Somewhat lost amidst the furor over the presidential election and the accompanying post-mortem analysis of the Republican Party’s defects was the remarkable embrace of one-party rule in the vast majority of America’s states. Monica Davey of the New York Times reports:
Come January, more than two-thirds of the states will be under single-party control, raising the prospect that bold partisan agendas — on both ends of the political spectrum — will flourish over the next couple of years.
The GOP will control both the legislature and governor’s mansion in 24 states, while at least 13 states will be fully Democratic. No more than 12 states will have divided government. That’s the lowest level of divided government since 1952, as the chart below (from the New York Times) shows.
The map at the top of the post shows which states have embraced one-party government. States in red will be controlled by the GOP starting in 2013, states in blue by the Democrats. States in grey have divided government. We are still waiting on final returns from the New York State Senate, and Nebraska has a nonpartisan unicameral legislature.
With these results, we should be in for a very interesting couple of years in terms of policymaking. It’s become somewhat of a cliché to call the states “laboratories of democracy,” but given the divided—and gridlocked—federal government, if we are going to see any seriously new or controversial policies, they’re going to come from the states.
We’ve seen examples of partisan policy experimentation already, such as Wisconsin Republicans’ move to curb public sector unions’ collective bargaining rights or California Democrats’ decision to pursue high-speed rail construction. The increase in the number of single-party states will only encourage more of these types of highly partisan policies.
As these and other initiatives play out over the next few years, voters will have a unique chance to weigh the successes and failures of Republican and Democratic policies, which will hopefully lead to more imaginative policies at the federal level. At the very least, voters will be able to judge federal candidates’ policies based on real-world results rather than theoretical arguments.
So if you’re tired of hearing about the latest kick-the-can-down-the-road “bargain” in Washington, keep an eye on the red and blue states above. That’s where the interesting stuff will be happening.