I just finished listening to a podcast on Fresh Air about how, largely because of gridlock in Washington, big money is pivoting toward state elections to push big partisan ideas at the state level in hopes that a national consensus can coalesce for eventual national policy change. This makes sense in a couple of ways. First of all, shoring up a monopoly position in specific states allows your party to groom governors for eventual presidential runs. And of course, controlling state government increases the likelihood that the party will be represented by this state in the US Congress.
As national dollars are redirected toward state elections, it's much more difficult for minority parties to win these elections even with better candidates. Further, the party ideology becomes both more entrenched and less accountable through redistricting and gerrymandering techniques.
One reason why I'm posting is that the gay marriage issue is being pushed using this strategy. Look at the respective maps.
From wikipedia, the red states are those states that have constitutional bans on same sex marriage and civil unions (dark red), just same sex marriage (lighter red), or just state statute bands on same sex marriage (still lighter red). The blue are those states that have legalized same sex marriage (dark blue) or have some legal benefits for same sex couples (stripes).
From an article written by the journalist investigating monopoly control of state houses (I couldn't figure out how to download the image, so you're going to have to just click the link).
You see the color code of the two maps line up almost exactly. Not really surprising. But the problem with these super-majorities at the state level is that while you get some level of state-level experimentation, you get it primarily at the extremes.
Look how many states not only ban gay marriage but also civil unions. Look how many states not only provide some legal benefits for gay couples but went straight to full marriage equality. There's very few states trying more compromised approaches. You'll find similar outcomes on abortion, minimum wage, taxes, voter identification laws, etc.
The problem for me is that the extreme position is almost always wrong and good government almost always comes through compromise and accountability, working in good faith with those who have different points of view from you, recognizing your own very human inability to look at all sides and desperately seeking different points of view to balance out your own biases.
We are increasingly getting none of this. Rather we are learning winner take all political maneuvering where big money institutions wield almost all of the democratic muscle and minority views our bullied out of the conversation.
One way around this, of course, is to use tactics currently at work in Utah on gay marriage. Pushing the issue to the federal courts and assuming you have the courts on your side, you can override the majority. But again, this is possible only when big money national groups funnel money to fund these law suits. And it increases judicial power beyond the bounds of what our founders intended.
I have no solutions to this. Largely it's inevitable. But it saddens me as being someone with a lot of interest in politics, a strong desire to get involved and make a difference, but a shrinking ability to do so.