Free Minds & Free Markets

Democrats Got Wrecked Again in State Legislative Races, and it Matters More Than You Might Think

The GOP has Donald Trump, a congressional majority, the majority of governorships, and full control of 33 state legislatures.

Just a little over two years after they used their control of the state House, state Senate, and governor's mansion to pass a bevy of progressive policies—one of the nation's highest minimum wages, tighter gun laws, and huge spending on rural broadband internet, to name a few—Democrats will be the minority party in both chambers of the Minnesota legislature next year.

They are the latest victims in a four-cycle-long electoral tidal wave that has flooded state legislatures with Republicans and cost Democrats nearly 1,000 seats, leaving them able to dictate policy in only a handful of states. Helped along by some friendly redistricting and a national backlash against the federal government, Republicans will continue to set the policy agenda in the majority of states, have a crucial backstop to protect their congressional majority, and are potentially one more successful cycle away from being able to exercise the ultimate power in U.S. politics: amending the Constitution.

In Minnesota, Republicans erased a 38-28 Democratic majority in a single election and will enter the 2017 session with a one-seat majority in the state Senate (they flipped the state House in the 2014 midterms). Aside from Donald Trump's shocking win in the presidential race, the outcome in Minnesota might have been the biggest surprise of election night, but it fits within a national trend. Democrats are struggling to hold legislative majorities, even in typically blue-ish states like Minnesota.

In red or purple states? Forget about it.

In Pennsylvania, where the legislative chambers historically have swung back-and-forth between the two major parties, Republicans have made gains in four consecutive cycles and now have the largest state House majority since 1958 (depending on how you're counting, it might be the largest since the 1940s when the legislature had fewer seats) and have a nearly veto-proof edge in the state Senate too.

The story is the same across the map. Republicans now control both legislative chambers in 32 states, up from 30 before last week's election. As recently as 2010, Republicans controlled as few as 14 states.

National Conference of State LegislaturesNational Conference of State Legislatures

In addition to the Minnesota Senate, Republicans also won control of the Iowa Senate and the Kentucky House, giving them majorities in both chambers in those two states as well. It wasn't all bad news for Democrats, though, as they did flip the New Mexico House and both chambers in Nevada to their side.

A widely shared (but inaccurate) tweet from Marc Porter McGee, a Virginia-based education advocate, suggested that Republicans are just a single legislative chamber away from being able to amend the U.S. Constitution without any input from Democrats.

That's not true because amendments to the U.S. Constitution must be approved by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and Republicans don't have a super majority in either. Amendments must also be approved by three quarters of the states (38 out of 50), per Article V of the Constitution.

After this year's election, Republicans control both chambers in 32 states—it's actually 33 if you count Nebraska, which has a single legislative chamber and is technically non-partisan (but really isn't)—while Democrats control both chambers in 13 states and one chamber in four others. In order to amend the Constitution without Democratic votes, Republicans would have to flip at least six more legislative chambers (the four currently held by Democrats in states with split-party control and two more Democrat-controlled chambers in one of those other 13 states).

Still, after seeing what's happened in Minnesota in the last two years, it's not impossible to imagine that happening by 2018 or 2020. The fact that we're even discussing this possibility gives you a sense of how badly routed Democrats have been at the state level in recent years.

Perhaps more important than discussions about amending the Constitution is the fact that Republicans are likely to control the vast majority of state legislatures at the end of the decade. That would give them the ability to influence the redistricting process after the next Census. As I wrote last week, the wave of GOP victories at the state legislative level in 2010 is directly linked to Republican's virtually unassailable majority in the U.S. House. Even though redistricting is handled differently in different states, state lawmakers usually have at least some control over the process—and in some places they get to literally draw the congressional district maps with little oversight from the executive or judicial branches.

That means that If Democrats have any hope of winning full control of Congress before 2030, they have to start by reversing the trend of GOP victories in legislative races.

Realizing as much, President Barack Obama in October called for Democrats to put more of an emphasis on winning those sometimes-overlooked races. He personally endorsed more than 150 candidates in legislative races from coast-to-coast, but it doesn't appear to have made much of a difference.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I enjoy gravity except when I trip.

  • Private Chipperbot||

    I don't. The fall hurts.

  • Private Chipperbot||

    I enjoy quickly replying to a comment without carefully reading it.

  • MarioLanza||

    Like the leftists who try to assert that gender is a social construct despite every animal life form above slugs have a male and female of the species?

