Florida, Texas, South Dakota, Tennessee, along with other states in the Midwest, South, and some Western states east of the Rockies, are states that were collected by the Republican Party. Although these states had always been majority Republican states, there were concerted campaigns to make them super-Republican red states. The idea was to make Republicans the majority party in as many state houses as possible and in every branch of the government in each state. Evangelicals were helpful in this endeavor using the churches’ pulpits and printing presses to make sure that there was a connection between God and the Republican Party. They promised, in coded messaging, to make America white again and Christian again, or at least to keep white folks in power in perpetuity. They used ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to write actual laws and circulate them in conservative states. Sometimes these legislatures adopted these laws as they were written, with no amendments at all.
Today 30 out of 50 states are red states. This would suggest that the Republican Party has been both busy and successful. Although these are not the most populous states, in the Senate populated and less populated states get two Senators each, which is why it is so difficult for Democrats to be the majority party in the Senate right now. States have always competed for money and resources. But during the pandemic Trump and Republicans in Washington pitted the states against each other in a life-or-death struggle to get COVID tests, PPE’s, N95 masks. Before we even worried about how citizens would protect themselves from contagion and disease, we needed to make sure our hospital staffs were protected from contagious hospital patients, or we would soon run out of caregivers. There were tales of people hoarding supplies in secret locations, of clandestine air deliveries in the dead of night. We did not look at all like the United States of America.
One of the lures that Republicans used to woo states was the promise of a return to the original way powers were divided between the federal government and the states. This had been argued out in the Federalist Papers, but southern states had been unhappy with the outcome. Southern states do know how to carry a grudge. So, the Republicans yammered on about States’ rights and promised to make the federal government smaller, much smaller. The Federalist Society promised to place conservative judges on federal courts and the Supreme Court until most judges skewed conservative, although judges were once considered nonpartisan. They promised to cut taxes, indeed, to never raise taxes on corporations or the wealthy. Easy to see why states lined up to get these goodies. Republican tactics have worked. They have delivered, or are in the process of holding out, for many of these promises to become realities. Their favorite strategy is obstructing Democrats until Republicans become the majority once again.
If a few Republican virtues were overlooked, state governments could be forgiven because the earthly rewards were many. Christian folks had to change Christian dogma just a bit from the old beliefs that poor people deserved a hand up, to a message that read quite differently. The church claimed that being well-off or rich meant that you had pleased God and that you were chosen to be lifted-up into Heaven, come the Rapture. Poor people became pariahs, shirkers, lazy.
We learned that some people were “Makers,” and some people were “Takers”. Rich people would no longer have difficulty passing through the eye of that needle. You can see why rich folks might want to ride the Republican train. Plus, Republicans said that puny humans could not cause the climate of an entire planet to change, and they saw no reason to shift away from fossil fuels and other carbon emitters. The oil and gas industry became ever stronger supporters of the Republican Party. Anyone who owned stock in gas and oil companies lined up with the Republicans. Republicans were having a moment even before Trump appeared on the scene with his cult followers.
There are twelve states that never accepted the Medicaid expansion: Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Missouri accepted the expansion but never used it. This happened during the Obama administration, and these states were praised by Republicans Senators and right-wing media. Here began the rogue’s gallery of Republican governors.
Trump encouraged red states to forego mask mandates and lock downs even when COVID numbers were high and there were no vaccines. Republicans routinely put the economy first and implied that Americans who stayed home were deadbeats and would be responsible for ruining the American economy. Of course, high death rates tended to put the kibosh on a desire to rescue the economy at all costs and it was an economy that did not even deliver to all Americans equally. Some states never issued stay-at-home orders: Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. In November of 2020 Texas, Florida, and South Dakota refused to lockdown. I have a clear picture in my mind of Gov. Noem of South Dakota setting up chairs at Mount Rushmore that ignored social distancing guidelines meant to slow disease spread. There sat all those folding chairs in perfect rows, set up as if for a pre-pandemic wedding. Trump was so proud of her.
DeSantis in Florida and Abbott in Texas have been trying to out-Trump each other. Gov. DeSantis used masking and lockdowns as sparingly as possible, and Florida let in travelers whenever they could get away with it without public outcry. Now we see the same reluctance to encourage people in red states to get vaccinated and we see COVID numbers rising again.
Seventeen states have passed or are getting ready to pass voting restrictions. New Texas voter laws would even allow the legislature to overturn the votes cast in a free and fair federal election by claiming fraud and would have partisan people watching the polls. Laws have already passed in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Iowa. Still to come are similar laws in Michigan, and Texas. The only reason Texas has not passed voter restrictions into law is because the Democrats all fled the state and vow to stay away indefinitely.
Twenty-five states are ending the $300 unemployment benefits offered in the rescue plan because they hypothesize that these benefits are keeping Americans from returning to work: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, W. Virginia, and Wyoming.
These rogue governors make it seem as if we are living in two different Americas, because essentially, we are. Whenever I see Governor DeSantis on the news, or Governor Abbott, or Governor Noem I know there will be some sound bite that will make Democrats worry about their sanity. How long will this Trump-love go on? Will plain old Republican-love turn out to be just as incomprehensible? Will all of this reach a head at some point, perhaps requiring the services of Dr. Pimple Popper, or will something much less culturally ridiculous happen, something serious and sobering. like a second civil war.
Keep an eye on those states that turn down benefits their people can use, that threaten to pass laws that really do put free and fair elections at risk. Keep an eye on Governor Abbott and his terrible voter laws, and his newest push to go back to building the wall at the Mexican border. We are getting ready to hear a whole lot of fearmongering intended to make us all cower in our beds because Mexican criminals are coming to get us. And keep an eye on Governor DeSantis who seems to want to run for President in 2024.