Minority Majority

We’ve covered this before, but here’s a concise statement of the facts:

House Democratic candidates won about 50.5 percent of the national vote in November, but took just 46 percent of the seats. In the last 40 years, only one other time — 1996 — did the party that won the majority of the votes end up with a minority of the House, said Nicholas Goedert, a political science researcher at Washington University in St. Louis in Missouri. Democrats actually gained two seats in the Senate.

Political scientists point to two factors influencing this divergence: a redistricting process dominated by Republican legislatures, and even more so, the concentration of Democratic voters in urban enclaves.

Gerrymandering did matter. In nine states redistricted by Republicans, the Democratic vote share was well above the percentage of seats won […]

Republican rhetoric might not indicate that they see the demographic tidal wave coming, but Republican actions speak loud and clear. They know they’re going to be in permanent minority status someday if they continue on the path they’re on, but they’ve kicked that can far down the road by dominating legislatures and governorships.

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55 replies
  1. 1
    ant says:

    I expect Republicans to gain even more seats in the 2014 midterms.

    They’ll gain senate seats as well. Hopefully not enough to gain control.

    If they gain control of the senate, Obama will be impeached.

    I am sure that will go over well.

  2. 2
    amk says:

    @ant: you working for gallup ?

  3. 3
    rikyrah says:

    these mofos have NEVER believed in democracy.

    NEVER EVER EVER

  4. 4
    japa21 says:

    @ant: Gaining control of the Senate has nothing to do with Obama being impeached or not. The House does the impeaching. The Senate votes on the charges and it takes 2/3 to convict. Even if the GOP took control of the Senate (unlikely IMO) they still wouldn’t have enough votes to convict.

    And I defintely think the Dems will pick up some House seats in 2014, though it is hard, this far out, to see how many.

  5. 5
    PurpleGirl says:

    @ant: One fine point: he could be impeached right now by the House. The Senate convicts after the House impeaches. Remember Clinton was impeached but he wasn’t convicted by the Senate.

  6. 6
    hueyplong says:

    I am struggling to understand the sentence, “If they get control of the Senate, Obama will be impeached.”

    The Senate doesn’t impeach. And if ant is talking about conviction, that requires a 2/3 vote, which is a slightly higher standard than “control of the Senate.”

    But my favorite part, and the part about which ant might be correct, is the assumption that numbers alone would get it done for them, and the “basis” for the impeachment can simply be made up by flaming whatever happens to be the current issue of the day, domestic or foreign.

  7. 7
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ) says:

    The problem is the same urban enclave issue that gives them something of an advantage at the national level (disproportionate representation relative to the number of votes their candidates get) is also operative at the State level. They always seem to have a built-in advantage when it comes to gerrymandering.

    So long as rural voters remain overwhelmingly conservative they’ll have a built-in advantage that allows them to keep kicking the can down the road for a while longer. They’ll have a hard time winning the Presidency or the Senate but the House is easier for them to maintain control of, and they can do plenty of damage so long as they hang on there.

  8. 8
    BarbCat says:

    Wait. The Party that ran McCain/Palin and then Romney/Ryan is far-sighted and effective?

  9. 9

    they’ve kicked that can far down the road by dominating legislatures and governorships.

    True. But also, their whole shtick precludes reform. All they have left is the projection of disdain toward perceived outsiders. It’s the only way they can tell who they are, as they’ve cast aside any and all policy views over the last ten or so years.

    No one on the inside has the incentives (or perhaps even inclination given the banishment of folks like Lugar, Castle, Bartlett, etc.) to engage reality on public policy or demographic trends.

    They could still pick up seats in 2014. Emotional rejectionism + zero policy proposals worked just fine in 2010, with a smaller electorate. We won’t have had a demographic revolution in the interim.

  10. 10
    Patricia Kayden says:

    So impeachment is the new hope for Repubs? Really, ant? That’s all you’ve got?

  11. 11
    Cain says:

    I think some of this the fault of the Democratic leadership which was very much lacking. They allowed Republicans to take over local and state governments. We probably still don’t have a proper game plan to flip independents in the various states. In the end I am hoping that Republican platform sinks them.

  12. 12
    LGRooney says:

    Republican rhetoric might not indicate that they see the demographic tidal wave coming, but Republican actions speak loud and clear.

    This is exactly why they’re bringing on the full crazy. They want to ensure that their sponsors on their welfare network get to keep and hold as much of their past and current gain as possible. As long as those sponsors control the purse strings in this country, the minority takeover can be held off long enough for these legislators and their kids to profit from the network.

  13. 13
    ant says:

    dont falme me people. yall know it’s gonna happen.

  14. 14
    Keith G says:

    In a way, I sort of admire the GOP for fighting as if their life depends on it. Politics isn’t pretty nor is it meant to be spiritually enriching. From the earliest days of this republic it’s often been about bare knuckled political will.

