Republicans dominate U.S. political scene

It is hard to overemphasize the extent of Republican political supremacy in the second decade of 21st century United States of America. That dominance stretches from state legislatures, to governorships, to both houses of the U.S. Congress and, when Donald Trump takes the oath of office Jan. 20, to the presidency.

In 2017, Republican governors will lead 33 of the 50 states, the highest mark in nearly a century. More than half the states are in total Republican control, with the party controlling the governorship and the full legislature. Democrats can only make that claim in five states, Connecticut among them.

Republicans control about 70 percent of state legislatures, counting both Senate and House chambers and Nebraska’s unicameral legislature.

If there is any dark cloud amid all this silver lining for Republicans, it is that they are running out of Democrats to blame if the economy does not do well, the nation gets involved in unpopular military incursions abroad or the deficit grows and endangers popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

President Obama, in many ways the last Democrat standing, remains popular. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, the president’s favorability rating, at 59 percent, is the highest since his first year in office and far surpasses that of his own party, at 39 percent, and Republicans at 41 percent. But Obama could never seem to transfer that popularity to his party. Now he leaves the stage.

One thing that does not hurt your political popularity is having many poor people in your state. Among those 25 states in total Republican control, most dominated by the GOP for a long time, 12 appear among the top 20 states with the highest poverty rankings. Many of the poor don’t vote.

No wonder the Democratic presidential nominee’s slogan, “Stronger together,” did not resonate with many. Voters appear more in tune with the Republican philosophy of less government, lower taxes and self-reliance, leaving the poor (if they have the proper initiative, of course) to figure out for themselves how to climb out of poverty.

Judging by Connecticut, it is expensive to provide the social and educational supports in place to mitigate abject poverty. With only 8.6 percent of its people living under the poverty line, Connecticut ranks 48th in terms of lowest percentage of poor people, surpassed only by Minnesota and New Hampshire, both far more heterogeneous than Connecticut and not facing its demographic challenges.

But working people are rebelling against the high cost of Connecticut’s state bureaucracy, with Republicans gaining an 18-18 tie in the state Senate and with Democratic control of the House down to a 79-72 advantage after years of the Democrats’ in-state dominance.

Anyone watching the presidential election results Nov. 8 graphically saw the problem for the Democrats. Most states were covered in Republican red, the lone blue sections clustered around urban centers. With more people living in those areas, they were enough to win Democrat Hillary Clinton the popular vote, but the state-by-state success of Donald Trump won him the Electoral College votes and the presidency.

What those maps reminded me of was a pond drying up, with only small pockets of blue remaining before the pond disappears.

Democrats don’t have much time to bring blue rain in the form of drafting a message that appeals to working people outside the cities. After the 2020 elections and the next census, state legislatures will redraw voting district lines. As things stand now, Republicans will be doing most of the redrawing. That could cement their dominance for many years to come.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor. 

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