Federal elections are important, but, in our focus on and zeal in maintaining our elected advantage at the federal level, Democrats appear to have taken their eyes off the real seat of power – the states and their elected officials – governorships and legislative control.
Federal officials and their policies can have devastating effects on state and local matters, but it is at the state level that more and more laws that negatively impact voting, women’s reproductive rights, gun control, same-sex marriage, education, and other social issues are slowly squeezing the life from the rights for which many have fought decades to secure.
Like a giant anaconda, the Republicans have slithered in, honed in on their targets, and focused on the “big squeeze” by implementing legislation that is having devastating effects across this country – all at the state level.
For the first time since 1964, our Indiana General Assembly has super-majorities in both chambers. And, they aren’t Democratic super-majorities. The House Republicans have a 69-31 super-majority, and the Senate Republicans have a 37-13 super-majority (which it has had for years). Couple that with a Republican-controlled governorship, and the picture becomes stark and bleak.
But, Indiana isn’t the only state marching backward to the beat of a bygone drummer. State legislatures are evenly divided as to party control in their chambers with one or the other chamber in the opposite party’s control – 25 and 25.
Governorships are now tilted to a Republican advantage – 30 to 19. Our governor – and I use that word loosely – is a fundamentalist conservative Christian TeaPublican. Say that in one agonizing breath. Worse yet, understand the agony created by the knowledge that comes with recognizing what he intends to do to Indiana. Daniels was a disaster, but Pence is a catastrophe.
One-party control – both chambers and the governor – exists in 37 states – by Republicans in 24 states and by Democrats in only 13 states. And, the coup de gras is the increase in legislative super-majorities by Republicans. Republicans also hold that advantage with 15 states in their complete legislative grasp to only five states for Democrats.
Parties with super-majorities in control are able to pass legislation without even needing the other party to do session business. The “quorum” to do business exists without counting the opposite party’s members.
We must re-focus at the state level to re-take and re-shape our policies once again to focus on all citizens – not just those with an ideology that views social programs as undeserved government giveaways, our hard-won Constitutional rights as bothersome antiquities, and the power and the money to buy who and what they want.
Indiana is a state known for its love of basketball, but, sadly, we took our eyes off the political “basketball” and are now losing rights with each legislative session. Indiana Democrats need three seats in the House and four seats in the Senate to regain control of that ball and put it back in our court – at least as to stopping the super-majorities. It is a start, but we have a long way to go to become a legislatively relevant party in our state once again.
It is frightening to know that our rights can be erased or diminished simply by controlling the governorships and the legislatures – not at the federal level but at our own state level. We have already seen the impotence of Congress and the bias of the United States Supreme Court. It is up to us at our state levels to once again place our eyes on the ball – and then not give it up.