Opinion

Your Blue State Won’t Save You: Why State Politics Is National Politics

Produced by ‘The Argument’

Last week, Kansans voted in overwhelming numbers to protect abortion rights in their State Constitution — the first instance since the overruling of Roe v. Wade in which voters have been able to weigh in on the issue directly. But local battles aren’t just limited to abortion. There’s guns. There’s school curriculums. Most crucially, there’s voting rights. As national politics becomes increasingly polarized, how we live is going to be decided by local legislation. It’s time we step into the state houses and see what’s happening there.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Argument” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

So on today’s episode, guests Zack Beauchamp and Nicole Hemmer help Jane Coaston understand what these state-level legislative battles mean for national politics. Beauchamp covers the Republican Party for Vox, and Hemmer is a historian of conservative media and an associate professor at Vanderbilt University. Both share the belief that state governments have become powerful machines in influencing the U.S. constitutional system, but to what extent that influence is helpful or harmful to American democracy depends. “This idea of the states as the laboratories of democracy, being able to try out different policies and different programs and see how they work in the state — that’s great,” Hemmer says. “But they’ve become these laboratories of illiberalism in recent years. And that’s something that we have to reckon with.”

Mentioned in this episode:

  • “Why the G.O.P. Should Be the Party of Voting Rights” by Nicole Hemmer

  • “Republican Control of State Government Is Bad for Democracy” by Zack Beauchamp

  • “Democrats Chase Shiny Objects. Here’s How They Can Build Real Power.” From “The Ezra Klein Show” with Amanda Litman.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

Credit…Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal, via Associated Press

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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett and Vishakha Darbha. Edited by Alison Bruzek and Anabel Bacon. With original music by Isaac Jones and Pat McCusker. Mixing by Pat McCusker. Fact-checking by Kate Sinclair, Michelle Harris and Mary Marge Locker. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta, with editorial support from Kristina Samulewski.

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