The Widening Gulf

A reader recently sent me a copy of a column from his local paper. (Congratulations on still having one of those…)

The column (behind a paywall) looked at the ever-widening gulf between legislatures controlled by Republicans and those in majority-democratic states. Those differences, the column suggested, can offer a lens on where the country is heading.

Given the rest of the column, I’d guess that we are heading for further polarization, if not a cold civil war…

The author identified three “big themes” playing out across state capitols this year. The first such theme is no surprise– the “continuing rise of hyper-polarized policies. Red and blue states will push further apart on everything from voting laws, abortion, gay rights, education and taxation. States under single-party dominance–the “trifecta states”– will  feel free to pursue their very divergent approaches to America’s culture wars.

This year there are 39 “trifecta” states, in which a single party controls all three branches of government (both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office). This allows states to “make decisions and make them relatively quickly,” says Peverill Squire of the University of Missouri, an expert on legislatures. “The contrast with Washington will be stark.”

The column gave examples, including Red Wyoming, where a bill that (mercifully) died in committee would have banned the sale of all new electric vehicles starting in 2035, in order to protect the state’s oil and gas industry.

Blue California is considering several new gun control proposals; while Florida and other Red states, are likely to legalize permitless carry.” (Red Indiana already passed this, over the dire and entirely accurate predications of law enforcement personnel.)

A second theme will be Red state governments taking aim at private companies that have the nerve to defy lawmakers’ partisan political agendas. Proposals currently pending in Republican states, including (of course!) Texas, would revoke firms’ tax incentives if they help employees get abortions.

What ever happened to the Republican Party that–according to Barry Goldwater–wanted to keep government out of both your boardroom and your bedroom? Ah–for the good old days…

Blue California is considering a cap on oil firms’ profits, while legislators in Arkansas, Missouri and South Carolina (and Indiana) want to prohibit state governments from doing business with firms that take environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles into account.

And of course,”some governors will use these legislative sessions as résumé-building for higher office.” Ron DeSantis is way out in front on that “theme”–staking out a coveted MAGA position as head of the White Nationalist movement. The column noted “DeSantis’s signature policies”–restricting what students can be taught about sex and sexuality, punishing Disney for inclusiveness, waging war on anything he can label “woke” and of course, gerrymandering and suppressing the votes of Black Floridians…

Constitution? What Constitution?

As the article pointed out, it isn’t just the big states that are political weather vanes.

smaller states that became Democratic trifectas in 2022, Michigan and Minnesota, will generate headlines too. If rumblings that Michigan is going to repeal its anti-union “right-to-work” law prove correct, it would be the first state to do so since 1965, says Chris Warshaw of George Washington University.

The column says that one way to think of these 2023 state legislative sessions is as a long-running television drama, featuring many of the “same characters and issues from last time: abortion, rights for LGBTQ people, and culture-war debates on curricula in public schools. Already, 202 LGBTQ-related bills have been introduced; a record, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. (Missouri, with 31, has the most, followed by Oklahoma’s 27.)”

Proposals include banning trans children from having surgery or anyone born male from taking part in girls’ sports. There is talk of banning and even criminalizing drag shows.

The author noted that more prosaic concerns–the actual work of government–are getting short shrift. But even there, the division between Red and Blue is stark: 
in numerous states that are still enjoying large surpluses, thanks to high tax receipts and federal money, Red state governors want to use the funds to cut taxes, not to improve decaying infrastructure or (heaven forbid!) pay teachers a living wage. 

As the column concluded, 

Most legislatures would be wise to squirrel away some of their surpluses for times of economic duress, says Justin Theal of Pew Charitable Trusts, which monitors states’ fiscal health.

But for politicians, saving has never generated as many headlines as raving.

And headlines are the name of the game when politics becomes performative….


  1. “The column gave examples, including Red Wyoming, where a bill that (mercifully) died in committee would have banned the sale of all new electric vehicles starting in 2035, in order to protect the state’s oil and gas industry.”

