Ronald Brownstein and Stephanie Czekalinski have a fine article (National Journal, Apr. 13) on the increased partisan-ideological divisions among states. There’s way more ideological and partisan homogeneity within states, and
Across the full range of economic and cultural issues, Democratic and Republican state officials are pulling apart far more than they did as recently as two decades ago. On gun control, gay marriage, immigration, taxes, and participation in President Obama’s health reform law, among other issues, states that lean red and those that lean blue are diverging to an extent that is straining the boundaries of federalism.
The article is vintage National Journal, both in a good sense (well-informed, thorough, judicious) but also in a not-so-good sense. As the title suggests (“How Washington Ruined Governors”), it’s too taken with mainstream, bipartisan, consensual, good-government-from-good-governors to recognize the downside of that mode of federalism—or the upside of the more contentious brand that seems to be on the ascent. E.g., the authors lament that the
widening gap is recasting the role of governors. Well into the 1990s, state executives considered themselves more pragmatic than members of Congress; they regularly shared ideas across party lines and often sought to emerge nationally by bridging ideological disputes.
Over roughly the final third of the 20th century, … this movement accelerated. State lawmakers converged around a burst of policy innovation that led some to describe the period as a second Progressive Era. From the 1970s through the 1990s, many of the most prominent governors in both parties prided themselves on recombining ideas from left and right on issues such as education, health care, transportation, and welfare.