Three States and a Funeral (for the Republican Party)

Forty-seven states have both branches of the legislature controlled by the same party. (The exceptions are Minnesota, Alaska, and Nebraska’s unicameral.),

Of these, Republicans overwhelmingly dominate—meaning either complete control of both branches or veto-proof legislative majorities with a Democratic governor—in 25 states, giving party leaders carte blanche to set the agenda and pass bills.

What you see in these instances is indicative of where the GOP’s priorities are. And more often than not, what you see are not public policy proposals, but grievance-based attacks on vulnerable populations or that amount to performative political theater.

Let’s look at some case-studies, in Idaho, Kansas, and Montana.


Idaho has always been a conservative bastion

Most of the biggest fights during the current session haven’t involved Democrats at all but have featured bitter intra-party clashes between very conservative legislative Republicans and slightly less conservative Republican Governor Brad Little.

Education has been another flashpoint. Republican lawmakers rewrote and then defeated the governor’s budget recommendations for public schools and higher education amid accusations that it was a “social justice” curriculum, based on “critical race theory” that was “indoctrinating” the state’s children. Dangerous ideas about racism and diversity have, Representative Scott said, been “creeping through our schools forever.” Scott singled out the novel To Kill a Mockingbird as an example of this trend toward racial indoctrination.

Finally, the Republicans moved on to trying to use the legislative process to prevent voters from taking power back from them in the future.

Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, has spoken approvingly of various anti-government militia groups and appeared last fall in a video railing against COVID-19 restrictions. She recently announced her own effort to create an education task force to investigate ways “to protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism.” As if this is a thing happening in Idaho schools.

McGeachin is a textbook example of the type of political actor who frequently comes to power in an overwhelmingly one-party state. 


Kansas has historically had a strong contingent of moderate-conservative Republican state legislators, and it has routinely elected moderate Democratic governors. 

But in 2020 far-right Republicans won potentially veto-proof majorities in both houses, and a steady stream of controversial legislation started moving.

In the past few days Governor Kelly has vetoed bills that:

  • Allowed everyone over 18 to carry concealed handguns, with no training required.
  • Banned transgender girls from competing in high school sports.
  • Restricted voting in substantial ways after the Republican Secretary of State declared the 2020 election clean and fair.
  • Allowed the state to sell “Don’t Tread on Me” license plates.
  • Required all Kansas high school students to pass a U.S. civics course, despite the fact that, as a matter of the state constitution, this decision is made by the State Board of Education.


Ultra-conservative Greg Gianforte won the governor’s office, ending 16 consecutive years of Democratic governors. Gianforte made national headlines during his first successful congressional race in 2017 when he physically assaulted a reporter during an interview. As governor he has been just as aggressive in consolidating executive power and steering his agenda through the legislature where Republicans now hold two-thirds of the seats in the state house and nearly as many in the state senate.

And then there’s the anti-democratic stuff. Republican lawmakers launched an investigation into the state’s judicial branch in the midst of the legislative session, including issuing legislative subpoenas for emails and other records held by Montana judges. This controversy is complicated, but centers on suspicions by some legislators that judges are biased against legislation pushed by conservatives. The conflict seems sure to continue beyond the current session setting up an unprecedented separation of powers showdown.