Since 2010, Republican majorities have grown, now controlling both houses of Congress and 30 state legislatures, along with 31 governorships. Look at a congressional district map of the U.S., and you'll see an ocean of red, bounded by blue slivers on the coasts and some blue patches in the upper Midwest and around various urban areas.
The rise of red state Republicans has changed the face of American politics, but with different implications in D.C. and in state capitals such as Topeka.
In Washington, the GOP influx has taken legislative dysfunction to new highs. The Senate, with its filibuster rules, has long proven problematic, as it needs 60 votes to pass any significant legislation. But this condition has been exacerbated by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who famously stated in 2010, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Earlier this week, McConnell called on the states to actively reject Obama's environmental executive order, thus protecting Kentucky coal operators. Even more incredible, and disturbing, was the fact 47 senators, including McConnell, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, signed on to Arkansas Tea Party Sen. Tom Cotton's letter that purposefully undermines presidential negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons.
Remarkably, the House is more dysfunctional than the Senate.
Despite the largest GOP majority since the 1920s, Speaker Boehner cannot command the loyalty of many House Republicans, even when it comes to not shutting down funding for the Department of Homeland Security -- whose spending in Kansas will total almost $1 billion. Like the 47 senators, many GOP representatives are more obsessed with poking Obama in the eye than they are worried about legislating for the security of the country.
So, in D.C., red state Republicans foster gridlock, broken only on occasion by extraordinary negotiations and face-saving short-term deals.
In Kansas and other deep red states, the impact of the past three elections is different; rather than deadlock, we have policies passed with far too little deliberation or consideration. Want everyone to pack a firearm? No problem. Call it "constitutional carry," and it slides through the legislative process.
What about school finance, the state's largest budget item in a year when we face $600 million in revenue shortfalls and a court mandate to increase funding? Just ram through a block-grant proposal that was hastily concocted and given the most cursory of hearings. Then stick the House school funding bill into an already passed Senate bill, via the "gut-and-go" bill replacement tactic, and send it back to the Senate for an up-or-down vote.
On occasion, the red-state express will be slowed down a bit, as with the so-called moderates' so-called victory in the House that increased the number of items in teachers' contracts subject to bargaining. But right behind this "victory" is a bill that will sharply and arbitrarily cut negotiating rights for all public employees.
Likewise, changes in higher education funding, often reflecting legislators' personal whims and vendettas, find wide acceptance, even as universities struggle with substantial previous cuts. So when Salina Sen. Tom Arpke somehow intuited that almost $10 million should be switched out of KU's accounts, that was that. No serious discussion, no coherent rationale.
In sum, the congressional and state legislative red state victories of Republicans during the past four years have produced significant effects: stalemate in Washington and hurried batches of legislation in the states.
What's lost, tragically, is serious deliberation on important issues, whether in Washington or Topeka. And this lack of real deliberation weakens, even threatens, our democracy in both state and nation.
Burdett Loomis is a professor of political science at the University of Kansas.