Look to the governorships

posted at 1:21 pm on November 7, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Even aside from the presidency, Republicans lost a good handful of races down the ticket last night — which of course means that the makeup of our federal government is going to just keep on keepin’ on for awhile  yet. If there isn’t much cheerful news to be found on the federal level, however, let’s turn our attention to state government for a moment.

While the state-specific governor elections are over the place in terms of timing, there were a few up-for-grabs gubernatorial races yesterday, and Republicans are going strong on that front. The ballots are still being counted in Montana and Washington, which may be tougher sells, but the GOP definitely picked up at least one longtime-Democratic governorship in North Carolina, via the AP:

When all the ballots are counted, Republicans could have as many as 32 governorships — a number the party has not achieved since 1990s.

McCrory defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton to become North Carolina’s first GOP chief executive since early 1993. McCrory narrowly lost his gubernatorial bid in 2008 to Democrat Beverly Perdue, who opted not to run this year.

Indiana voters went with Republican Mike Pence, a 12-year congressman who defeated Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham to succeed GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is barred by state law from seeking a third term.

Democratic governors are leaving office in North Carolina, Montana, New Hampshire and Washington — a fact that stirred Republican hopes that at least some of those offices could be flipped to the GOP. But New Hampshire’s governor’s mansion remained in Democratic hands Tuesday, as did those in Missouri, Vermont, Delaware and West Virginia.

If I had to compose some “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things”-type lyrics of my own, I’m pretty sure federalism would easily make my list. Competition, including and especially among governments between which residents can freely move, always yields efficiency and innovation. I think it’s one of history’s most squandered political opportunities that we’ve moved so far away from the Founders’ original intention of letting federalism do most of the day-to-day heavy lifting while the federal government most basically services national security.

President Obama’s top-down agenda is only going to move us even further away from that scenario, but let’s not forget the powerful examples that state governments can set, and that a good governor can help to at least mitigate some effects of a big-government federal mindset. Our laboratories of democracy make for a great study in contrasts — there’s a reason that red states tend to be more business-friendly than blue states, for instance — and a strong Republican governor coalition is going to be one of the tools we’ll need to bear up against Obama 2.0.


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