December 14, 2014


Down and Out: The Democratic Party's losses at the state level are almost unprecedented, and could cripple it for a long time to come. (Jamelle Bouie, 12/14/14, Slate)

As Amy Walter notes for the Cook Political Report, Democrats lost big at all levels of government, including the states. "Today," she writes, "about 55 percent of all state legislative seats in the country are held by Republicans. That's the largest share of GOP state legislators since the 1920s." What's more, "just 11 states have an all Democratic-controlled legislature," and Democrats hold single-party control in just seven states. By contrast, "Republicans have a legislative majority in 30 states, including the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina," and single-party control in most of the South.

This, Walter says, is a slow-moving disaster for congressional Democrats. She's right. Absent major gains in 2016, 2018, and 2020, Democrats will be shut out of the next round of redistricting. If, she writes, "Democrats can't get a seat at the redistricting table in 2020, they may find themselves locked out of a congressional majority for another 10 years." And even if they do get a seat at the table, argues Greg Sargent for the Washington Post, there's still the problem of population distribution; even in blue states, most Democratic voters are crammed in a handful of urban areas, which dilutes their strength in House elections. Sargent quotes David Wasserman (also of the Cook Political Report): "If Democrats were to get neutral maps drawn by God in all 50 states, they would still fall well short of winning back the House," says Wasserman. "What Democrats really need is a massive resettlement program."

With that said, there are more costs to Democratic weakness in the states than just House elections. States are where parties build talent and try new ideas. Here, the GOP is instructive. Its brightest stars are either governors (Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Chris Christie) or former state officeholders (Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Joni Ernst). And Republican-controlled statehouses have been incubators for conservative ideas, from experiments in tax cutting (Bobby Jindal's Louisiana and Sam Brownback's Kansas) to full-fledged assaults on public-sector unions (Walker's Wisconsin and Christie's New Jersey). In all likelihood, the next Republican president will either come from the states, or will borrow his approach from the present generation of GOP governors. Likewise, if Democrats win the White House for a third term, they'll face opposition from Congress and empowered Republican majorities at the state level. Indeed, if not for statehouse Republicans, the Affordable Care Act would be a smoother project, with broader buy-in for exchanges and the Medicaid expansion.

And where they have Governorships, they have to govern as conservatives, An experienced Jerry Brown vows to build on what he's already done (SEEMA MEHTA, MICHAEL FINNEGAN, 10/19/14, LA Times)
Making a case for reelection, Gov. Jerry Brown said in an interview that he would hold the line on state spending despite "pent-up" demand for more, further boost local governments' authority and keep California's tangle of regulations from growing in a fourth and final term as governor.

Rather than announce a host of sweeping new policies, Brown said he would largely build on what he's already done, particularly in transferring some education and criminal justice authority to local jurisdictions.

And he would make sure that fellow Democrats' push to spend billions of dollars more on state services, now that the recession is over, doesn't endanger California's newfound fiscal health.

Posted by at December 14, 2014 9:47 AM

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