    How about economics 101 denial? Minimum wage won't effect unemployment. Right.

    Or political science? This time socialism will NOT result in mass misery. Uh-huh.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    They do like science and rational thought, which is why they are voting out Democrats.

    Now if only we could convince them to like Rule of Law, small government and religion out of government again to go for Libertarian.

  • Ragoftag||

    Libertarians need to get in with the Republicans and inject all their 'good' ideas that haven't seen light of day. MJ legalization is coming with little L input, far more grassroots and flawed. Without some carefully applied English on the ball, the idiots from the Establishment will give their statist buddies a home run. The Libertarian sabotage in VA all but sank the country.

    Can you imagine the damage a convention could create if no L ideas (R2BArms, Taxes, etc) got shunted aside?

  • woodNfish||

    As long as phony libertarians (LINOs?) support open borders, it will never happen. Also, now that we have seen how criminally corrupt the media, corporations and banks are, we aren't going to support not regulating those bastards either.

  • MarioLanza||

    Agreed. Gary Johnson was OK. (He wouldn't protect the religious, however, from government.) but Bill Weld was a leftist socialist.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Be interesting to see the extent that the GOP plays ball with Trump.

  • DarrenM||

    The GOP is in a quandary. They won't have a Democratic President they can point to as an excuse not to get anything done. I'm sure they much prefer to pass bills secure in the knowledge they will be vetoed.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeap, especially since they don't believe in most of the stuff they pander.

  • ||

    I was reading article where a group of people in Oakland or somewhere in the Bay Area, got together and held hands around a lake to offset the hate and Trump's awfulness. It's like these people a delusional and think that their identity politics and race baiting is a winning strategy.

    Holding hands and wishing away the bad stuff do not win elections.

  • EscherEnigma||

    ... you do realize you just described group prayer, right?

    I mean, it's not my thing either, but the sense of community and togetherness it fosters does have an impact.

  • kbolino||

    Building communities through irrationality and superstition... how modern!

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    ... you do realize you just described group prayer, right?

    Well, Social Justice has become the de facto national religion so it's not surprising that its adherents would adopt the trappings of an actual religious group.

  • James Solbakken||

    Yeah, it was group prayer, but their problem is they are praying to the Prince of Darkness instead of the Prince of Light and Peace. See, when you pray to the Prince of Darkness you cannot be careful enough about what you ask for, it will be a curse instead of a blessing.

  • Raven Nation||

    At least in the 60s, they had way cooler goals.

    a group of hippies was trying to exorcize the Pentagon. The brainchild of Abbie Hoffman, the plan was for people to sing and chant until it levitated and turned orange, driving out the evil spirits and ending the war in Viet Nam.

  • Bob K||

    The best thing Abbie Hoffman ever did was getting hit in the head by Pete Townshend's guitar at Woodstock.

  • Eeyore||

    I like it when they hold hands around a lake more then when they hold hands across the freeway.

  • ||

    A shot to the heart and you're to blame you give naivety a bad name. Bad name.

  • chemjeff||

    They had better use these majorities to initiate an Article V Convention.

  • AlmightyJB||

    That may not turn out the way you want.

  • chemjeff||

    Probably not. But if Congress will not initiate the Constitutional amendment procedure for some long-overdue amendments (such as term limits, beefing up federalism), the states should do so.

  • thom||

    What they should do is introduce a set of amendments to explicitly make Constitutional all sorts of shady un-Constitutional things the government is already doing: pot criminalization, seizure without due process, etc, etc. and then definitely reject it.

  • Zunalter||

    True, so instead let's just continue the trend of ever increasing federal power with no constitutional oversight.

    The Constitution is being largely ignored Federally, but at least it says things we like!

  • DarrenM||

    We need an amendment that allows the states to call a convention and amend the Constitution without any action by Congress at all.

  • chemjeff||

    That would be nice. Amend the Article V procedure so that a call for a Convention of States wouldn't have to be "certified" by Congress or whathaveyou.

  • thetreyman||

    an article 5 convention bypasses any federal congressional vote to propose amendments. that's why the 33 states legislatures being controlled by a single party is important. the problem is getting them all on board to do such a thing. fears about a runaway convention are the biggest hurdle. i think this is an unreasonable fear because the state legislatures will be in control of their delegates and any agenda put forth by them. only things with broad support would make it past the 33 state threshold and 38 states still have to ratify the proposed amendments. if 38 states legislatures want to take your guns or criminalize political speech or whatever, then we're already lost. i think the thing most likely to come out of a convention of the states would be congressional term limits. i'd like to see a little more though, like limiting some federal government powers that have been seized over the last 200 years through the courts and a repeal of the 17th amendment. but that might be asking too much.