    Fully admitting I have no understanding of the concept of electric vehicles I need to ask; where does the power providing electricity for these vehicles come from? Is it not the fossil fuel industry running most of our electrical plants, or do Republicans plan on erecting more Three Mile Islands and Chernoble sites? Have you seen the movie “The China Syndrome” or read Helen Caldicott’s speeches for reality; read the precarious situations regarding safety of nuclear power and hazardous waste dumps which have even infected a U.S. Marine base in North Carolina? I lost family members to cancer who were stationed there. Remember the hurricane and tsunami which destroyed Japan’s nuclear site which resulted in debris from that disaster reaching our western coast?

    Those long-ago, wished-for days of keeping government out of boardrooms and bedrooms are long gone; Trump’s Freedom Caucus thug mentality is quickly eroding the House at the federal level and we are looking at a Corleone family takeover. They have already begun investigating the investigations of investigators of their seditious and treasonous actions and still hoping to overturn the 2020 presidential election. They want to fire on that Chinese balloon floating across our country to start that nuclear war Trump hoped to start while in office; if they can’t nuke Russia, they are willing to begin with China. We need to get many of our government out of our government.

    “We have met the enemy and it is us.” Every Republican who voted for Trump bears guilt today for what we are trying to survive as a democracy. But which faction bears the larger load of guilt; we cannot omit those who have remained mute and idle since before Trump was appointed to the White House and continue to vote against this nation’s survival.

    “Evil thrives where good men do nothing.” They are all those where FOLLOW THE MONEY must be considered to identify the members of Trump’s fascist Republicans. Know them by their silence!

  2. I have often thought about the Pharoah’s Dream of the seven lean cows consuming the seven fat cows. It seems apropos to our times. I doubt that any politician today would act on Joseph’s interpretation and begin to prepare their constituents for the coming world. Too bad.

  3. Sheila writes, “politics becomes performative….”

    This is why politicians shouldn’t be allowed to have Twitter handles or Facebook pages. Since they are allowed to lie, many are the source of disinformation. Instead of censoring these liars, the government censors journalists outside the mainstream media to hold them accountable. They also censor populists and activists on the Left.

    The “denouncing of socialism” vote on the House floor this week was 100% performative. Kevin McCarthy spent the rest of the week making posts and speeches. Any Democrat who doesn’t vote for his slashing the budget of entitlements and welfare will be considered a socialist.

    One other comment, any states “saving taxpayer dollars” should be forced to send the dollars back — NOT saved. We are taxed based on needed revenue to run the government. Taxpayers should get a refund if we collect too much or spend too little. Indiana’s practice of hoarding a rainy day fund of over $2 billion is a sign they are overtaxing Hoosiers.

  4. You say about anti LGBT bills:
    “Proposals include banning trans children from having surgery or anyone born male from taking part in girls’ sports. There is talk of banning and even criminalizing drag shows”.
    But that is the mild stuff. Many states, including Indiana, are working on bills to de-transition children and youth by making it illegal to provide any medical care related to living as a gender other than the gender matching you gender assigned at birth, criminalizing doctors from providing such care and threatening parents with civil charges for child abuse for supporting their children in dealing with these issues. Some states are taking this to age 26, under the theory that, since their brain is not fully developed until that age, they shouldn’t be allowed to make such a decision until then. There are also states attempting to do away with all cross gender behavior at any age.

    This is an attempt to do away with the Transgender community, and if successful, will drive suicide rates among trans cuildren and youth through the roof! And adult trans people as well. Imagine that you have lived with significant depression your entire life, and you finally find a medication that makes you whole and healthy, and the government, for political reasons, makes your medication illegal. But it’s even worse, be cause this isn’t just about your mental health but about you identity, who you see yourself to be.

  5. JoAnn, power companies are pivoting to renewables, solar and wind. I think in the US, that broke 25% of our current power supply. Some countries, like Germany, where they have progressive national policies, they are on the 50% threshold. The danger a nuclear are well known and I don’t think anybody is bringing new plants online.

    I know Indiana’s Republican legislature voted to allow utilities to add “small” portable nuclear power plants to their rate base, but that was just more political theater, I think mainly to piss off Democrats who are rightly worried about the dangers of nuclear pollution.

