Do you know who your state representatives are? I live in Central Florida and the only name I recognize is the governor’s. Everybody knows Rick Scott. He has an unforgettable face – and startlingly radical policies (illustrated above).
But I can’t recall who is supposed to be representing our district in Tallahassee. It’s a Republican, of course. The Democratic Party is just about non-existent hereabouts, especially at the state level.
I don’t know why everyone around here is Republican. Racism has something to do with it, I’m sure. Especially when one of those pickup trucks with the Confederate flag in the rear window roars past me. And it seems to me that most of the Democrats in the state legislature are black while all of the Republicans are white.
But this is not really the Old South. A lot of local residents come from places like Ohio and Michigan. Some are transplanted Canadians even.
So why is the Republican Party so dominant?
Perhaps former Florida governor Bob Graham has the answer. Once when our editorial board was interviewing him at the Clearwater Sun, he observed that newcomers to the state are most interested at first in federal politics and become interested in local politics when it affects their property and their daily lives. But they remain unimpressed by state politics.
Of course, that does not explain the lackluster manner in which the Democrats compete in other states. It seems they focus entirely on Congress and the White House. The recent failure to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is a case in point. While the Republicans and their deep-pocket supporters put their heart into that fight, the national Democrats all but ignored it.
And in 2010, Republicans – Tea Party Republicans – swept the state elections as Democrats focused on Washington.
Yet the way the U.S. Government is set up, the states have a lot of power over the lives of Americans. Look at Mississippi where the legislature would have succeeded in banning abortions if the federal court system had not intervened. And that battle isn’t over. The Mississippi legislators are still fighting it in the courts. It’s a battle that’s being waged across the nation as Republican legislatures relentlessly seek to revoke the American woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices.
Look at Michigan, where the state’s Republican governor has kicked out the elected municipal representatives and taken over several cities. Look at Ohio, where it took a successful recall vote to protect the union rights of state employees. And look at Wisconsin, where those rights have been lost.
Now, it’s healthcare reform that’s being undermined. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision upholding President Obama’s historic law, vital provisions are being blocked by Republican governors like Scott.
Obviously, the Republicans and their wealthy allies recognize how important the states are in their quest for power.
It’s up to those of us who recoil at the prospect of a country dominated by right-wing zealots to engage them not only at the federal level but right here at home.