  • Robert||

    Repealing the 17th would have no effect. Adopting it had no effect; the states would all soon have been popularly electing their US senators anyway. Things happened independently of it that some falsely ascribe to it.

  • robc||

    The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof

    I fail to see how states would have been popularly electing senators as long as that was in the constitution.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Pretty sure a bunch of states outsourced that to popular votes.

  • KDN||

    Legislature delegates the task to the People at the People's insistence, or simply rubber-stamps the results of the election.

    I don't like it, the states governments should have some actual representation in a government which supposedly is formed by and acting with their consent, but I have little doubt that such a regime would be in effect without the 17th.

  • JFree||

    I fail to see how states would have been popularly electing senators as long as that was in the constitution.

    By 1912, 29 states WERE popularly electing their Senators - via either a general election where the results were pre-approved by state law - or a party primary where the majority party in the legislature simply approved the choice.

    That's why the 17th passed so quickly. Those states senators voted for it. And the problems that the other states had - corruption of the legislature, partisan deadlocks which produced unique failure at nominating senators even if they could agree on state business, Jim Crow states whose only interest in 'states' was to suppress the 14th Amendment not senatorial powers - just made it easier to pass.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I think a balanced budget amendment would be a real possibility. A lot of states already have these in their own constitutions. And I think that would be more impactful than term limits.

  • Episteme||

    Yeah, BBA is what I've seen talked about – on Twitter and among policy-focused writers – with these numbers. One could imagine that at least the threat of such could begin influencing more of Congress toward budget-balancing.

  • PurityDiluting||

    yes, the authors comment "That's not true because amendments to the U.S. Constitution must be approved by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and Republicans don't have a super majority in either." is the type of ignorant bullshit the media has demonstrated over and over again.

    If Eric is going to post a link to Article 5, maybe he should actually read what Article 5 says. Then he wouldn't look like such a fucking idiot by displaying his ignorance in the very same paragraph. A convention of states does not need any action/approval from Congress. It takes 34 states to call such a convention and 38 states to ratify what comes out. As the article notes, the GOP is approaching those numbers. 28 states have already called for a convention for the balanced budget amendment.

  • 68W58||

    It really was striking that he clearly didn't understand how the process actually works. THis is an important topic, and I think there might be an actual chance to get real reform, so it's disappointing that it wasn't explained correctly.

  • JFree||

    Probably don't even need an amendment. Just issue an executive order to call a convention and assert that that what's the living constitution says now.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    People elect Democrats to remind them why they don't want Democrats. Now to remember why they don't want Republicans.

  • Zunalter||

    That's how you know when your party has made it... when people vote you in to remember why they don't vote you in. Can't wait until the Libertarian party is there.

  • AlmightyJB||

    It's "Recked", Eric.

  • Zunalter||


  • AlmightyJB||

    I'm going to go with Rkt to try and stay ahead of the curve.

  • Chipwooder||

    How delicious that a lefty "education advocate" is completely ignorant of the constitutional amendment process.

    And of course he's in Virginia. Of course. This state is turning into fucking New Jersey.

  • Bob K||

    The could pull a reach around via DE.

  • Citizen X||

    The Eastern Shore is shaped like that for a reason.

  • James Solbakken||

    You can see the problem for the state of Virginia if you look at a map. Observe how it is completely surrounded by Washington DC.

  • ||

    Don't underestimate the power of Gov. Mumbles to make the local GOP look smart.

    Like when he was blaming the crash of the MNsure web site on robo calls.

  • ||

    It's almost as if the loudest most unhinged voices from the left have been getting the most media attention the last few decades, meanwhile the rest of the country has been turning more and more conservative as their concerns get drowned out by the constant progressive media love fest.

    Everyone loved to call the Tea Party a local phenomenon that was just dumb racist conservatives who would go away if you called them racist enough. Now the state legislatures are closer to a constitutional convention than they have been since the Civil war. Well done Democrats!

    Turns out, posting on Twitter or Facebook.........ISN'T THE SAME AS VOTING!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm now convinced that the barrage of super-wealthy/celebrity endorsements are killing the Democrats. Killing them.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Turns out, posting on Twitter or Facebook.........ISN'T THE SAME AS VOTING!

    They both accomplish about the same thing.

