by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
John Hood’s contribution to National Review‘s special post-election issue focuses on state-level electoral gains for conservatives.
Indiana is only one of a number of states — including Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida — where dramatic gains in conservative policy and highly competitive politics go hand in hand. Republicans have more power in states today than they’ve had at any time since the 1920s. At this writing, the GOP has 33 governors, 31 lieutenant governors, 29 state attorneys general 31 secretaries of state, and functional control of 67 legislative chambers, with 30 controlled by Democrats and the other two tied or still pending.
If you compare these results with those of the presidential and Senate races, you quickly see that Republicans aren’t just winning down-ballot races in consistently red states. They’ve captured statewide offices or control of legislative chambers in places such as Minnesota, Illinois, New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, and Massachusetts. It’s the Democrats whose strength is disproportionately concentrated in just a few blue strongholds. In fact, in half the states, the GOP has a governor and full legislative control of both state governing bodies. Democrats have such a trifecta in only six states.
Republicans have certainly surfed favorable national waves in the states in such years as 1994, 2010, 2014, and now 2016. But that’s far from the whole story. Democrats have had their own wave years, most recently in 2006 and 2o08. Across these political oscillations, Republicans have simply recruited stronger candidates, built better party structures, raised more money, and outmaneuvered their Democratic counterparts. The result is clear.
At the same time, conservatives across the states have done a better job than liberals at putting together grassroots organizations, effective think tanks, alternative media and messaging outfits, and a set of ideas that are both transformational and practical. In conservatively governed states, taxes are lower and structured in ways that are less injurious to investment and entrepreneurship. Regulatory codes are less rigid and counterproductive. Citizens have more choices in education and health care. Entitlements such as cash assistance and unemployment insurance cost less and are less likely to ensnare people in long-term dependency.