In his book Red State Blues: How the Conservative Revolution Stalled in the States
(Cambridge University Press, 2019), Matt Grossmann
examines, first, the watershed event of Republican takeovers of governors’ offices and state houses over the past twenty or so years. He then, through a triangular model, explores what actually happened in terms of policy outcomes and directional changes based on this political shift. What Grossmann finds, which might be a bit surprising, is that, overall, the size of state governments was not reduced under conservative leadership. He also finds that state government spending was not substantially reduced either. Grossmann argues that the policy outcomes did not necessarily match the political rhetoric on which Republicans campaigned to achieve these statewide offices.
Red State Blues
provides a systematic examination of policies passed across statehouses during the course of the last twenty-five years and finds that there are some gains made in regard to passage of socially conservative policies, particularly around abortion and the deregulation of guns. Grossmann also observes that criminal justice reform, decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, and same-sex marriage have all seen state-level success in terms of liberalized policy outcomes. In some cases, there has been bi-partisan support for these more progressive policies even while the state house and governors’ mansions have been dominated by more conservative Republicans. Red State Blues
concludes that even with substantial electoral successes, the conservative revolution to curtail the size, cost, and scope of state-level government has not necessarily brought the anticipated outcomes. The data and the analysis bolster this conclusion, noting that it is much more difficult to cut spending and fundamentally change the way that state-level government works.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics
(University Press of Kentucky, 2012).