Evidently, The GOP War On Cities Isn’t Limited To Indiana

When the Indiana legislature is in session, residents of urban areas don’t feel safe–and there is ample reason for our angst, as this blog has repeatedly documented.  A sad side effect is currently playing out in the Indianapolis City County Council, where the Democratic majority is trying to quiet one Counselor’s expressions of anger over the arrogance of a legislator who says he knows best what sort of transit city folks are entitled to. The Democratic caucus is evidently worried that open resistance will make the legislature even harder to deal with.

The bottom line, of course, is that Hoosiers–both city dwellers and rural folks–are absolutely helpless to influence our legislative overlords. Thanks to extreme gerrymandering, legislators in Indiana choose their voters, not the other way around, and Indiana lacks the ability to mount referenda or initiatives. We are truly subjects, not citizens.

There’s no mystery about why.

Our Red state legislature makes war on the cities that provide virtually all of the tax dollars they spend–the cities that are demonstrably the economic engine of the state–because cities are where Democrats live and vote.

It turns out that Indiana is not the only retrograde Red state engaging in these tactics. According to a recent article in The American Prospect, Republican-led states have now taken to blocking liberal cities from even thinking about legislating on behalf of their residents.

There’s nothing historically novel about America’s politics dividing along urban vs. rural or cosmopolitan vs. parochial lines. One has to go back a full century, however, to find a time when the nation’s political fault lines ran so clearly along the city/country divide as they do today.

“Those people” tend to live in cities, and they tend to vote Democratic.

 In the 1920s, cities were too Catholic and Jewish and freethinking for the countryside’s Protestant traditionalists, and new urban-based media (radio, movies) brought the taint of the new to rural communities whose susceptible young people were lighting out for the cities. Today, culture wars and economic conflicts also play out largely along urban/rural lines. Of the top 35 cities in America by population, only four have Republican mayors, and one of those, Eric Johnson of Dallas, Texas, was elected as a Democrat and switched parties in 2023.

State level lawmakers may not be the brainiest of people, but a number of them have figured out that–as the saying goes–there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Since Republican legislatures and governors can’t stop city residents from electing Democrats, however, they’ve devised a whopper of a Plan B: negating majority rule in those areas by denying those cities the right to enact any laws or promote any policies that run counter to the preferences of the governor and the legislature.

The article lists a number of examples. North Carolina’s legislature nullified a Charlotte ordinance protecting LGBTQ rights. When the city of Birmingham passed a municipal minimum-wage statute, the Republican state legislature outlawed municipal minimum-wage laws.

More recently, majority-Black and majority-Democratic Jackson, Mississippi, has had a crime problem, so the Republican Mississippi state legislature responded by enacting a law that stripped criminal trials from the jurisdiction of Jackson courts and established a new group of courts, with judges to be appointed by the state’s Republican chief justice. When Democratic Nashville established a civilian review board for its police, the Republican legislature and governor passed a law that banned civilian review boards. The underlying racism in such preemptions is never very far from the surface. The Republican neo-Dixiecrats who dominate Southern legislatures can no longer keep Blacks from voting, but they’ve found a way to keep Blacks, in the cities where they constitute clear majorities, from governing.

And of course, there’s always Texas.

In the past, the state had enacted laws to stop municipalities from creating local ordinances that protect tenants facing eviction and to stop cities and counties from regulating fracking within their boundaries. Last summer, however, the Texas legislature passed and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law HB 2127, which its sponsors gloatingly called the “Death Star” bill for local governments. The law prohibits municipalities from enacting local ordinances that go beyond any state laws that deal with agriculture, business and commerce, finance, insurance, labor, natural resources, occupations, and property.

The sweeping law negated local statutes like those that Dallas and Austin had enacted to require employers to give water breaks to construction workers in torrid summers. It further forbade cities from enacting any such ordinances that climate change or conscience might require. It’s so broad that it’s not clear just what kind and how many local laws and regulations it would negate.

Knowing that Indiana isn’t alone really doesn’t give me any comfort.


  1. Sheila, you’ve pointed out that gerrymandering has no effect on statewide and national elections. Yet within the state, as far as the legislature is concerned, we’re totally hamstrung. Even if we’re fortunate enough to get Ms McCormick elected, would they render her powerless? I find this whole mishigoss (and that’s actually too mild a term) overwhelmingly discouraging. Is there any way out? At all?

