A week ago, we explored the historically precarious position the Democratic Party is currently in as it relates to the balance of power in the 99 state legislative chambers. At present, the Democrats control just 31 of those 99 chambers, and have exclusive control of just eleven state legislatures: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Meanwhile, the GOP not only controls more than two-thirds of the state legislative chambers in America, they have exclusive control of the state’s levers of powers in eight states where Barack Obama twice carried the state: Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
This disparity is both jarring and terribly problematic, given how much policy that impacts our day-to-day lives is not carved out in the District of Columbia, but rather in cities like Carson City, Columbus, Harrisburg, and Madison. While the overwhelming
of the public conversation is devoted to the twists and turns of the presidential sweepstakes (admittedly, a wildly entertaining story), the real story about the policy direction of America is being waged in relative silence.
Democratic supporters are very quick to blame the disastrous 2010 election, which gave the Republican Party license to gerrymander state legislative maps from coast-to-coast. To be sure, it is a subject that has received a lot of attention on Daily Kos Elections: both in articles I have written, and articles written by colleagues like Stephen Wolf and Jeff Singer. And, without question, it will continue to be an intense topic of conversation around these parts.
But there is more to the gradual decline of Democratic support at the state legislative level than mere gerrymandering. This week, we explore the possibility that Democrats are hamstrung, even if slightly, by a tendency of their “soft” supporters being more willing to reach across the aisle and support legislative Republicans than the converse. Indeed, we have heard much about asymmetric polarization. The decline in split-ticket voting (which has been well documented), it appears, may be happening asymmetrically, as well.