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MAY 23, 2023
Meyerson on TAP
Battlefield Reports From Our New Civil War
Two Prospect pieces on red and blue trifecta states make clear we really are two separate nations.
If there’s anyone who’s still mystified about why congressional Democrats and Republicans can’t come to an agreement on anything so basic as honoring the debts they’ve incurred, may I gently suggest they take a look at what Democrats and Republicans are doing in the particular states they each completely control.

Yesterday, we posted a piece by my colleague Ryan Cooper on how Minnesota, where Democrats now control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office, has just enacted its own (to be sure, scaled-back) version of Scandinavian social democracy—including paid sick leave for all, paid family leave, a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers, sector-wide collective bargaining in key industries, and the outlawing of “captive audience” meetings, in which management compels employees to attend anti-union rants. A new law also strengthens women’s right to an abortion. Similar laws have been enacted or are under consideration in other Democratic “trifecta” states, though none quite so pro-worker as some of Minnesota’s.

Also yesterday, we posted one of my pieces, this one on everything that Texas’s Republican legislature and governor are enacting to strip power from their large cities, almost all of which are solidly Democratic. One new bill says the state can declare elections to be invalid and compel new ones to be held under state supervision in the state’s largest county, Harris County, which is home to reliably Democratic Houston. And the state Senate has also passed a bill that would strip from cities the ability to pass any regulations on wages, workplace safety, business and financial practices, the environment, and the extent of property rights that exceed the standards set by the state. Which leaves cities with the power to do essentially nothing. No other Republican trifecta states have gone quite as far as Texas, but Tennessee’s legislature did effectively abolish Nashville’s congressional district and expel its assemblymember; Alabama’s legislature revoked Birmingham’s minimum-wage law; and Florida’s governor suspended Tampa’s elected DA because he wouldn’t prosecute women and doctors for violating the state’s new anti-abortion statutes. Beyond their war on cities, Republican trifecta states have long refused to expand Medicaid coverage, have recently also begun to re-legalize child labor and legislate prison terms for librarians whose shelves hold banned books, and in the wake of the Dobbs decision, criminalized abortions.

Just as cosmic inflation propels the stars away from each other with ever-expanding speed, so Democratic and Republican states are also moving away from each other at an accelerating pace—the Democrats toward a more humane future; the Republicans borne back ceaselessly into a nightmare version of the past. Any dispassionate view of America today has to conclude that the differences between these two Americas are almost as large and intractable as those that split the nation in 1860 and ’61. (The South’s opposition to fairly paid and nondiscriminatory labor was the central issue then and remains a central issue now.)

That said, when confronted with the choice between those two Americas, voters in those red states have frequently backed the blue-state versions of economic rights and personal freedoms, as is clear from their many initiative and referendum votes to raise the minimum wage, expand Medicaid, and preserve the right to an abortion. Likewise, the polling on unions shows their national favorability rating now exceeds 70 percent of the public, including roughly half of self-declared Republicans. Only by their relentless demagoguery on culture-war issues and immigration, their adept gerrymandering, and the disproportionate power that the composition of the Senate vests in barely inhabited states can the Republicans enforce their biases against a rising public tide—but enforce them they do wherever they have the power.

All right, as John Dos Passos wrote in his USA Trilogy, we are two nations—and becoming more so with each passing day.

Postscript: In his Washington Post column this morning, Perry Bacon noted that while a number of news publications have gone under recently, a few, in his words, “are reimagining political journalism in smart ways.” He cited seven such publications, and his list was headed by—ahem—The American Prospect.
Medical Properties Trust spent billions buying community hospitals in bewildering deals that made private equity rich and working-class towns reel. BY MAUREEN TKACIK
Industrial Policy Works
Exhibit A is long-depressed upstate New York. BY ROBERT KUTTNER
Republican Debt Ceiling Lies
Today’s X-Date: GOP members insist they’re worried about the national debt. It ain’t true. BY RYAN COOPER
Podcast: The Debt Ceiling Approaches
Ryan Cooper joins to talk about how Biden has boxed himself in. BY PROSPECT STAFF
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