DARK DAYS FOR DEMOCRATS
This game is a meditation on the things that progressives and liberals can accomplish while out of power in Washington. Having lost the Whitehouse, Congress and most of the state governments to the GOP, the future looks dark for the Democrats. A Democrat might be able to win the Whitehouse in 2020, but flipping the House and the Senate appears unattainable for the Democrats in the near term. Aggressive use of gerrymandering means that the Republican House majority is relatively safe. The concentration of Democratic voters in a few coastal states gives the GOP a huge advantage in the Senate. Democrats will likely not be in a position to pass significant pieces of legislation for a long time.
A STRATEGY TO FIGHT BACK
However, progressives can achieve many of their aims at the local and state level. More progressive states can probably counteract the repeal of Obamacare by imposing personal health insurance mandates at the state level, as Massachusetts did in 2006. Similarly, state governments can reform their criminal justice systems and end the war on drugs. States and local governments are already preparing to resist mass deportations of illegal immigrants.
Even without influence in Washington, liberal states can impose policies on the entire nation. Imagine if New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Washington state, Oregon, Maryland and Connecticut enacted a carbon tax. These nine reliably liberal states represent approximately 40% of US GDP. Reducing 40% of the carbon footprint of the US economy would go a long way towards combating global warming. Such a tax would also force other, more conservative states to reduce their carbon footprint as well. A carbon tax would mean that coal would be an uneconomical fuel for electricity generation for 40% of the US economy. There is an interstate market for electricity, so If 40% of demand for coal fired power plants disappears, coal fired power plants across the country are out of businesses. If these states use the proceeds of the carbon tax to subsidize wind and solar power within their own borders, they can flood interstate power markets with zero marginal cost electricity, and put even more pressure on coal fired power plants. Coal mines and power plants across the country will have to shut down regardless of how much support they have in Washington. If 40% of the market for gas guzzlers disappears, automakers will have to stop manufacturing them for the entire US market. Texans will have to choose between plug-in hybrids and natural gas powered sub compacts.
BUILD APARTMENTS, SAVE AMERICA
One of the more effective things progressives could do on the local level would be to loosen local residential zoning regulations. Making it easier to build new housing in high cost, densely populated states would have a few useful effects:
1) Housing becomes less expensive for workers in urban areas. This would have the same benefit as cutting income taxes without straining state budgets. The decline in housing costs could offset any increases in electricity and healthcare costs.
2) More housing in urban areas helps fight climate change. People living in densely populated urban areas have small carbon footprints. More people use mass transit and apartments need less heat than single family homes. New houses can also incorporate energy saving technologies such as solar roofs.
3) More people will move to blue states, increasing the political clout of liberals at the federal level. Most of the good jobs in the US are being created in places like Seattle, Boston and Silicon Valley. If rents were lower, more people would be willing to take a risk and move to these places for work.
4) Blue states become more business friendly environments. Let’s face it, it is harder to do business in California than in Oklahoma because California has high taxes and lots of regulations. California can compete with more business-friendly states primarily because California can attract world class talent. Imagine how much more world class talent California could attract if it doubled the number of residential units in the San Francisco Bay area.
5) New residential construction helps working class people by creating blue collar construction jobs and reducing housing costs. It is the kind of policy that would appeal to non-college educated white voters.
Passing laws on the state level that make it easy to build multi-family housing would be much more effective at stimulating the local economy than any tax cut, infrastructure bill or stimulus plan enacted on the federal level. The best part about this plan is that conservatives will probably help get the legislation past (the Koch brothers will LOVE this).
Of course, doing all of this requires state governments controlled by Democrats. Right now, the Democrats only control the legislatures and governorships of 6 states. Even fairly liberal states like New York, Massachusetts and Washington are not completely controlled by the Democrats. This game tries to make the point that progressives cannot really win on the national level until they can figure out how to win on the local level. In an age of rampant voter suppression, simply preserving democratic voters’ ability to vote will be a challenge.
You win this game by taking control of the regions on the map. In this case, taking control means that the voters of this state or region reliably vote for Democrats in congressional and presidential elections. You can take control of a region by gaining popular support, as you can in other games that use this game engine. Keeping control of a majority of regions, however, will be challenging. This reflects the advantages that America’s political geography confers upon the GOP. To win, you need to take control of state governments. When you control all three State Government markers, you can remove voting restrictions, expand early voting and redraw congressional districts. You level the playing field, and give Democrats a fair shot at winning national elections.
Win locally, and national elections will take care of themselves.
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