  • ||

    Michigan was decided by 11,837 votes.

    Wisconsin by 27, 257.

    Pennsylvania by 68,236.

    I bet there are at least that many 20-somethings protesting right now who probably didn't even vote.

    So yes, actually the votes did matter a lot more than Facebook or twitter.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So if I lived in one of those states and decided to vote for Hillary or Johnson the results would have been...exactly the same?

    Yes, I can see now how the power of voting is mighty.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    A backlash that got Donald Trump elected?

  • Free Society||

    It's a whitelash!

  • Eman||


  • 0x90||

    I want to know how it's acceptable for "backlash" to become "whitelash". Is it some sort of Cockney rhyming slang thing? Like, when Obama won, could people have described it using racialized versions of "smackdown" and so forth? How would that have been different?

  • Free Society||

    Because white people = bad. If they end up steering the outcome of an election, it's a travesty based on every evil -ism you care to mention. If they end up supporting the leftist elite in their quest to knock them down a peg, it's them doing their duty to right the wrongs they bring to the world by simply existing.

  • Jimbo||

    When Obama won, it must have been a blacklash?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The equivalent would have been a "blackdown". Replace a word that rhymes with the opposite of something else, and put in the opposite of that something else.


  • 0x90||


  • LurkinInaBuildin||

    But....but I'm a Republitard, and AddictionMyth told me it was time to say buh-bye. Got my bags packed 'n everything.

  • UnCivilServant||

    It was time to say bye because he was leaving?

  • John||

    The Democratic Party has been on a long slide towards minority status since the 1960s. It is easy to forget just how dominant the Democratic Party was in the 60s and 70s. The Democrats always controlled a big majority of the states and routinely had more than 60 Senators. And it was unthinkable that they would ever not control the House. That all started to change in 1980 when the Republicans took the House. It has been a steady decline ever since. Sure, the Democrats had their peaks in 93 and again in 09, but the peaks were never as high as the previous one and never anything like the sort of dominance they had in the 60s. Meanwhile, every valley has gotten lower for them.

    What is even worse for the Democrats is that the only thing that has kept this long slow decline from being worse is the raw racial politics they have played. If the Republicans had been able to get even 30% of the black vote, the Democrats would have stopped being competitive at the national level sometime during the 1980s. Racial politics and division is the only thing that is keeping them alive at this point.

  • kbolino||

    The Democrats (or, at least, a left-wing party, but almost certainly the Democrats) will have a resurgence. There is a broad appeal for vaguely left-wing politics.

    But they will first have to understand how and why they lost. They are in full denial mode right now. The talking point about the House is that the Republicans have gerrymandered themselves a majority, but even if that were true (and it's doubtful that gerrymandering significantly benefits one party over the other on the national level), the only way they could have the power to do it is by winning big at the state level first.

    The Democrats can whine about gerrymandering until they're blue in the face, but until they start winning again at the state level, it's all just so much empty noise.

  • John||

    Sure they will. But it will mostly be a rejection of the Republicans and occur after the public has managed to forget just how lousy the Democrats are. And the resurgence will be smaller than the last one and the resulting decline deeper than this one. I don't see anything they can do to reverse the long term trend.

  • kbolino||

    I don't see anything they can do to reverse the long term trend

    The same thing they did to become dominant in the 60s and 70s: appeal to as many people as possible. I don't think identity politics is the way forward for them. And they have to stop doing shit like forcing through barely-read reams of paper as law then screaming about granny dying in the streets if you repeal it, even though anyone with a memory and half a brain knows that wasn't the situation before.

    In other words, they need to realize that they aren't half as smart as they think they are. They need to stop believing in their own superiority and do the hard work of representing what people actually want instead of telling people what they should want.

  • John||

    The problem is that all of their money comes from four sources, the Public Employee unions, the Silicon Valley Tycoons, the green movement and Wall Street. They will never be able to craft a message that appeals to anything outside a small section of the country without offending one or more of those groups. Worse still, the PE Unions and the Greens act to ensure that big government no matter what its purpose doesn't work. Even if the Progs wanted to have another New Deal, they couldn't do it because the union rules and environmental laws would make it impossible. Whatever you think of the old Prog public works projects of the past, and I know the people on here don't think much of them, they at least "worked" in so far as they employed a lot of people and built some pretty cool shit. That could never happen today. There are no shovel ready projects. Robert Moses and FDR are not walking through that door for the Democrats and even if they did, they would be subject to about a thousand court injunctions against doing anything the moment they stepped through the door.