    As for the main theme of the post today, I’m not sure things are going to get so polarized. Kansas is a decades long case study of the Republican cut taxes and smaller government. I think the people of Kansas have finally realized that they were being lied too, and you get what you pay for. The 2/3 retain abortion vote was the biggest thing that made the news recently, but as businesses and people left the state despite low taxes and little regulation, they’re starting to realize that being cheap isn’t the top reason to live or work someplace. My personal observation came from a trip to Kansas city. The state line runs through Kansas city. Most of the city is on the Missouri side of the border. Driving down State Line Street is eye opening. On the east side, you have dense neighborhoods and lots of businesses. On the west side the street, the houses are small and low density, the businesses are dingy, and the roads are bumpy, and that was 20 years ago.

  6. NoDaks legsislture has a tax plan to cut property taxes.since being rural,seems everyone ive ever had the pleasure to endure here,is giddy with it. but the state will in two years hopefully vote this session a 6%this year and then 4% next year to give state employees a raise. provided the tax revenue remains from oil and gas. if oil drop below i believe,$70 a barrel and above its states taxed,under that its free money back to the oil gougers. red state V blue state sounds like MAD mag spy v spy. weve come to electing g. santos’s everywhere,without questions. (does anyone at the RNC fact check anyone?)(but we understand why)they have lied heavily to aquire the votes. no fairness doctrine here,just apply some murdoch icing and some trump chips to the cake of manure and ya get todays republican candidate. walla!

  7. Wyoming 10 years back,private industry built windfarms near the southern border along Colorado.
    the WYO. legislature immediatly paseed a bill that NO green elect would be sold in Wyo.

  8. Dan; I considered solar and wind sources, also wondered about the security and cost of maintenance with Climate Change and Global Warming changing the environment with no end in sight. Just sayin’

    Is there a final answer to IPL, now AES, seeking control of stored solar energy on private homes?
    Just askin’

  9. James Todd,

    Excellent point!! Whether one believes in dreams being anything other than dreams or not, the point in Genesis was well made.

    Genesis 45: 5 – 8 talks about being prepared.

    7 healthy heads of grain and 7 fat-fleshed cows followed by 7 sickly heads of grain and 7 emaciated cows.

    Joseph interpreted the dream, and, during times of plenty, the pharaoh stashed food in massive store houses. When the droughts hit 7 years later, Egypt had food for its citizens. Joseph then welcomed his family to Egypt as they came out of their famine ravaged homeland.

    Humanity doesn’t possess much forsight, look at the water issues out west. Even with the massive amounts of rain and snow, it didn’t even put a dent in the drought, it didn’t refill the aquifers, or replenish groundwater reserves.

    Modern technology has been developed which would use very little power to desalinate ocean water. The only thing they would have to deal with is piles of salt. The salt could be reintroduced into the ocean by evenly dispersing it over large swaths thereby ensuring there would be no toxicity.

    And yet you have individuals fighting against this very thing, that is until they need water. Why does humanity constantly wait until there is an inferno to extinguish rather than preventing it from ever getting started?

    The world nuclear scientific community has just moved the nuclear clock to 90 seconds before midnight. A minute and a half, wow! It’s never been that close to nuclear midnight. With everybody being on edge, it wouldn’t take much to start a conflagration.

    King Solomon said in Proverbs 11: 14 “When there is no skillful direction the people will fall, but there is salvation in the multitude of counselors.”

    Ahhh, but when teachers, scientists, and researchers are demonized, when they are ridiculed, when their counsel is trashed, less and less will offer their counsel, and even fewer will accept it!

    Using the spirit of a sound mind is very wise counsel. Those who possess a sound mind, are few and far between.

    Being able to recognize burgeoning problems and how those problems will affect the end game remain incomprehensible to the dimwitted. Logic, knowledge through experience and education, lead to wisdom! Why do so many prefer to be willfully ignorant? Or, willfully deluded? Follow the leader? Even when your leader is purposefully hateful? Purposefully destructive? There’s no logic, no knowledge, no wisdom in that!

