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State Parties Attempting Moderation from Federal Party?
Cole Kinder

Oct 04, 2023

State political parties can be very different from their affiliated federal party. Often, a political minority will become more moderate on the state level than its corresponding national party in order to win votes.

While most major political parties across the USA are virtually the same at the federal and state level, each state's political party is actually only affiliated with the corresponding federal party.

In other words, your Alaska Republican Party may be different from your US Republican Party.

Currently, the most notable examples of this are the North Dakota and Minnesota affiliated Democratic parties: the North Dakota Democratic–Nonpartisan League Party (D-NPL) and the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL). It’s telling that neither one is just called the “[state name] Democratic Party.”

Both parties have histories tied to the socialist, agrarian, localist, labor, farmer, and cooperative movements that struck the USA in the early 1900s.

This led to the creation of the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota and the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota during the 1910s, which split each state between three parties. 

However, as times changed, so did the preferences across America. These parties decided to merge into their state Democratic political parties, with the Farmer-Labor Party joining the Minnesota Democratic Party in 1944, and the Nonpartisan League joining the North Dakota Democratic Party in 1956, hence their names today.

But, the D-NPL and DFL are not the only state parties different from the national party.

For instance, during the Civil Rights Era and before, many states' Democratic parties were vastly different, mainly falling into two camps: Southern Democrats and Northern Democrats, who tended to differ on civil rights policy.

These state-national differences don’t just apply to the Democratic Party.

In Hawaii, the precursor to the state Republican Party had been the most powerful in the territorial days, but since statehood was achieved, Hawaii has been all Democratic Party. In order to gain some power, the Hawaii Republican Party became center.

And it accomplished many goals in the early 2000s. This has led other state political parties that are minorities in their states to ponder the same experiment. 

Very recently, the Republican Party of California has been rumored to attempt a similar form of moderation

And after the latest Los Angeles mayoral election, where a Democratic candidate that many viewed as a Republican in everything but name almost won, many leading political scientists have viewed two main options for conservatives to achieve success in the biggest US State: run politicians as Democrats or change the California Republican Party to be more moderate.

These suggestions are also meant for Republican and Democratic parties from other states in similar positions. 

Great examples already include pro-life moderate Democratic Senator of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, and pro-life moderate Democratic Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, both becoming elected representatives in very Republican states.

While making your party more moderate comes with setbacks, as you do not get all of the policies you want, it may increase your chances of winning office and, thereby, getting some of your preferred policies. This is a tradeoff being chosen across the country from New York to Hawaii. 

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