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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Edsall: Keys to the GOP’s 50-State Solution

Thomas B. Edsall’s “The Republican Party’s 50-State Solution” delves deep into the Republican edge in state politics. It’s a sobering read for Democrats, and Edsall’s insights could prove invaluable, if Democrats refine and implement a more effective strategy to challenge the GOP’s domination at the state level. Here’s a couple of his more interesting observations:

Seven years ago, Democrats had a commanding lead in state legislatures, controlling both legislative chambers in 27 states, nearly double the 14 controlled by Republicans. They held 4082 state senate and house seats, compared to the Republicans’ 3223.
Sweeping Republican victories at the state level in 2010 and 2014 transformed the political landscape.
By 2015, there were Republican majorities in 70 percent — 68 of 98 — of the nation’s partisan state houses and senates, the highest number in the party’s history. (Nebraska isn’t counted in because it has a non-partisan, unicameral legislature.) Republicans controlled the legislature and governorship in 23 states, more than triple the seven under full Democratic control.

One of the keys, adds Edsall, is a new way of financing state campaigns:

“What’s changed seems to be the result of the relatively recent nationalization of state campaign financing,” Morgan Kousser, a professor of history at Caltech (and, as it happens, Thad Kousser’s father), wrote in an email:
The Koch brothers understand the importance of controlling state legislatures; George Soros doesn’t. I’m not sure why this should be the case, but since we’re really talking about a relatively small number of mega-donors who have caused this, it’s a rather restricted question.
Liberal foundations, in the view of Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America foundation, “have for a long time got perpetually distracted by fads and short-term metrics, whereas conservative foundations were willing to invest much more in long-term organizational capacity.”
“How the Right Trounced Liberals in the States,” by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and Theda Skocpol, in the Winter edition of the journal Democracy, documents the failure of the left to keep pace with the substantial investments by the right in building local organizations.
Liberals, according to Hertel-Fernandez, a graduate student at Harvard, and Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology there, “have left behind little more than a litany of abandoned acronyms.”

Ouch. Edsall goes into much more detail explaining the mechanics behind the conservative takeover of most states and credits the GOP with “the most effective gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts in the nation’s history.” He concludes that “the right has institutionalized a dangerous power vacuum on the left.”
Read the entire article here.

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