  2. OtherSheila: I see only one possibility: if Hoosier Democrats really got their act together and got Democrats in rural areas to vote, a number of “safe” seats would turn out not to be safe. Rural populations have thinned considerably, and the Republican advantage in a lot of districts is thin. The problem is, gerrymandering has depressed that vote by convincing rural Democrats that it’s hopeless, so why vote. But until several of those “safe” districts flip, we will continue to be at the mercy of a totally dysfunctional and retrograde legislature.

  3. Republicans are fascists. Republicans cheat. Republicans lust only for power and money. Republicans lie … about most everything. Republicans do NOT govern, they rule.


  4. Humans can live with individual freedom but only under laws enacted, enforced, and judged by a government of, by, and for the people.

    Government of, by, and for the people is only possible if people live according to reality, of, by, and for the Universe.

    Knowledge is the key to freedom, including freedom from war.

  5. Let’s see. The guys passing these laws are the same guys that stroke out whenever someone in D.C. mentions including federal preemption in a bill or law. Republican hypocrisy is boundless; they’re collectively capable of absorbing levels of cognitive dissonance powerful enough to light the Northeast corridor for a month. And hey, why do things for people when you can keep doing things to them?

  6. I’m sure we can thank the American Legislative and Exchange Council (ALEC) for these boilerplate laws rendering municipalities ineffective to govern. Why am I even voting for local officials who cannot govern in Indiana?

    The state removed our local school system and handed it to Ball State to manage. Talk about fascists! Ball State is a Koch campus.

    The oligarchy has no plans for being a democratic republic. What we have is fascist rule, and it’s only going to get worse. I agree with Sheila’s response above about rural democrats voting, but I think the most likely case is fewer people bothering to vote since it doesn’t matter.

    The right-to-farm bill prevented local governments from deciding what occurs in their districts. Citizens can take a stand against a CAFO wanting to move into the county, but the officials can’t stop it due to state laws—pure fascism.

  7. Whenever it might seem that the IN can’t go any lower they file a Bill that would ban Gary and any other municipalities from creating any gun ordinances and decide the law will be retroactive 25 years ago!

  8. One mo time….it is not just rural DEMs that you have to “get out” – it is the non-MAGA GOPers and the “I’m sick of politics and parties” independents. There are more of them and they are growing in numbers daily as the news batters them.

  9. It seems to me that the Dems are getting smarter about policies, but they still have a lot to learn about marketing. When the GOP talks out of both sides of its collective mouth, I want to see ads exposing the hypocrisy while NOT saying the word “hypocrisy.”. Keep it simple, stupid.

  10. keeping it simple, seems the credo for the maggot bunch too. no context when i talk with them on a daily basis. thier ball caps adorned with joe and the hoe gotta go. etc,etc,etc. wheres our ball caps? i drive around in a heavy 4 wheel drive ford,seems they believe im onenna them.. the conversation is well taken,facts and where i got my info is readily there. they stare,but listen. my ball cap, Bernie 2016..best wishes. the wife is getting a nite out,on her day off. i hope you all put your arm around your favorite squeeze and squeeze a little harder today..

  11. Perhaps AI will allow urban residents to move to rural areas. Perhaps we can agitate for a constitutional convention and establish Home Rule as a principle in areas no political party can touch, and perhaps, as Sheila has suggested, get rural Democrats to the polls. These are some of the things we can do in agitating for such changes and even if we fail early on to achieve one or more of them we can make them issues in political campaigns that may ultimately excite both rural and urban Democrats to go to the polls and re-establish Home Rule; like, should zoning be subject to legislative whim? Stop signs? Annexation? Why have mayors?

    We vote for both gerrymandered and statewide candidates in the same elections, and as Sheila suggests, many voters who see gerrymandered candidates win time after time fall prey to despair and stay home on Election Day, thus depriving statewide as well as gerrymandered candidates of their vote and, I must add, help Republicans empower such as Braun, Banks, and other such cave dwellers.

    We Democrats are well-advised to make this crucial distinction known to every Democrat urban or rural at the precinct level in the hope that massive turnout will carry the day, despair will evaporate, and democracy thrive.

  12. As previously observed, Democrats need to have someone to vote FOR if they go to the polls. In too many places in rural counties, there are none on the ballot. It is hard to encourage anyone to vote when they only have one choice and that one is against everything they value.

  13. JD – at least as important as SOMEONE to vote FOR – they (especially the non-party folks) need SOMETHING SPECIFIC TO BE DONE WHEN I AM ELECTED that I value, not vague generalities….

  14. If you look at the list of people running for the state legislature in the May primary, there are lots of Democrats running! Maybe Mike Schmuhl has been working hard with his team to recruit candidates to run! If you live outside the metro area, research these candidates and HELP THEM WIN! We need balance in the legislature if you want any hope for change.

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