Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, December 12, 2016

I Have Yale Law On My Side

Heather Gerken, a law professor at Yale, has taken up my call for progressive federalism.  To be fair, since she's a fancy pants grad school prof, she takes it in other more interesting directions.  Her argument is about policy and how federalism can shape policy.

That's a critical part of my thinking, too, but I also want to cast this as a political strategy.  Gerken mentions spillovers, which is how one state's actions affect other states.  These can be negative - like when one state stops regulating gun purchases and the neighboring state is suddenly awash in guns - but it can also be positive.

California is currently progressive America's best hope.  It has an extraordinary market share of the economy.  If it could combine with New York and Illinois, it could basically shape important aspects of our economy, from fuel efficiency standards to consumer financial protections.  The GDP of those states is around $4.6B.  That's roughly the same GDP from those three states as the GDP of all the states Trump carried except North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.  And North Carolina and Pennsylvania have Democratic governors.

All I would add to the debate is the idea that blue states need to work together on certain issues.  New England and New York could get together and set a new minimum wage.  The Pacific coast states could set common energy standards.

But it has to be public, because the most important elections of 2018 might very well be the governors' races.  Democrats need to start party building at the state level.  Winning governor's mansions in Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin should be just as important as playing defense in the Senate in a rough electoral map.

This will require three things.

First, it will require an aligned federalism that brings blue states into cooperation with each other to create progressive policies that improve the lives of their citizens and creates a blueprint for other state level candidates to run on.

Second, it will require finding good candidates at the state level who can win those gubernatorial races. No more goddamned Martha Coakleys.

Third, and perhaps most difficult, is getting a DC-bound Democratic party to see the benefit of expending resources on these governor's races when they will be playing defense in the Senate.

Now, if Trumpism is as disastrous as I think it will be, then you can do both.

But the time to start doing both is now.

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