Opinion

Looking for Good News, Republicans? Look to Our Laboratories of Democracy

For many voters, myself included, this is the election of our discontent. It’s easy to listen to the presidential “debates” and ask: Where’s our shining city on a hill? Why aren’t the candidates talking about the issues — the national debt, taxes, schools — that matter to our lives, our jobs, our communities? Even: Where are our leaders?

Actually, they are in the states, including in the 31 states led by Republican governors. These states are demonstrating the wisdom of our Founding Fathers who insisted on a federal system where power was not concentrated in one central location. State leaders have shown far more common sense, political courage and fiscal integrity than we see in our nation’s capital.

Republican governors are popular, even those who lead overwhelmingly Democratic states. The Cook Political Report’s most recent ratings show seven Democratic governors are vulnerable while just two Republican seats are. According to Morning Consult, eight of the 10 most popular governors are Republicans. (Only one is a Democrat, and the other is an independent.) The top two — Charlie Baker in Massachusetts and Larry Hogan in Maryland — are Republicans in solidly blue states.

If my governor, Hogan, can garner a 71 percent approval rating in a state where only 26 percent of voters are Republicans, the headlines heralding the demise of the GOP are ridiculously premature.

But popularity isn’t all the matters.  Let’s look at the results.

Republican-led states are leading in job growth. The WP Carey School of Business tracks states in terms of employment growth and six of the top 10 job-producing states — Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, South Dakota and Utah — are led by Republicans. Each of these states generated at least 2.5 percent employment growth over the past year, outpacing the 1.7 percent increase in national employment.

In Republican-led states, incomes are growing and budgets are in balance. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ fiscal overview of the 50 states, in terms of personal income growth, six of the top 10 states — Maine, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah — are home to GOP governors. All but one of the 10 states with the lowest debt-to-state income ratios are run by Republicans. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University also has ranked states in terms of fiscal solvency and seven of its top ten — Florida, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming and Utah — are GOP-held states. Even in states with historically poor fiscal records, such as Illinois, governors like Bruce Rauner are fighting for innovative ways to improve their states’ bottom lines and improve growth.

There is clear evidence, too, that business and jobs are attracted to the innovative, competitive economies led by Republican governors. General Electric recently chose to move its headquarters from Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy’s Connecticut to GOP Gov. Baker’s Massachusetts. Freedom Partners Action Fund has outlined how Ohio employers fled the state under its previous governor, now-Democratic Senate candidate Ted Strickland, for Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan. (Three of those four states have been under GOP leadership for the last few years.) And, under the leadership of Republican Gov. John Kasich, Ohio finally has begun to restore the state to its previous muscular growth rates.

It’s not just companies that are opting to move to red states — voters are too. According to Internal Revenue Service data analyzed by Americans for Tax Reform, taxpayers have fled states with Democratic governors in favor of ones led by Republicans. The IRS data ATR looked at was from 2012 to 2013 and showed the top three states with the most net migration during this period were all led by Republicans during those years.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted some 80 years ago that the U.S. states are the laboratories of democracy. Yes they are, and the Republican formula is clearly working.

Republican governors are fighting to keep taxes and government debt low, to reform and modernize local education and pension systems by standing up to entrenched special interests, to improve infrastructure and to keep regulations limited and logical. Every state in the union faces unique challenges, including those with Republican chief executives. But if you want to know where innovation resides, where reforms are working, and where our cities are shining, look to the 31 states where there’s an “R” behind the governor’s name — and support, and vote for, these exciting leaders.

Bill Brock was a congressman, senator, RNC chairman, U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Labor Secretary. He regularly comments on politics and policy. You can find him on Twitter @bbrock67.

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