I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
Well Newshoggers has closed it's doors so Middle Earth Journal is active once again.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

State Political Battles -- A Punchlist

The Washington gridlock has many angles, but behind the complexity is the simple fact that most seats in the House of Representatives are considered "safe."  And to a large extent the same dynamic is true of the Senate.  Estimates vary, but the number of safe House seats ranges from 351 to 388 to 392 -- in any case an unbalanced majority. Those electoral districts are the result of decades of gerrymandering on the part of both political parties to secure power. Over time this feature of our beloved federal system may carry the seeds of its own destruction. State populations determine how many seats each state will have in the House of Representatives, but there is no federal standard indicating how districts are to be drawn. Historically the party in power when the census is official (every ten years) redraws the electoral map as the number of  Congressmen goes up or down. This practice results in maps which maximize the number of districts voting for the party in power. And yes, the system has been in place through enough cycles that both parties have participated.

If the last few electoral cycles have done nothing else, they have revealed this dark underside of  the American political system. Various interest groups have been aware of this dynamic for years and have played all sides against the middle to accomplish a variety of goals -- social, corporate, or other -- playing Democrats against Republicans, contributing to both sides depending on the expectation of a return on those investments. Of all the threats that can be leveled at an elected official in an otherwise "safe" district, the most chilling is the threat of getting primaried. (New dictionaries will soon be forced to list primary as a verb.) The reality of a primary challenge is less real than the fear that it may happen. But interest groups, like the Godfather who makes an offer you cannot refuse,  have become skilled at oblique suggestions that a primary challenger may be in the wings. 
Primary challenges are usually waged on the basis of scandal or the perceived ineptitude of the incumbent, or are a result of redistricting or racial divisions. There is some relationship between ideological primary challenges and changes in party support in the electorate. For the most part, however, the rhetoric behind “primarying” may be an effective tool for ideological groups to threaten moderate incumbents, but this rhetoric bears little resemblance to the reality of congressional primary competition. This rhetoric by itself, however, may be effective, particularly within the Republican Party, in heightening partisan divisions. [emphasis added]
So here is is the AFL-CIO punch list of concerns for the 2014 midterms. Expect either real or possible primary challengers to be part of the political arsenal. Democrats and their historic social and labor allies have been energized by President Obama's first term and are rising to the challenges now causing gridlock in Washington.
  • Budget Cuts (likely to be proposed in as many as 29 states) 
  • Health Care Reform (22 states) 
  • Immigration (16 states) 
  • Paycheck Deception/Restrictions on Public Sector Payroll Deduction (20 states) 
  • Project Labor Agreements (19 states) 
  • Prevailing Wage (22 states) 
  • Privatization (31 states) 
  • Public Education (37 states) 
  • Public-Sector Benefits (31 states) 
  • Public-Sector Layoffs (16 states) 
  • "Right to Work" for Less (15 states) 
  • Tax Issues (17 states) 
  • Teacher Tenure (20 states) 
  • Unemployment Insurance (20 states) 
  • Voter Suppression (19 states) 
  • Workers' Compensation (26 states)
This is not a trivial list. Go to the link and check the specifics of each of these subjects, all of which are political pressure points for the GOP. This list, of course, is labor-oriented -- nothing specific regarding womens issues, gender equality, firearms or climate  change.  But it's a good place to start. 

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