The New York Times reports that come January, at least 37 states will be controlled – Governor and Legislature – by one party.  These include 24 GOP states and 13 Democrat states.  In California, the Democrats will have a super-majority in both chambers, plus the Governor.

In comparison, eight years ago, only 20 states were controlled by one party or the other.

So the controlling party can do whatever they want in these places, including the DFL-controlled state of Minnesota, right?  Not so fast.  Despite what the media would have you believe, one-party control is not a free ride to push an agenda through.

For one thing, there are always competing factions both inside and outside a party.  For example, the TEA Party within the GOP, or the Blue-dog Democrats, and the old conflicts between urban/rural interests, rich and poor, black and white, blue collar and white collar.

Also, one-party rule also means one-party blame.  A party must be very cautious about shoving through its agenda without building support, or it may find itself out of the majority in two short years.

The minority party must also proceed cautiously. They cannot be seen as simply voting NO on everything, but must present solid alternatives and work to improve bills introduced by the other side, without giving up their own principles.

There is always an opportunity to work together to solve problems, as long as neither side takes an all-or-nothing approach.  If friends can become enemies, then certainly enemies can become friends, especially when the issues before us are so important. So if the majority insists on tax increases, can the minority negotiate spending cuts or regulation reform?  Time will tell.

The US Congress has an opportunity to demonstrate bipartisanship in the upcoming “fiscal cliff” discussions.  Unlike Obamacare, which was shoved through Congress without a single GOP vote, there is a real chance here to compromise and work together.  Doing nothing is a terrible option.  So is a continuing resolution. A real plan for structural changes in the tax code and entitlements will be a big job, but that’s what representative government is all about.

Time to roll up our collective sleeves and get to work.