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Voters' choices are what have produced nation's political divide

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: November 23, 2012

THE nation's political divide is well documented and often lamented. The 2012 presidential popular vote put the loser less than 3 million votes behind the winner, out of 122 million total votes. In percentages, Barack Obama won by fewer than 3 points.

Yes, we know the electoral vote was a different story, as it often is, but a landslide there doesn't change the fact that Americans were close to being evenly divided in their preferences. Congress is also split, a result of divisions within the country. So neither party has a lock on policymaking, although Obama and the Democrats certainly have an edge.

Perhaps lost in the story of political divisions is how relatively unified voters are within the states. The trend has been away from divided government into supermajorities. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Oklahoma.

The Associated Press reports that all but three states — Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire — have one-party control of legislatures. That's the fewest bipartisan state assemblies since 1928. In many states, the dominant party has so many members that a governor in the opposite party faces certain overrides when vetoing bills.

Republican supermajorities are found in the South and Great Plains states. In California, Democrats have sewed up power to an extent not seen since the 19th century. Sometimes we forget that polarization and gridlock in the federal government is a reflection of relative unity within each state simultaneous with division among the states.

Red states are getting redder and blue states are getting bluer. With only three “purple” states in terms of legislative majorities, the controlling parties are in charge of redistricting, which can result in the majority getting bigger. Half of state legislatures now have veto-proof majorities. That's up from 13 states just four years ago.

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