TPV Explains: Power starts in the states
State governments are the bedrocks of power in the United States.
To the headbutt inducing frustration of many people, Democrats are only starting to realize this. Fortunately, this realization is already starting to bear fruit. In 2018, seven governor mansions flipped from red to blue, and Democrats gained eight trifectas.
A trifecta is when a political party has control of the governor's office, state senate, and state House. In other words, complete control of the legislature and executive office.
State governments have massive influence on the quality of our everyday lives.
For example, I would argue is thanks in part to California’s robust and well run state government that the state has not broken under the pressure of apocalyptic wildfires. Keep in mind the president has not been helpful to California at all in dealing with their crisis.
By contrast, Hurricane Katrina completely broke the Louisiana state government.
The reason Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans was not entirely the fault of the state government. The Federal Government's response was just as horrific, the city and parish governments were not equipped to handle the disaster (and made their own inexcusable blunders), and institutionalized racism in who can handle catastrophic storms thanks to income/wealth gaps and who gets help played a major role as well.
But how well the Louisiana government could operate at the time played a critical role in the disastrously incomptent response, and the intense suffering of the people of New Orleans. If the state government were better equipped, the chances of New Orleans devolving into a warzone would have been smaller.
But it is not just disaster response that state government plays an outsized role in. How well your local public transportation system operates depends a great deal on how much money the state government has or is willing to spend on it. If you want to have criminal justice reform, look to your state government to take the leading role. The main driver of mass incarceration are laws passed at the state and local levels that target people with addictions or mental health problems, not to mention disproportionately target people of color, especially black people. Over half of all people incarcerated today are in state prisons.
If anyone remembers the murder of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was able to get away with murder in part thanks to the stand your ground law passed by the Flordia State Government. With the help of institutionalized racism in our media and criminal justice system of course.
State governments are also largely responsible for infrastructure (think of roads, power systems, ports, airports, etc) healthcare and social services, pensions, education (everything from k-12 to higher education), public safety, and so much more.
To see the importance of state government, look no further than Minnesota and Wisconsin. The two states have similar geography, demographics, and history, and yet have diverged greatly thanks to their state governments.
Wisconsin typically has the edge in sports but we in Minnesota have the edge in everything else. Our economy performs better, our residents have better access to healthcare, our residents are better educated, our infrastructure is in better shape and we are less corrupt.
You can thank the fact that Minnesota never had to deal with a Republican Trifecta lead by someone like Former Governor Scott Walker.
With the recent wins in Virginia, Democrats now have a trifecta. Look to the former capital of the confederacy to make some impressive changes to their state.
Power starts at the state and local level.
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