by Samuel Dale
The Republican party currently controls 31 of the 50 governorships in the United States compared to just 18 for the Democrats.
The one independent governor Bill Walker of Alaska only left the party in 2014 so he could take on the incumbent so, really, it’s 32 Republican governors.
In addition, Republicans control the state assemblies and senate in 23 of those states giving them supreme control over law-making.
By contrast, Democrats only have total control in seven states. Seven Democrat governors are also grappling with Republican-controlled state legislative chambers while only four Republican governors deal with Democrat controlled state legislatures.
Four Republican governors and four Democrat governors deal with split legislatures.
Put Simply: when it comes to local governments the Republican party is completely and utterly dominant while the national party is in meltdown.
The reason for the mismatch is multi-faceted. Firstly, most governor elections take place during mid-terms where turnout is low and presidential incumbents are unpopular. Opposition parties pick up local wins.
This problem is compounded by the fact that all US governors have two-term limits meaning they have to give up the power of incumbency. Only two governors – both Democrat – were elected before Obama became president.
Second, Republicans clearly have a very effective and well-motivated local organisation in multiple states. The Tea Party phenomenon may have been funded by billionaires but many of its key protagonists were grassroots activists taking over local organisations and dragging them to the right.
They either toppled big names in primaries – as they did with House minority leader Eric Cantor in 2012 – or forced incumbents to shift drastically towards them to avoid defeat.
Hardcore activists can make a major difference in low turnout primaries when they are motivated and organized. They can be an important factor too in deciding local mid-term elections too when voter turnout is low.
They can also play an incredible role in a huge presidential primary election as we saw with the nomination of Donald Trump.
The grassroots attacks Democrats, sure, but mainly Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) who make deals and compromise with the opposition.
But national power is elusive. Sometimes it feels close. The Republican party holds the House and Senate, for now. The hated RINO John Boehner was removed as Speaker of the House last year to be replaced with the more right-wing Paul Ryan.
And just one month ago, Donald Trump was ahead in the presidential polls by an inch. Power is so close you can almost taste it for these hardcore activists.
But it’s not close. These are superficial moments. The Republican party, by pandering to its base and designing a political apparatus designed to pander to it even more, is not a national party.
It will never let itself choose a presidential candidate or party leader who is capable of winning national support.
But non-activists vote in large numbers too and they want to be represented just as much. That’s real democracy.
US and UK politics are clearly very different but the state of the Republican party has many lessons for Labour today.
Labour and its Momentum activists will find itself following a similar pattern over the next decade. The local victories, the influence over government policy as well as the deceptively large rallies and participation in politics.
It will feel good and there will be some legitimate wins for the party. Mayors in London, Liverpool, Manchester, the West Midlands and Bristol will wield substantial power.
The national polls will shift too. Maybe Labour under Corbyn, or a similarly hard-left leader, will overtake the Tories in polling during a damaging mid-term period for Theresa May. Maybe not.
But small wins, local power and limited influence is not a good ambition for Labour just as it does not satisfy Republicans in the US either.
The Tea Party fanatics pointing to the local victories in the states are fooling no one about the desperate state of the party.
And Labour today has become just as local as the SNP or Plaid Cymru. Not just geographically in the north, London and cities but it is has narrowed its debate and its possibilities.
It is closing its mind to outsiders and fuelling a sense of permanent grievance and conspiracy. It is refusing to reach out, instead pandering to its narrow base.
It is no substitute for the hard graft, dirty compromise or building a truly national movement and support base and pushing through real change.
Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist