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Power, politics, and The Real Meaning of today’s election

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What is the meaning — or at least a meaning — of today’s election?

I asked the juniors and seniors in my opinion-writing course to consider that today by looking into:

• How many state legislatures have both chambers controlled by one party? Will that number increase for either party?
• Will governorships contested today change from one party to another?
• What is the party split in the House of Representatives today, and what might it be tomorrow?
• What is the makeup of the Senate today, and what might it be tomorrow?

It required only about half an hour of basic Web research to answer those questions. In other words, they found that the significance of today’s election might be this: How big are Sen. Barack Obama’s coattails, and what might that mean?

They discovered that some state legislatures with chambers divided by party have a chance to become unilaterally Democratic. New York is one such state. If there’s a two-seat swing in the state Senate, the Democrats will control both chambers. Why’s that important? I asked.

“Redistricting,” one student said. The U.S. population may be growing by leaps and bounds, but some states are losing and some are gaining. With those shifts in population come gains or losses in the number of seats a state has in Congress. New York, methinks, may lose a seat because of population flight upstate. That requires congressional districts to be redrawn. And what party would control that?

What does a newly elected governor most want? I asked. Answer: To have his or her party control both chambers of the state legislature. Why? So he or she can effectively push a political agenda through the statehouse. Are there states where that could happen? I asked. Indeed, and a little Web research would allow them to figure that out.

They found that the Democrats are likely to gain even more control over the House — probably 251 to 184 or even as high as 270 to 164. The Senate, they found, is likely to go from basic parity (Sen. Joe Lieberman not withstanding) to a Democratic majority of 55 seats or possibly 58. That’s close to filibuster-proof.

What might that allow President-elect Obama to do? I asked.

“Appoint liberal Supreme Court justices.” “Get a fairer tax policy.” “Fix health care.” “Save Social Security.” “Do whatever he wants.”

Lessee, I said. A Democrat in the White House. Democrats control the Senate. Democrats control the House. In some states, more Democratic governors might have Democratically controlled legislatures. Population shifts. Restricting. A fundamental shift in political power nationally.

How do you feel about that? I asked.

“Hmmm. Isn’t that what the Republicans had?”

“I’m not sure one party should have that much power.”

Moral?

“Be careful what you wish for.”

xpost: Scholars & Rogues

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

November 4, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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