Molly Ball offers the intriguing thesis that toxic partisanship is being exported from Washington, DC into previously placid state capitols:
In capital after state capital, Washington’s toxic culture is seeping in, suffocating local tradition and replacing it with the Beltway’s unique contribution to American politics—the practice of permanent, total war. The shrill partisanship, hardball politics and legislative stalemate that marked Madison’s recent turn in the national spotlight are becoming an increasingly familiar presence, exported from the national parties and the campaign tradesmen and special interests who run and finance their campaigns.
I’m not really sure that works if you try to take it super-literally, since our politicians in DC are winning elections back home in the provinces. But I do think there’s something to this idea. We do seem to be seeing some kind of nationalization of state politics, where on the conservative side groups like ALEC and Americans for Prosperity have succeeded in creating a large level of uniformity on the conservative agenda in state capitols. That’s created a fair degree of counter-uniformity as progressives push back. But this really is an asymmetrical phenomenon—the Cuomo and Brown administrations in New York and California don’t show any side of a coordinated progressive theory of state governance.
As usual, I have no real problem with partisanship or hardball. Indeed, over the long run I think it bolsters democratic accountability when strong political parties present the public with coherent, focused choices. The issue is that we oftentimes have political institutions that assume the existence of loose, non-ideological parties, and the institutions will have to adjust.