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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Leading from below

Sometimes we get so obsessed about how big and overreaching the federal government is that we don't pay enough attention to what's going on at the state level:

The victories continued a remarkable state winning streak for Republicans since Barack Obama became president. Pundits initially described the 2008 election as a major leftward shift in American politics, and it’s easy to see why: as the Obama era opened, the GOP held just 22 governorships and 14 state legislatures. But voters almost immediately began electing Republican lawmakers who rejected Obama’s call for bigger government and higher taxes. And they kept electing them last year, despite failed efforts by Democrats’ union allies to unseat incumbent Republican governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio. Today, Republican governors rule in 31 states, and the party has gained nearly 900 state legislative seats, giving it control of 30 state legislatures; Democrats hold the majority in 11, with eight split, and one (Nebraska’s) unicameral and officially nonpartisan.

[. . .]

Since Barack Obama’s election in 2008, Republican candidates in the states have promised that they would show the country another way of governing. They’ve delivered, and voters have responded. Judging by the evidence of 2014, the insurgency isn’t over.

Unlike the Republicans we send to Congress (especially the Senate), the state-level Republicans don't abandon their (supposed) principles on getting elected and start acting more like Democrats. They are ruling the way Republicans should rule, with less government, lower taxes, a cutting back on the red tape -- everything we've all but given up on when it comes to Washington.

There's been a lot of talk lately (I've contributed to it) about trying to tame Washington from the bottom up since there is clearly no chance of change coming from the top down. This has even included an effort to get an Article Five convention together to command the federal government to slow down. But that's a little revolutionary, which goes against the conservative grain. Evolution, slow and steady, if it endures, and be a kind of slow-motion revolution. Progressives have won their agenda over time with incrementalism, adding a little bit more to government each day. It might not work the other way, taking away at the state level bit by bit until the folks in Washington get the message, but it's worth a shot.

The alternative is just to turn our backs on Washington as a lost cause and worry only about the local level. That's tempting, but it would be too dangerous. You don't create a ravenous beast then pretend it isn't there and hope it goes away.