What Happens in the Red States

Nationally focused progressive intellectuals and activists might be more willing to confront the fact the United States is being overtaken by a creeping, homegrown Amerikaner fascism if they paid more attention to state-level politics, the soft underbelly of what’s left of bourgeois democracy in the not-so United States.

The left tendency to neglect and avoid what’s happening in the states is foolish. For one thing, state-level policy has significant direct impacts on a vast swath of the nation’s population. From highly populated jurisdictions like Texas (home to 30 million) and Florida (22 million) to smaller ones like Iowa (just over 3 million), North Dakota (762,000) and Wyoming (less than 600,000), at least 150 million Americans live in fully or mainly “red states,” where state politics and policy are completely or largely in the hands of the neofascist Republican party. I write from 91% white Iowa, where the Republikaner governor and state legislature power have passed laws suppressing minority voting rights, forbidding honest discussion of white systemic racism in public education (K-Ph.D.), banning local governments and school districts from enforcing minimum wage ordinances, and banning local vaccine and mask mandates. Iowa’s Nazi Lite chief executive “Covid Kim” Reynolds has cut pandemic-related unemployment benefits, rejected federal Medicaid dollars to help the poor receive health care, and made her state’s taxpayers fund the sending of Iowa state troopers to patrol the southern US border in its neo-Confederate partner state of Texas.

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Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).

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