Laboratories of Democracy: the rise of one-party control of state governments provide clear contrasts in what works

As usual, Michael Brown writes an interesting piece about America’s “laboratories of democracy.  One of the strengths of our Republic is the division of individual states with their respective sovereignty. Much like our economic system, built on underlying free-market and competition, these individual states are free to govern themselves and compete outside the direct control from Washington (well…for the most part). The results should be instructive.

First, we are starting to see the intraparty disputes, where factions within either political establishment are challenged. Second, we are seeing the overall product of either Democratic, or Republican rule.

For the national public, one-party Democratic and one-party Republican states provide a look at how each party governs — and the results.

In California, voters just gave Democrats two-thirds majorities in both houses and a tax increase, as well. We’ll see if their policies help California reduce its dismally high unemployment and resolve its enormous pension underfunding.

In Illinois, Democrats won again, despite increasing the state income tax from 3 to 5 percent in 2011, after which the state’s unemployment rate went up, while declining in neighboring states. Democrat Michael Madigan has been speaker of the Illinois House for 28 of the last 30 years.

Many Republican governors and legislatures have gone in another direction, holding down spending increases and seeking to cut taxes or hold rates even, rather than raise them.

Texas’ low taxes (no income tax) and light regulation have been followed by some of the most robust job creation in the nation. Texas’ population grew so rapidly in the last decade that it gained 4 U.S. House seats from the 2010 Census.

No-income-tax Florida gained two seats, and no other state gained more than one. California, for the first time in its history, gained none.

States are laboratories of democracy, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote. Citizens of every state can monitor their experiments and judge which set of one-party states is getting better results.

Bill O’Reilly echoed this sentiment on his show:

Sean Trende: GOP’s political landscape is in good shape for the future

Real Clear Politics’s Sean Trende analyzes why the hand-wringing by many conservative insiders may be short-sighted.  According to his analysis beyond the Senate and White House losses this cycle, there are many rays of hope for the future of the Republican Party.

The simple truth is that this election turned out pretty much the way that the econometric models suggested it should. The GOP had deluded itself into believing that 2012 was a “gimme” — and to be sure, it was winnable. Team Romney made some mistakes and failed to capitalize on opportunities. But overall, the result wasn’t out of line with what we’d expect from a tepid economy (this also cuts against the “demographics” argument; if demographics were becoming the GOP’s main problem, the GOP would increasingly run behind what the economy suggested it “should”).

Washington Post: What is “conservative” anyway?

Jennifer Rubin has an interesting blog post in her Right Turns column for the Washington Post.  She tackles this idea of what it really means to be conservative, including whether the movement has been too quick to label issues as “conservative” even though they may not be.

It is also helpful in making policy decisions, sourcing candidates and determining legislative agendas to be clear about what is essential to conservatism and what is not. Republicans can adopt positions that are less or more conservative (there is nothing wrong with a little political expediency now and then), but they should be careful not to appropriate the conservative moniker to justify whatever it is they want to do or not do.

Conservatives’ faith in free markets, reasonable taxes, modest regulations and free trade are positions grounded in fundamental beliefs about the size and role of government (limited, there to protect its citizens’ rights and afford them safety from hostile powers). As a tactical matter that may require compromise ( e.g. accept revenue-generating tax reform), but the goal of a pro-growth tax code that eschews government favoritism of one industry or company over another is based on free-market principles. If a purported conservative wants to toss that aside (or opposition to defense sequestration or any other principle position), don’t be surprised when others question if he has any fixed beliefs.

She seems to argue (effectively) that conservatism should be viewed on a spectrum rather than through a bright line division between “conservative” or “liberal.”  The more complicated positions held by many conservative candidates are obviously gay marriage and immigration.  With both of those issues, conservative candidates seem to lose (badly) the youth and Hispanic vote respectively.  Though she does not urge concession on those issues, Jennifer Rubin seeks to put them into context:

On the other hand, positions that many claim to be equally essential to conservatism simply are not. If marital infidelity and divorce aren’t part of any conservative national political agenda, gay marriage need not be. No tenant of modern conservatism obligates politicians to insist on undoing a social consensus on the expansion of marriage freely arrived at by voters.

Nor is there anything conservative about opposing immigration reform. Republicans may do so because they think it will benefit Democrats or because they are afraid their talk-show hosts will holler at them, but it is not a conservative position. Conservatives favor meritocracy, entrepreneurial energy and a flexible labor market. As students of history they know immigration is essential to keep replenishing American culture and society and to make good on the vision of the framers that America is based on democratic ideals, not ethnic or racial identity.

Republicans must be flexible in their approach to policies and responsive to their defeats.  Throughout history, the commonly-held stereotypes of the parties were that Democrats supported positions of caring and passion towards the less-fortunate, while Republicans were pragmatic, reasonable, and responsible.  (Many will argue those stereotypes, but they are, nonetheless, how many view the general distinctions of the parties.  After all, there’s a reason why the following quote generally seems to ring true: “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”)