  • DOOMco||

    Can you imagine the left attempting to build another dam or highway system?

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    The problem is that all of their money comes from four sources, the Public Employee unions, the Silicon Valley Tycoons, the green movement and Wall Street.

    Replace the green movement with Hollywood and you're spot on. In fact, the Hollywood media complex is more responsible than any other for pushing progressive ideologies, even when they appear to be mocking them. Look at all the $2500-$10,000/plate dinners they hosted for Hillary this past cycle.

  • John||

    Yup. And they have pushed anyone who doesn't buy into a particular brand of green leftism that upper class white people like, out of the party. Trump is nothing but an old fashioned Hubert Humphrey Democrat in many ways. And not only did he run as a Republican, he is considered the next worst thing to Satan by the Democrats. That should tell them something about how far left and how elitist the party has become.

  • To: Trshmnstr From: Hrod [C]||

    I don't think identity politics is the way forward for them.

    No, it absolutely is the way forward. 40+% of people vote on identity politics, as compared to 15% on some semblance of ideology. The problem is that the Democrats ran this cycle on whites, men, cis-gendered, and heterosexual all being "the problem." Based on how many identity boxes each voter checks from that list, there was an increased probability that they were going to vote Trump this election cycle.

    Identity politics wins the day 100 times out of 100. The hard part is predicting which part of their identity most voters are going to bring with them into the voting booth.

  • kbolino||

    Maybe. I think you overstate your case, but if "identity politics wins the day 100 times out of 100", then the Democrats need to cover enough identities to win more than 50% of the vote more than 50% of the time. That requires broadening their appeal and tempering their more radical elements. The left has advanced so far through Fabianism; get little bits of what you want and you will move slowly and inexorably toward your greater goals. They seem to have forgotten how to do that, and instead think they're entitled to immediate victory just because of how smart and right they think they are.

  • To: Trshmnstr From: Hrod [C]||

    (I pull my stats on voting patterns from Table 1 of this study... a bit dated, but still relevant)

    the Democrats need to cover enough identities to win more than 50% of the vote more than 50% of the time

    Yes and no. Democrats start with a lead in the ~55% of people who vote without taking identity politics or ideology into account, so they need probably closer to 45% of the identity voters in order to carry the day. That's just a minor quibble, though. IMO, the Democrats usually carry the day because they are the party who understands gender dynamics better than the Rs. Women carry the water for the Ds in most elections, and so successfully painting Rs as insensitive to women will get the Ds pretty dang close to a win. Toss in a pander or two to a racial minority, and you the Rs need record turnout to win.

    Let me note that I'm specifically talking about a national election. State or local elections have similar dynamics, but are unique based on demographics of the specific area. Also, this is a marginal analysis. Besides blacks, most demographics who are "reliably ___" vote 55-45 or maybe 60-40 in that direction.

    The story of this election is that a lot of women didn't like Hillary. Sure, there are other dynamics that affected turnout, but the prevailing theme is that women didn't turn out as much, and when they did, they didn't vote Hillary as much as expected.

  • Paulpemb||

    The Democrats big problem is that they win by promising not to act like Democrats. Then they get elected and it all comes out 'The people really do want gun control and abortions on every street corner and mandated full employment for gender equity trial lawyers OUR DREAM HAS FINALLY COME TRUE!'

    When your election hinges on campaigning on the opposite of the way you actually intend to govern, you should realize you have a problem.

  • Azathoth!!||

    There is a broad appeal for vaguely left-wing politics.

    "Yeah--ignore those actual elections, there's a broad appeal for............really/ Do you really believe that?

    The left just mobilized en masse--and lost.

  • Free Society||

    I don't think the left's strength is necessarily their broad appeal. Their strength is their organizational machine, bussing, bird dogging, colluding superpacs, unions, government agencies and special interest loudmouths.

  • kbolino||

    How did George W. Bush's modest reforms of Social Security play out? Even if Trump repeals the ACA, which seems a murky prospect, that leaves Medicare, Medicaid, EMTALA, and the VA intact. How likely are student loans to go away, and not be replaced by "free college"?

    Maybe I need to be more clear. I'm talking about the "old" left-wing, of the government handing out free shit providing for the people out of punitive tax revenues the public coffers. The fiscal insolvency of entitlement programs has been 40+ years in the making because most people don't want those programs to be cut.

    I'm not talking about the batshit insanity that passes for left-wing thought nowadays.

