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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dem Goal for 2012: Bust Some GOP Trifectas

This item by J.P. Green was originally published on September 16, 2011.
Forbes, ‘the capitalist tool’ has a post by Ed Cain, “Of Trifectas and the Electoral College,” pointing out that 20 states now have Republican control of all houses of their state legislatures, plus the governorship. Cain riffs on Nick Baumann’s Mother Jones piece I flagged yesterday, which discusses the Republican plans to ‘reform’ their electoral college vote allocation in PA and perhaps other states. (Nate Silver also weighs in with a longish analysis of the GOP’s PA gambit in today’s five thirty eight blog).
But Cain’s post also sounds an alarm about the danger facing Dems when 40 percent of the states are under complete Republican control. Only 8 states, 16 percent of the 50 states, have Democratic trifectas. In the remaining 22 states no party controls both the governorship and state legislatures.
The consequences include, as Cain explains:

Now that Republicans now control twenty trifectas across the country (state governments run by one party in the House, Senate, and Governorship) changes to state laws, redistricting, and electoral rules are all fair game. This could tilt not only future congressional elections, but the presidential election in 2012.
Since 2010 was a census year, districts will be drawn up without a fight in 20 states by Republicans, and changes to these districts won’t happen again until 2021, after the 2020 census. This is a major structural shift, and one that gives Republicans, who already benefit from the Electoral College more than Democrats, a serious advantage leading into the 2012 election cycle.
…The redistricting across the country could give Republicans a firm control of the House until as late as 2022, making the 2010 victory a possible 12 year coup, and making another federal trifecta, like the one Democrats enjoyed for two brief years between 2008 and 2010, exceedingly unlikely for Democrats. Republicans, on the other hand, have the electoral upper hand for the conceivable future.
…Republicans are very good at politics, and they’re especially good at taking old rules and using them to achieve legislative victory. As we’ve seen in Wisconsin and Michigan in the past year, Republicans are willing to take extreme positions even in the face of public outcry. That’s why we’ve seen union-busting in Wisconsin in spite of protests and public backlash, and equally radical moves in Michigan under its own Republican trifecta.

Some of the damage is done, since reapportionment after the 2010 census is in place in some states and the consequent gerrymandering is set or in motion. But the good thing is that the margin tilting the balance of power in state legislatures is often a matter of flipping a few votes, and that can be changed every two years. If Dems have just a fair year in 2012, it is possible that it could make a big difference in the “trifecta” spread.
I would encourage all Dems to do a little research and adopt a candidate or two in a state legislature where the margin for busting a trifecta is fairly close (map here has a useful rollover widget for this), and make a contribution. It doesn’t have to be your own state. It would be great if some energetic blogger could put together a list of state legislature candidates across the country who have a good shot at winning a race in states where the GOP trifecta margin is fairly close.
Just thinking here.

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