When Republican presidential hopefuls take the stage Wednesday night to vie for their party’s nomination, millions of viewers will tune in to watch the dysfunction of candidates fighting over the chance to serve as the nominee. The overriding focus on this spectacle that climaxes every four years has come, however, at the expense of voters’ attention to state legislatures. But it’s in these undervalued down-ballot races where the power — and the solution to our country’s woes — actually lies.
For the past 50 years, Democrats have been singularly focused on securing federal power, campaigning almost exclusively to win the White House and seats in Congress. Meanwhile, Republicans set their sights on state legislatures, which hold immense power over the day-to-day lives of citizens and are powerhouses of policymaking, with control of $2 trillion in annual spending.
This concerted, decadeslong maneuver across several presidencies has resulted in significant, consolidated control for conservatives, proving how fruitful state power can be. In their hands, with 58 Republican-controlled legislative chambers and 19 unaccountable supermajorities, state legislatures have turned into laboratories against democracy: systematically suppressing votes, gerrymandering districts and passing unrepresentative laws that fly in the face of fundamental American principles.