  • kbolino||

    The left just mobilized en masse--and lost.

    This isn't true. They lost because they failed to mobilize people en masse. They lost because, despite their lock-step hold of major urban areas and the so-called "blue states", they couldn't mobilize anyone else. Calling everyone who disagrees with you on some things deplorable, telling people that their economic prospects are not only dim but will be intentionally snuffed out by the government, and just generally acting like elitist douchebags, unsurprisingly doesn't motivate people to vote for you.

    But the core of leftism, that the government should redistribute wealth and should provide social welfare programs, is not being challenged per se. I'll be delighted to be proven wrong, mind you, but that's not what I see is actually happening. This iteration of left-wing politics is being rejected; the core premises, not so much.

  • mpercy||

    I've seen more than a few crying about how gerrymandering gives Republicans unfair advantage in the Senate...

  • Raven Nation||

    Republicans took the Senate in 1980 not the House.

  • John||

    Yes. I know. That was a typo. It was unthinkable before 1994 for the Republicans to take the House. And now it seems unthinkable they will ever lose it. That is how much things have changed.

  • Raven Nation||

    Yep. I think 1994 was at least as equally an upset as Trump.

  • wingnutx||

    National temper tantrum

  • Tundra||

    In the business world, a sales pitch that repeatedly leaves your customers running to the competition might suggest the need for a strategy that doesn't involve insulting your potential customers while repeating the pitch over and over again at a higher volume.

    Democrats still haven't figured out that most people don't want their product, hate their salespeople and aren't interested any longer in associating with them.

    Kind of like GM.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    See my comment above. They hate their salespeople more than they hate their product.

  • ||

    "President Barack Obama in October called for Democrats to put more of an emphasis on winning those sometimes-overlooked races. He personally endorsed more than 150 candidates in legislative races from coast-to-coast, but it doesn't appear to have made much of a difference."


    Do you think Obama recognizes he just wasn't all that? Or is it more like 'idiots. What do they know? They're gonna miss me when I'm gone!'

  • ||

    He made an unsuccessful pitch to the bitter clingers? This is the same guy who toured factory after factory only to have those businesses fold within a year. He has the kiss of death.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The U.S. Constitution must be approved by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and Republicans don't have a super majority in either. Amendments must also be approved by three quarters of the states (38 out of 50), per Article V of the Constitution.

    After this year's election, Republicans control both chambers in 32 states—it's actually 33 if you count Nebraska"

    To be clear, the Constitution requires 38 state legislatures to RATIFY a Constitutional amendment, but it only requires 34 states to PROPOSE a Constitutional amendment for consideration.

    If the Republicans proposed a controversial amendment on a wedge issue, say abortion or gay marriage, they would almost certainly fail.

    However, there are issues that have cross party appeal in states where control of the legislatures is split between Democrats and Republicans.

    If 33 Republican controlled legislatures voted for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it is highly that at least one other state would support proposing it.

  • Free Society||

    Something tells me the California legislature wouldn't ratify.

  • Ken Shultz||

    They're one of 50.

  • Free Society||

    Yeah I'm just saying, their state legislature is the epitome of the sort of irresponsibility this amendment would be meant to combat.

  • Ken Shultz||

    At that point, the next midterm election would determine control of even more state legislatures--with 38 needed to ratify--and the only issue that would really matter from coast to coast in the upcoming midterms would be whether your state legislature supported the balanced budget amendment.

    The chances of the Republicans + their fiscally conservative Democrat allies in the state legislatures picking up enough support (38 states) to ratify a balanced budget amendment in that situation would be very high.

    That would be a real libertarian moment!!!

  • Free Society||

    That amendment ought to have precise wording with means of recourse spelled out. Otherwise I can imagine Congress failing to pass any budget at all in lieu of being forced coming up with a balanced budget proposal.

  • Ken Shultz||


    My proposal is to require that the budget be balanced by 2050, and thereafter, it requires a 1% surplus of the average of the previous however many years.

    That's more or less the way fiscally conservative Sweden does it, and it seems to work really well.

    The present system where we hope that someday Congress will be so flush with cash that they'll choose not to spend it on principle? That's the one that doesn't make any sense.

  • Free Society||

    Yeah that ain't bad. Maybe some kind of provision with a percentage threshold you mentioned, where if the budget isn't balanced SCOTUS would be obligated to take that budget proposal impose a cut of x% across the board. A spending injunction.

