Dan Balz has a nice article up at the Washington Post that takes a look at the difference between states that are governed by a Republican governor and legislature, and states that are governed by a Democratic governor and legislature. One-party rule is very high by historical standards, with “37 of the 50 states…under unified party control.” This creates a bit of a laboratory for comparing and contrasting the results of two radically different governing philosophies. In Democratic states, budget cuts are mixed with revenue increases, women’s rights are protected, unions are not assaulted, gay marriage is legalized, and some gun control measures are possible. In Republican states, taxes are slashed along with services, women’s rights are restricted, unions are under attack, gay marriage is not legalized, and gun rights are bolstered rather than brought into any kind of sane balance.

So, if this phenomenon of “high unified party control” governance offers us the chance to run an experiment that tells us which political philosophy works better, what are the metrics we will use to decide the winner?

The debate over which approach works better is being fought with claims and counter claims, all buttressed with batteries of statistics: the number of jobs created, the rate of job creation, changes in median income, poverty rates or the percentage of the population without health insurance.

Here we run into the same problem. The Democrats have one definition of success and the Republicans have another one.

But I’d argue that one fair measure is to see if the policies do what they are supposed to do. Does making abortion more inconvenient make it less frequent? Does slashing taxes lead to higher job creation? Does complying with the Medicaid expansion in ObamaCare reduce the ranks of the uninsured and help the states’ overall balance sheets? Does resisting the Medicaid expansion wind up benefiting the people in those states in any tangible way?

In other words, we can see if the policies actually work the way they were intended to, but that won’t change that the two parties want, for the most part, very different things.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com