The golden age of Republican lawmaking

No, I’m not referring to the United States Congress, where the Republicans now control both chambers but still face Senate filibusters, presidential vetoes, and squabbling between the party’s traditional and hard-right factions.

The GOP’s opportunity to govern is in the 23 states where the party will control the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature, and where about 45 percent of the American population lives. (Make that 24 states if you include Nebraska, which has an officially nonpartisan legislature that is ideologically in line with the Republicans.) According to the latest tallies from the Washington Post and from the National Conference of State Legislatures, these include such large states as Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. Democrats will control only seven states, but they will include California, making Gov. Jerry Brown one of the party’s biggest policymakers.


This week’s election was a triumph for the already-existing Republican laboratories. Republicans kept unified control in Kansas, where tax cuts have lead to deficits and fired teachers; in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker has disemboweled public-sector unions; and in North Carolina, where it’s verboten to speak of climate change and where policies that include cuts to unemployment benefits and a rejection of Medicaid expansion, have lead to “Moral Monday” protests in the capital. (More voter vindication in North Carolina: House Speaker Thom Tillis upset Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan on Tuesday.)

In almost half of the United States, the Republican Party will own government next year, and GOP-states have become increasingly bold in going their own way. In some cases, this means enacting measures designed to restrict voting, or essentially nullifying the federal Affordable Care Act. More surprisingly, some Republican-dominated states are experimenting with ways to reduce incarceration rates and make it easier for ex-prisoners to find work.

Because American voters concentrate on—or obsess over—the presidency (and the media certainly enables this), it’s likely that any frustration and discontent in 2016 will hurt the Democratic Party, even though the GOP now has much more governing power. In the run-up to the next presidential election, we’ll hear a lot about “Obama’s America,” but the truth is that the Republican Party, and its financial contributors, will have more influence over our lives for the next two years.

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Joshua DeCuir
3 years 3 months ago
How kind of the author to devote one sentence to mention some positive aspects of GOP state governance to counter the impending black cloud coming our way he otherwise portrays. Of course, he also could have mentioned efforts by reform-minded governors in the area of education, or the fact that some of the biggest economic growth has occurred in states led by Republicans.
Mike Daniels
3 years 3 months ago
Wow ... how negative can you get; how about a little balanced perspective here? Come on America magazine.
J Cosgrove
3 years 3 months ago
Editors of America, This is a sad commentary. Please find someone else besides Mr. Sullivan to make the political analysis for the magazine.
Bill Mazzella
3 years 3 months ago
Sullivan writes about deficits, anti-envoronment, restricting voting rights, anti-health care, anti poor, etc. Any of you negativists want to talk about issues?
Tim O'Leary
3 years 3 months ago
Mr. Sullivan forgot to mention the many positives of this election: great pro-life victories across the board, and a likely return to fiscal sanity. People will now more likely be able to keep their healthcare, the economy will improve, jobs will increase and less companies will be going oversees (inversions) to avoid our punitive anti-business taxes (if they fix the corporate tax). I really do hope a middle-ground solution to illegal immigration can be found. The Keystone pipeline will likely be built and the President will play more golf, doing less damage. Or, at least I can hope.
Joshua DeCuir
3 years 3 months ago
Well, I suppose it could be worse. At another Catholic journal, a well-respected former editor & winner of Notre Dame's Latare Medal is trotting out the theory that, essentially, the election results are attributable to the racism of voters in red states (although she kindly, I suppose, suggests that such racism is often "nuanced). When someone had the temerity to point out that the first black senator from South Carolina had been handily re-elected, & that Utah had just elected its first Republican black woman, the unchallenged retort was that, because those individuals hold "conservative views," they are essentially white men with black skin, no less a part of the "Southern Strategy" than any other white conservative, & unfit to represent people of color. Call me crazy, but ti seems to me the first rule of politics ought to be that one shouldn't be so willing to insult people if you want them to vote for you. Of course, this also ignores polling showing that some GOP candidates (such as Cory Gardner) actually made modest gains in African American support.
J Cosgrove
3 years 3 months ago
Here is another part of the Southern Strategy. This is from South Chicago More inauthentic blacks that have joined their oppressors.
Chuck Kotlarz
3 years 3 months ago
How does a virtual absence of Obama policy in deep red states perhaps lead to barbaric and uncivilized life outcomes? Deep red state prison population is 50% higher than deep blue. Deep red states lead the country in divorce rate by 25%. Deep red state life expectancy is two years shorter than deep blue states.


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