Now that the dust is finally settled from the election, we can now see further ahead to what the next four years (and beyond) may look like. Something that hasn’t found much attention compared to the outcomes of the Presidential race and the US Congressional races is what happened in the state legislatures across the country. Something interesting happened.
If you thought the presidential election revealed the nation’s political rifts, consider the outcomes in state legislatures. The vote also created a broader tier of powerful one-party governments that can act with no need for compromise. Half of state legislatures now have veto-proof majorities, up from 13 only four years ago, according to figures compiled for The Associated Press by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
All but three states—Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire—have one-party control of their legislatures, the highest mark since 1928.
That’s incredible when you think about the implications. The stark red/blue makeup of state legislatures, and in most cases with same-party governors, will push variety between the states to the Constitutional limits (as determined by the Supreme Court). Much of the past decade was defined by gridlock due to partisan impasses, but that time appears to be coming to an end. It started following the 2010 midterms with the Tea Party/GOP wins across the country, and appears to be accelerating.
At first, unfortunately, this will mean the red states get to push further into new (old) territory as the Supreme Court leans their way 5-4. However, there is a good possibility that the court will flip in the next four years. Once it flips, that means greater constitutional restrictions on the right-leaning boundary pushing (and scaling back the gains they made recently when they come up in new cases), and lesser constitutional restrictions on the left-leaning boundary pushing. The institutional advantage that right-wing legislation seems to have long had is dependent upon that Supreme Court majority; when that flips, so flips the playing-field advantage.
The country looks like it has the pieces in place to significantly change in the near future, more than we’ve seen it change in some time. Unlike in the past when times of great change seemed to usually go in one direction, this appears to be set to accelerate in two directions, as the GOP pursues a vision of 19th century government while the Democrats pursue a vision of 21stcentury government. Will the country be torn in two again, or will one half be dragged to the destination that the other is racing towards? It’s too soon to know, but since cooperation is not in the modern GOP’s vocabulary, we have only one option, to move forward with everything we have.