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.
This is making it easier for red state governors with Republican legislative majorities to thumb their noses at Obamacare provisions, as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin did Monday. The Republican supermajority here makes it relatively easy to reject Medicaid expansion. It also makes the Democratic response to the rejection quite hollow. What can the Democrats do?
Oklahoma is illustrative because it went redder than ever in this month's election. Republicans hold every statewide office. They have supermajorities in the Legislature and hold all seven seats in the congressional delegation. Even if Oklahoma had a Democrat in the governor's office, it's not clear what he or she could get done.
Missouri's Gov. Jay Nixon is in that situation now. The Democrat's vetoes of the past may no longer be sustained by the Republican supermajority now in place. Republicans in the California legislature can feel Nixon's pain. They can do little to slow the agenda of Gov. Jerry Brown and his fellow Democrats.
Calls for bipartisanship and negotiation will go forth from the White House, the halls of Congress and state capitols, but voters themselves are a prime reason for the divide. This is no cause for lamentations. It's how the system was designed.
At the national level, about half of us didn't like how the 2012 presidential race ended. In Oklahoma, two-thirds of us didn't like it. This was the same percentage of Vermont voters who were quite happy with Obama's re-election.