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To Effect Real Change: Retake State Legislatures

As we ponder whether Obama’s offering to cut Social Security represents a betrayal of Democratic values, whether it’s an as-of-yet-unexplored opening in yet another 11th-dimensional chess match, whether a decrease of an increase is really a cut or not  or whether, in the words of Paul Krugman, the president is executing an “anti-Corleone” by making the Republicans an offer they can’t accept, Democratic values are being systematically destroyed. But the source of the destruction isn’t coming from Washington; instead, it is happening state by state.

The lion’s share of coverage has appropriately focused on the unrelenting extremism of Speaker Boehner’s House majority, but the gains Republicans made in our nation’s statehouses have been no less devastating. In 2010, the GOP made historic gains rivaled only by the wave in 1994. There are now 26 states where Republicans control both legislative chambers; Republicans also occupy the governor’s mansion in 21 of those, compared to 15 and 11 respectively for Democrats. Not coincidentally, 26 states enacted further restrictions on abortion rights. Some of them are particularly odious, such as Louisiana’s measure that would deny malpractice insurance coverage to doctors performing abortions, or a now-blocked law in Kansas that would impose a series of unnecessary licensing restrictions that would have resulted in the closure of two of the three clinics in the state.

At an economic level, the Republican legislators of Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan are proceeding toward accomplishing at a state level longstanding objectives that they could never realistically accomplish at a federal one: specifically, achieving unilateral political disarmament by hamstringing a key funding source of Democratic campaign funding, or selling off public assets without any bidding process to whichever crony they deem appropriate. In Minnesota, Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives, and won control of the State Senate for the first time in history. The result? A government shutdown that is costing the state and its hardworking public employees just so the richest two percent of Minnesotans don’t have to contribute their fair share to help the state function.

Not that states with Republican-dominated legislatures are the only ones with problems. In California, Republicans dominate the budgetary aspects of the legislature despite having only about 35 percent of the seats in either chamber because of Proposition 13, the absurd rule that a two-thirds vote in each chamber must be required to raise revenues. Because it is as impossible to secure a sane legislative Republican in Sacramento as it is in Washington, California’s budget has been consigned for many years to be a series of ever-deeper cuts to the social safety net, public education, and the state park system.

This is a redistricting cycle, and the change in state lines could change some of these equations, but right now, the number of victories required to stop the damage, if not reverse it, is comparatively small. In California, a takeover of two seats in Assembly and Senate would be enough to prevent the Republican minority from continuing to hold the state hostage during every budget negotiation. In Wisconsin, a net gain of three Senate seats from the nine recall elections on Aug. 9 would stop Gov. Scott Walker from destroying Wisconsin any more than he already has. Retaking the lower chambers in Michigan and Ohio would be a slightly more difficult task, but no less achievable given previous history.

A child in an overcrowded classroom in Los Angeles. A Madison teacher fighting for her economic rights. A maintenance worker in Detroit. A scared, pregnant teenager in Orlando who will soon be required to notify her parents if she wants to exercise her rights. They are all being affected far more by what their state governments are trying to do to them, or cannot do for them, than by anything that Speaker Boehner has done since January.

This isn’t to say that retaking the House, re-electing Barack Obama and holding onto our Senate majority is not important. It most certainly is. But a Democratic Congress would not have stopped these state-level Republicans from attempting to enact their sweeping, destructive agenda. The only way to stop them is to raise enough money and awareness so as to defeat them and undo the massive damage that they have managed to accomplish in only six months of governance. Retaking the Wisconsin Senate on Aug. 9 will be a significant victory, but it must be viewed not as an endgame, but as an important first step in a much larger campaign.

By: Dante Atkins, Daily Kos, July 10, 2011

July 11, 2011 - Posted by | Anti-Choice, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , ,

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