    When you see a person in distress, naked, hungry, cold, afraid, and you tell them to go in peace and be warm and well fed without supplying those necessities, who does it benefit? Certainly not the person in need, but does it do something for the person who is admonishing the one in need? James 2: 15 – 16

    No compassion, no empathy, no love, no conscience! Until that changes, nothing will!

    This planet spends trillions of dollars a year on weapons, how much does this world spend on humanity? Shelter? Food? Water? Security? Peace?

    If you’re looking for the answer to come out of government, I would suggest you’re barking up the wrong tree! Because it’s never happened before. And, Actually history shows just the opposite.

  10. Dan,

    In 2020 the NRC approved new Small Modular type Reactors, (SMR)s!

    These small reactors will power certain military installations along the coast, certain essential manufacturing facilities, and maybe even power small cities. So, this was inevitable. When I worked for the utility, they were talking about pebble bed reactors which were very small facilities. These were developed in South Africa. These others, have been developed in the United States.

    Look up “NuScale Power”

  11. The fossil fuel industry is slowly pivoting because it must. When there is no more oil to deplete, then your oil depletion allowance (ODA) goes away. They will speed up that transition as soon as their taxes benefit more from the development of renewables than to declining ODAs.

    I’m just wondering fi those MAGA voters are waking up when they see the House pass a 30% sales tax bill, or an Anti-socialism bill, or prepare to investigate “everything Biden”, rather than doing the business of government. Their representatives are out there taking credit for the dollars flowing into their states from the Biden administration’s legislative agenda, even though they voted against every bill.

    I know I’ve asked God to save us before, but this time, I’ll be more specific: God save us from stupid people!

  12. Sheila, how many of the 39 trifecta states are red and how many are blue? And what is the total population of the red ones vs the blue ones?

  13. I think that today’s Un-United States of America was not what Madison and Jefferson had in mind when they put quill to parchment some 234 years ago, but the tripartite government with checks and balances (and Marbury in 1803) that they engineered has served us reasonably well (other than the disruption of the Civil War and the current malaise).

    Not all civil wars are fought with muskets and jet planes. Some are fought in smoke-filled back rooms and power-rich special interest boardrooms (See Koch, Big Tech et al), but the results as they affect the rest of us are just as real as the outcome of Grant v. Lee (sans the bloodshed – so far); results in our world we the gentry had no vote in deciding.

    The captors of the Republican Party have substituted cultural war for argument and compromise leading to agreement, a process it took two years for our forefathers to agree to on the organic law of the land – our Constitution – and even this work of art with Ten Amendments to be adopted only two years later.

    Since argument and compromise in this current sea of hatred are seemingly unavailable, what to do? There may be other means that can be employed to solve our dilemma, but I only see one at this point, and that is to remove these cultural warriors in search of all power from office, fight through their election denials, and govern as I think Madison and Jefferson hoped we would – fairly and efficiently, united in purpose, and in support of the common good.

  14. Thanks, Sheila. Your source shows 22 red states and 17 blue ones. Percent of total U.S. population living in trifecta red states 39.69% compared to 49.71 % in blue states. Figures as of January, 2023.

  15. I live in a really red state – South Carolina — where the state allowed a rally for Trump recently to occur inside the state house. The problem is that this was an invitation-only event, and the public was locked out of the building for the entire day. That turned his rally into a private political event that was subsidized by S.C. taxpayers — both those who support him and those who don’t.

    oy vey!

  16. Soap operas? Who needs soap operas?
    We have soap operas! Heck, we live in soap opera land!
    Drama, passion, angst, anxiety Sarah Huckabee Sanders
    is a GOVERNOR! Coach Jordan is a big deal!
    If we are some aspect of a universal simulated reality, the
    system is running into some wiring problems. If this is the
    case, I can see the Super-Mind getting ready to toss the
    software into some black hole wastebasket, soon, He/She/It
    thinking “Where did our programming go wrong? What’s the
    matter with these fools? Doesn’t species survival mean anything
    to them?”
    “Bye now!”

  17. Nebraska is listed as a trifecta, but is, in fact a bifecta. They are the only state with a unicameral legislature. They are red, however.

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