  • LynchPin1477||

    The outlays of the Treasury of the United States may not exceed the revenues collected by the Treasury of the United States by an amount equal to the relative growth in the value of the supply of money. If the value of the supply of money is found to be in decline then the outlays of the Treasury of the United States shall also decline by the same relative amount.

    The value of the supply of money shall be determined by taking the mean value of the three previous fiscal years, as determined by the in a manner prescribed by law.

    Any surplus of funds in the Treasury of the United States shall be used to pay the debts and obligations of the United States, or shall be set aside for use by the Treasury of the United States at a later time, or shall be returned to the People of the United States in the form of a rebate on tax, or any combination thereof, and the President of the United States shall have the authority to direct the revenue towards any of the three uses stated above, but if the surplus is set aside for use by the Treasury of the United States at a later date, the manner of its use shall be determined by Congress at the time of its use in a manner prescribed by law.

    The provisions of this amendment may be suspended for a period of one year by a two thirds majority of both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States.

  • To: Trshmnstr From: Hrod [C]||

    How about this?

    The outlays of the Treasury shall not exceed the revenues collected by the Treasury in the previous fiscal year. Penalty for violation of this provision shall be joint-and-several personal liability of each member of Congress, the President, and the Federal Judiciary for the balance in excess of the collected revenues in the form of a non-dischargeable lien payable to the Treasury.
  • The Metonymy||

    All tax increase proposals must be passed by 100% of Congress. If a tax increase proposal fails to receive unanimous support from Congress, the Representative that proposed the measure and all that voted in favor of it must be put to death.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Why invent new complicated stuff?

    The Swedish model is simple, and it works great.

    The best balanced budget amendment is the one we can get non-college educated people behind--so they'll vote for state legislators that support it.

    Look to the First and Second Amendments for a model. Simple as all get out. One, two sentences max.

    Coke is it!

    Have a Coke and a smile.

    It's the real thing.

    That's the way you sell stuff. Not by giving people something to argue about.

    Not by giving the courts more to misconstrue.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The provisions of this amendment may be suspended for a period of one year by a two thirds majority of both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States.

    If that's what it took to spend more money and they were up against defaulting on an interest payment, they could find the votes to do that every year.

    If they need money for a future war, they should start saving for it as a regular budget item. If they want to have a discretionary war fund, then they'll just have to save for it, pay the debt down so that item isn't competing with interest payments, or grow the economy.

  • 68W58||

    Governor Abbott, of Texas, has already listed 10 potential amendments that an Article V convention might take up:

    Many of those would return power to the states (or at least hinder the Federal Government). Might as well give some of those a shot if an Article V convention is eventually called (and there is a road to ratification)

  • Ken Shultz||

    There are two contests like this that I really understand.

    Contest 1:

    34 state legislatures pass a proposal to call a convention to propose amendments.

    50 states send one representative each, and that convention vote one whether to propose a specific amendment.

    If 38 state legislatures subsequently pass the proposed amendment, then it becomes part of the Constitution.

    Hilarity ensues.

    Contest 2:

    Two men enter.

    One man leaves.

  • Tornado35235gsg35423ttg3gt3g3g||

    Jeff Spross and Ryan Cooper at theweek would hate a BBA. All their articles can be summed up into...MOAR taxes on rich people and MOAR deficit spending.

    Jeff seriously argued that bernie's socialist uptopia wouldnt have to be paid for and we can just print/borrow the money to pay for it!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    A widely shared (but inaccurate) tweet from Marc Porter McGee, a Virginia-based education advocate, suggested that Republicans are just a single legislative chamber away from being able to amend the U.S. Constitution without any input from Democrats.

    A pants shitting shill got basic facts wrong in the course of their pants shitting and fear mongering? Inconceivable!

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Democrats Got Wrecked Again in State Legislative Races, and it Matters More Than You Might Think

    Oh, goodie-goodie.
    Now its the republicans turn to fuck everything up.
    Won't life be wonderful?

  • Africanis||

    No worries, Democrats will simply switch parties and declare themselves centrist Republicans. They did this during the Bush Era when it wasn't safe to vote Democrat. It's so easy, all you have to do is sign a piece of paper.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Maybe this is why I can't tell the difference between the two parties.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Maybe this is why I can't tell the difference between the two parties.

  • Africanis||

    Well I think the Democrats have a plan to take back the seat of government. They just intend to simply paint all opposition as racist, sexist, homophobic, religious zealots who howl at the moon while burning crosses on the minority neighbors lawn. That will win it for sure!

