GOP alive and well in state legislatures

GOP alive and well in state legislatures

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Those Democrats, progressives and others who are crowing over what appears to be the death gasp of the Republican party may want to hold off for a bit.

Sure, Barack Obama not only won the presidency, but he did a great job of humiliating the GOP machine, including money bags Sheldon Adelson, strategist Karl Rove and pundits Rush Limbaugh, Dick Morris, Peggy Noonan and so many others. And, yes, the Dems picked up two more votes in the U.S. Senate (though they’re not quite filibuster proof, they’re a hell of a lot closer), and five seats in the House.

But while the federal picture looks good for now, the state-by-state snapshot suggests that Republicans are going to do just fine in the long run. Why? Because while Democrats flipped four state legislatures, taking control of all three branches of government to avenge 2010 losses, Republicans grabbed Arkansas and, in what has to be a truly bitter pill for Democrats, took back control of the Wisconsin senate.

To be perfectly clear: the GOP now controls all three branches of the Badger state government, completely erasing the Democrat’s minor victory in the senate recall struggle. Jessica King, one of the winners of the 2011 senate recall, appears to have lost by 590 votes to her Republican challenger this time around. In other words, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can do whatever he wants for the next two years.

Walker’s not the only GOP guv in the driver’s seat: Fully 26 states — more than half of the country — are completely controlled by Republicans (the Dems control 19). Four other Republican governors (there are 30 of ‘em altogether) rule over states with mixed party legislatures, but in Virginia the lieutenant governor casts the tie-breaking vote, so it’s pretty much a GOP romp anyway. (If you’re wondering why this is adding up to 49 instead of 50, it’s because Nebraska has a unicameral, nonpartisan legislature.)

What this means is that while the Republicans may be blowing it in the major leagues, they’ve got a surprisingly healthy farm team network. And because they control so many states from top to bottom — including all 11 states of the Confederacy — we can expect that there will be continuing Republican shenanigans.

For example, down in southeast Texas, Peter Morrison, the GOP party treasurer for Hardin County, called for Lone Star state secession with these words: “We must contest every single inch of ground and delay the baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists at every opportunity.”Yup, that’s right, baby-murdering socialists.

But more significantly, those states with complete GOP-controlled legislatures will be continue to protect and redraw congressional boundaries to their advantage. In fact, the GOP majority in the U.S. House can thank those very state assemblies for keeping them in power. Want to know how bad it is? In Ohio, one of those states under Republican control, Obama may have won by a comfortable margin, but the GOP held onto 12 of 16 congressional seats.

The U.S. Supreme Court is right now considering the Voting Rights Act. It’s their decision — not Fox ratings or Super PACs or Rove’s next move — and how it’ll affect the gerrymandering by those Republican legislatures and which will in turn determine if the GOP lives or dies.