At the 2004 Democratic Convention, Barack Obama was introduced to the world. His most well-known statement from that speech remains “There are no red states or blue states, just the United States.” Fortunately, President Obama was once again wrong and we will all benefit from the fact there truly is a divide.
Living in California, we feel that divide daily. Since 1998, this state has been run by left-wing Democrats only slightly diverted by the presence of the disastrous Arnold Schwarzenegger. With this election the residents have now given complete control of the state to left-wing Democrats. Not only are the Governor and all other constitutional officers Democrats, but now they have a super majority in the legislature. That means Republicans in Sacramento not only will have closets for offices, but they may as well stay home because they will have zero to say on any issue.
But this is not unique across the 50 states. In 15 states the Democrats have all the levers of government. At the same time, 25 states are completely run by Republicans. Ten other states have some form of a mix between the parties, with Nebraska -- having a “non-partisan” unicameral legislature -- being the odd state out. The other ten states have a government with a mix of two party control. For most of the country they have chosen to be controlled by one party, but the question becomes are things that simple?
There are certainly states that have become unmitigated disasters and thrown off the yoke of Democrats running their state. These states are predominantly in the Midwest and used to be referred to as the rust belt. Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are prominent states that have decided to hand control of their states to Republicans after years of malaise. This follows on the heels of Indiana run by Mitch Daniels (and now Mike Pence) and a Republican legislature making major improvements in operation of that state. Obviously there have been some major battles, particularly in Wisconsin, but from preliminary reports all the states are moving toward better financial conditions without raising taxes.
More important are the other states that have thrown their lot in with one party or the other. For example there are seven states that have no income tax. Five are completely controlled by Republicans, one (Washington) is a Democratic state and Nevada has divided government.
Having no income tax is just one of the many factors that would attract people to live in a state and people are moving with their feet every day. One prominent political consultant in California who worked to stop Jerry Brown’s new taxes in this past election has already committed to moving his family to Austin, Texas. It is estimated the outflow of families from California is now at a rate of 250,000 people per year. Some say the only people left in California soon will be Hollywood types, Silicon Valley people, the Gays in San Francisco and immigrants (legal and other). Republican strongholds like the Inland Empire lost congressional seats not because Republicans voted for the Democrats or changed parties, but because the Republicans now live in Arizona, Texas, or North Carolina.
It is not just taxes that drive people to certain states. It is lifestyle decisions and other matters that are decided by the governments within the states. Pennsylvania is having a mini-boom which may become a major boom as the Republicans are moving forward with fracking major new energy supplies. Along their northern border, the Democrats of New York have dithered on the same issue. Chief executives have chosen their top ten states in which to do business and all ten are Republican-controlled states. Of their ten worst states, six are completely controlled by Democrats with California, New York, and Illinois being the three worst. Two of the least-favorable states are Ohio and Michigan, which were recently taken over by Republicans.
We are seeing a phenomenon that has not previously happened in America. States are really doing federalism to the max. They are saying we are going to run our states in a certain way to attract business and people. Companies and people are looking not only at the jobs and tax structure of a state, but other matters such as cost of living and lifestyle and saying that is where they want to live. America has always been a mobile society, but it is now becoming even more so along political, economic, and philosophical lines.
To this I say let’s get it on. Let’s see whose ideas are better. People move to America because of the idea of America. Now Americans are going either to Texas or California based on governments and the economic environment created there. Do people think things are really better in California, Illinois, or New York? Let’s see where this journey takes us. We will soon see which philosophy of state government is better and that will hopefully spread to our federal government.
I am up for the contest and savor the battle of ideas.
Next week we will discuss how the Republicans can engage this federalism to diffuse some churning issues.