Blue gets more blue, and red be­comes more red in Pa.

The Boyertown Area Times - - OPINION - Low­man S. Henry Colum­nist

On the sur­face it would ap­pear the power dy­namic in Penn­syl­va­nia state govern­ment changed lit­tle as a re­sult of the Nov. 6 Gen­eral Elec­tion. Gov. Tom Wolf was re­elected and Re­pub­li­cans re­tained solid con­trol of both the state House and the state Se­nate.

Back from where we started?

Not quite. The 2018 elec­tion cy­cle saw the con­tin­u­a­tion of two trends: the drift of Democrats into the arms of the so­cial­ist Left, and a Repub­li­can power shift from the Philadel­phia sub­urbs to the more con­ser­va­tive cen­tral and western parts of the state.

Gov. Wolf has of­ten (and for good rea­son) been la­beled the most lib­eral gover­nor in Amer­ica.

To the de­gree that lieu­tenant gover­nors mat­ter, the state’s new sec­ond ba­nana will push him even fur­ther in that di­rec­tion. Lt. Gov.-elect John Fet­ter­man is a Bernie San­ders-style so­cial­ist. He re­places the hap­less Mike Stack, a Philadel­phia pol more in­ter­ested in the power dy­nam­ics of pol­i­tics than ide­ol­ogy.

If there was a “blue wave” this elec­tion year it crashed ashore in sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia coun­ties.

The num­bers could change a bit as the of­fi­cial count pro­gresses, but Re­pub­li­cans lost 13 state House seats and four state Se­nate seats in that re­gion. It is rare for more than three or four in­cum­bents to lose statewide in a given elec­tion cy­cle, so the GOP wipe­out in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia can rightly be de­scribed as a blue tidal wave.

Con­tin­u­ing the west­ward shift of the statewide GOP, Re­pub­li­cans par­tially off­set their losses in the south­east by flip­ping three Demo­crat seats, one in Bucks County and two else­where in the state. Re­pub­li­cans held his­tor­i­cally high ma­jori­ties in both state leg­isla­tive cham­bers.

Thus the losses left them in solid con­trol, but with mar­gins closer to the his­tor­i­cal av­er­age.

What the elec­tion did do was to shift the ide­o­log­i­cal cen­ter of both the House and Se­nate Repub­li­can cau­cuses away from south­east­ern lib­er­al­ism into the main­stream con­ser­vatism that is pop­u­lar in the bal­ance of the state.

While leg­isla­tive Democrats voted in lock­step with their lead­er­ship, Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive lead­ers had the more dif­fi­cult task of mov­ing con­ser­va­tive poli­cies ad­vo­cated by their cau­cus ma­jor­ity, while try­ing to ap­pease their south­east­ern mem­bers. The goal was to hold onto those south­east­ern seats — it didn’t work.

The end re­sult is ab­sent the need to pro­tect its mem­bers from sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia be­cause — well, they are no longer there — leg­isla­tive Re­pub­li­cans are now free to stand firmly against the so­cial­ist poli­cies Gov. Wolf and Democrats are sure to pur­sue.

This means Penn­syl­va­nia’s di­vided state govern­ment has be­come even more di­vided. The first bat­tle will come in a mat­ter of weeks when Gover­nor Tom Wolf pro­poses his next state bud­get.

It is sure to be chock full of tax hikes and new spend­ing. Re­pub­li­cans ef­fec­tively blocked the more rad­i­cal el­e­ments of his agenda dur­ing the gover­nor’s first term. A more con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity should be able to do so in the years ahead.

Thus have vot­ers across Penn­syl­va­nia put into ef­fect all the el­e­ments needed for epic pol­icy and bud­get bat­tles which are likely to end in grid­lock.

Given the fact that most leg­is­la­tion that ac­tu­ally passes ex­pands the de­pen­dency state at the ex­pense of tax­pay­ers grid­lock may be the best out­come.

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