Government shutdown: Is it making red and blue states more purple? (+video)
With the federal government shutdown suspending services and closing facilities, state leaders of both parties are moderating their positions to help constituents through this challenging time.
Red and blue may dominate Washington politics as the federal government shutdown grinds on,Â but across the country, where local politicians are facing reelection in the next few years, the color ofÂ practical politics is turning downright purple.
Indianaâs Republican governor, Mike Pence, said Tuesday the state will fund food stamps andÂ welfare checks through the shutdown. And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who received national attention for his battles with public sector labor unions,Â removed barriers to a federally supported boat launch on the Mississippi and said the state will fund state parks that were ordered shut down because they receiveÂ some federal money.
In California, meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who has appeared openly reluctantÂ toÂ announce any plans to help outÂ Californians hit by the partial shutdown, is being hailed for his fiscal conservatism.
âItâs no longer the suburbs versus the cities, itâs delivery of services to the people,â he says, adding, âthere is an old adage that when it comes to the streets, there are no Democratic or Republican streets, there are only American streets.â
Over the long term, if the shutdown is not resolved, Professor McCuan says, this tone will rise to the national level as well. âThere will be increasing calls from the moderates in the party to find common ground,â he says.
âPoliticians who are up for reelection want to show that they are in control of their state,â he says, adding that the average voter does not make distinctions about where the money comes from for their government services.
âPeople want to know why they canât get into their parks or get their benefits check,â he says, adding thatÂ they are not interested in partisanship.Â âTheyÂ expect their localÂ politicians to be able to help,â says Mr. Wolfe.Â Consequently, he notes, politicians are making gestures thatÂ say, âI am in control here.â
âThey are separating themselves from what is goingÂ on in Washington,â he adds.
Attuned to this grassroots mood, Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey just released a campaign ad with the slogan, âcompromise is not a dirty word.â
There are limits, however, to how much local politicians can âbail outâ the federal government, even when they are so inclined, points out Christine Kelleher-Palus, associate professor and chair of Villanova Universityâs Department of Public Administration in Philadelphia.
The recent economic downturn has left states in a very difficult position, she says via e-mail, and they are struggling in many areas because of the shutdown.
âStates are doing a lot of analyses and contingency planning â trying to figure out how individual programs are affected, and for how long they can be sustained,âÂ she says.
New Jerseyâs Governor Christie has been unpredictable for a while, points out political analyst Barbara OâConnor, director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento.
âHeÂ terrifies Republicans because they canât count on him to toe the party line,â she notes. But, she says, with the safety net being threatened for an ever-widening group of constituents, âwe are facing an interestingÂ dynamic with politicians. There are more and more willing to do theÂ helpful thing.â
She points out that in California, Governor Brown has also been a source of unexpectedÂ moves, a course she expects to continue.
âRemember that he is a Jesuit who lived with Mother Teresaâ and might beÂ expected to take a progressive party line, yet he has held the line on expenses and been touted for his frugality.
The bigger question, she says, is how more extreme politicians will respond as the shared pain spreads among constituents. âItâs an interesting drama and we donât know how it will play out.â