The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nearly half of Americans will now live in states under total GOP control

The above map shows state legislative control, where Republicans control 30 states -- and 31 if you include Nebraska's technically non-partisan legislature. Twenty-three of these states also have GOP governors. (Courtesy: NCSL)
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Republicans had a very good Nov. 4; this much we know.

But merely looking at the GOP's likely nine-seat gain the Senate and its double-digit gains in the House doesn't really do its wave justice.

While the GOP is likely to control 54 percent of all Senate seats and 56 percent (or so) of the House come January, it also will now control more than two-thirds of state legislative chambers across the country -- as in nearly seven in 10. And given Republicans also won at least 31 governorships, they are basically in control of the state government in 24 states. That could soon hit 25if they win the still-undetermined governor's race in Alaska.

(Worth clarifying: These numbers include Nebraska, which technically has a nonpartisan, unicameral legislature but is, for all intents and purposes, a GOP-controlled state.)

The Democrats, meanwhile, control just six states, with a seventh likely to come when the Vermont legislature picks Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) as the winner of last week's closer-than-expected election, in which neither candidate attained the necessary 50 percent.

That 24-6 split is actually significantly bigger than it was after 2010, when Republicans emerged from that wave election with complete control of 21 states, to Democrats' 11 -- about a two-to-one advantage, versus today's four-to-one edge.

Back then, the GOP used those newfound majorities to dominate the redistricting process and push through things like new abortion restrictions, Voter ID laws, and many other things it had been unable to accomplish in most of the country.

No, state legislatures aren't the sexiest things in the world. But as a means for demonstrating a national wave, they're about as pure an indicator as you get. That's because they're the lowest-profile office (i.e. people vote the party more than anything) that is pretty uniform across the country. And as of today, the GOP is dominating in an unprecedented way.

To put this in a little more perspective, I added up the number of Americans who will now be in GOP-controlled states, versus those states under complete Democratic control.

According to my numbers, across all 50 states, 49.7 47.8 percent of Americans will now be led by GOP-controlled governments with little/no ability for Democrats to thwart them. If Gov. Sean Parnell (R) pulls off his reelection run in Alaska, it will be more than 48 percent.

Democrats, meanwhile, will govern unilaterally in states with just 15.6 percent of Americans -- less than one-sixth of the country. And that's with the nation's biggest state, California, firmly in their back pocket. Without that, they would govern over just 3.5 percent (less than one-25th) of the nation's residents.

A big reason for the disparity: Republicans earned a seat at the table with some upsets in populous, solidly Democratic states on Nov. 4, with wins in the Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois governor races. Those wins basically assured that Democrats would have very little influence over state governments across the United States.

Which, given the intransigence in Washington, might be the most significant development of all in this year's elections.

The numbers in this story have been updated. The GOP's numbers initially included Missouri, which has veto-proof GOP majorities but a Democratic governor.