Runs The States".
- "2018 election analysis: State government trifectas - Ballotpedia". Ballotpedia. Retrieved November 7, 2018.