  • MikeP2||

    The Dems have a fundamental conflict between Federal and State agendas. Most of the Dem agendas hinge on taking away power from the States and to utilize sweeping Federal legislation that is forced upon the states. They've used this to bash Red states, but it ends up hitting all the states. So what is there for a Dem state governor or legislator to run on beyond just parroting the DNC talking points?

  • Glide||

    You nailed it - although people pay more attention and give more weight to national politics, so parroting DNC talking points would actually be sufficient to control state politics if Democrats could just get their people out to the polls. But I agree, there's probably at least a small bit of causation between believing in centralization and failing to turn out for the election of decentralized leaders.

  • XM||

    It's the same old story here in California, where the democrats can rule interrupted and the the growing non white demographics will hold down any republican efforts to take over the state.

    The state voted against condom use for porn stars (libertarian moment) but voted to ban plastic bags. That's all that needs to be said. I knew the PB ban was coming but I was NOT pleased when I bought 4,5 single use bag worth of stuff today and found out that I had to pay 10 cents to get those reusable bags.

    The good times won't last in this state. I hope SOMEONE on our side can seize the moment.

  • GamerFromJump||

    They won't learn; they'll just blame the bigoted Nazi racist everything-phobes that somehow conquered America for defeating them (nefariously, of course).

  • agimarc||

    You might want to correct your map for Alaska, which flipped the State House from Republican control to democrat last week. We lost 2 incumbent Republicans in the House. There were 17 of 40 democrats elected last week. 3 incumbent Republicans - all moderate to liberal - crossed the aisle to caucus with the democrats. They were joined by 2 so-called independents, people who were elected with union money and put together a caucus with 22 members. The State Senate has a veto-proof Republican majority. The governor, Bill Walker is a former Republican who ran as an independent on a unity ticket with the democrats and was elected in 2014. His administration is thoroughly and completely democrat. Cheers -

  • Homer||

    This is not gloating. It's a chance to make an observation seldom made. I believe the success of the GOP across the country is simply a financial statement. Exemplified by the federal bailouts of Wall Street while most on Main Street took a haircut. While much ink has been spilled on divisive social issues and the culture war, the GOP has made statewide races about what we can and cannot afford. Forty nine of fifty states require a balanced budget. Let's hope Washington DC is next.

  • James Solbakken||

    Regarding the popular vote in the Presidential race, I would like to point out that it is the fact that the Demonic Rats get 60+ % of the vote in blue states like Kalifornia, and 90+ % in the Big Cities that skews the popular vote so far to their side, even when they lose the Electoral College. And a lot of those votes for Demonic Rats are illegal aliens, dead people, and even votes directly changed from Republican to Demonic Rat right before the voter's eyes. In Kalifornia the Hildabeest got 3 million more votes than Adolf Trumpler got. That is a yuuge amount of votes skewing to the loser which I think distorts the overall picture. I think it represents just how overwhelming Trumpler's victory was in the rest of the country.

  • Bretzky||

    This might be a problem that is simply baked into the Democratic Party's ideology and views of the Constitution. Why bother winning seats in legislatures that you don't think should have any real power over policy?

  • TxJack 112||

    All you have to do is look at the Propositions passed last Tuesday in California to understand the warped progressive mindset. Residents who want to purchase ammunition will now be required to obtain a permit from the state and then go through a background check for every box of ammo they wish to purchase. The obvious intent is side step unconstitutional gun bans by making guns essentially useless. However, those same voters agreed to reclassify the following list of crimes as Non- violent felonies thereby making hundreds of prisoners now eligible for release.

    Rape by intoxication
    Rape of an unconscious person
    Human Trafficking involving sex acts with minors
    Domestic Violence involving trauma
    Failing to register as a sex offender
    Lewd acts against a child
    Drive-by shooting
    Assault with a deadly weapon
    Hostage taking
    Attempting to explode a bomb at a hospital or school
    Supplying a firearm to a gang member
    Hate crime causing physical injury
    Discharging a firearm on school grounds
    False imprisonment of an elder through violence

    I cannot comprehend how ANYONE could even consider any ones of these "non-violent" much less agree to them being reclassified. California is the best example of why Progressive ideology must be defeated at every opportunity and destroyed if possible.

  • Akello||

    Okay, now that the Regressives have everything going in their favor, we shall see just how "Great" they make things here in the U.S. and around the world during the next decade and beyond. Good luck to us all.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online