    Lately, the GOP has won a surprising amount of important battles because they got to the battle field first, determined the type of conflict being waged, and got their side emotionally involved.

    Once we get our side to consistently act proactively and with equal emotion, this GOP’s successes will be be very limited.

    Edit
    @Cain: That is a significant issue, and Dems own it.

  15. 15
    Ken T says:

    The thing is, though, that there is a danger for the Rs in this strategy, and an opportunity for the Ds. District gerrymandering is not exactly the same thing as Senate/EC overrepresentation by low population states. Congressional districts are required to at least pay lip service to the principle of evenly distributed numbers of voters. So the overrepresentation comes from having R voters spread out across a lot of 55-45 districts, while the Ds are concentrated into a few 90-10 districts. Which means that some of those R districts are a lot more vulnerable to flipping than the Ds.

    The message for the Dems is to aggressively look for and convince swing voters in those R districts to flip.

  16. 16
    Punchy says:

    I dont understand how so many blue states w/r/t their national reps will turn around and vote in so many red candys for their state legys. PA is great example, as is Wisky and MN.

    Who are these voters who believe in Dems for national reps but willing vote for the Fuck You Party to rep their state district?

  17. 17
    chopper says:

    @ant:

    okay, we won’t falme you.

  18. 18
    Feudalism Now! says:

    Obama will be impeached after the 2014 elections. Spite is driving the base at this point. Traitorous George Will has said that social conservatives are ‘dying off’. He may have meant it specifically to gay marriage, but the wackaloons I work with seem to have taken it personally for each of their Cro-magnon view du jour. The House has no legislative agenda, other than stick it to the country. The next two years will be an executive order fest, because the Teahadis will fight everything. They will refuse to negotiate in good faith, they will default on our debt, they will put out worthless bills on abortion, sanctity of marriage, and the greatness of American Exceptionalism. 2014 is the last chance to get revenge on that uppity demoncrat and there will be whiny outrage to get him.

  19. 19
    hueyplong says:

    These guys think that elections should be determined by center-right white America. Their path to victory was voter suppression, and if it had been successful, it would have been the obvious path to surviving current demographic trends.

    A single election cycle failure (inability to implement the changes, exacerbated by blowback in terms of an engergized, angry minority electorate) won’t be the end of this. They’ll keep trying, and it will be up to the Democrats to react in an off year as they did in a presidential year.

    The seemingly sudden realization by GOPers that they needed to “reach out” to women and minorities might well have been based on a sad realization that the prior game plan to keep the latter from the polls altogether had failed.

    I go for this theory because it presumes evil intent but not stupidity.

  20. 20
    Kip the Wonder Rat says:

    but they’ve kicked that can far down the road by dominating legislatures and governorships.

    From another perspective, they’re practicing what they preach: local government should drive the process.

    Who was it that said “All politics are local”? Sadly, Team Red took it to heart. Funnily, probably what’s really going on is the scions of multinational corps took it to heart. Koch, Coors, etc.

  21. 21
    ant says:

    Who are these voters who believe in Dems for national reps but willing vote for the Fuck You Party to rep their state district?

    It’s people like my boyfriend, who turned out in 2006 cause he opposed the gay marriage thing here in WI, and again in 2008, cause he liked Obama, but refused to go to the polls in 2010, cause “I don’t know these people that I am voting for”. This even despite people coming and knocking at our door asking him to vote, and me begging him to go to the polls.

    I get my ballot in the mail every election. It takes just a few minutes to do at any time of the day, but he still wont sign up to do the same.

    Who the fuck knows why people don’t vote during midterms.

  22. 22
    scav says:

    but falme boiled ants are my favorite!

  23. 23
    RSA says:

    They know they’re going to be in permanent minority status someday if they continue on the path they’re on, but they’ve kicked that can far down the road by dominating legislatures and governorships.

    Part of this effort is recent talk about proportional allocation of electoral votes in states like Ohio and Virginia. Republicans currently control 27 state legislatures, and 24 of those states of Republican governors. They could in theory give the party a big boost if they could push this sort of thing through in bluish swing states.

  24. 24
    Amir Khalid says:

    As I understand the process, the House serves as a grand jury, voting to determine the charges against the President, and then to impeach — i.e. to order him to stand trial. Then the trial takes place before the Senate, whose members are the jury that either convicts him by a 2/3 majority, or does not. Is this about right?

    Now, I know that the US Constitution is silent on the question of what a POTUS can be impeached for, so as not to tie Congress’ hands in this matter. Which led to Bil Clinton’s impeachment over trying to hide a BJ. Given the spotlessness of Obama’s personal life, and the absence of anything glaringly criminal/unethical in his presidency, what on earth are the Republicans hoping to impeach him for that won’t make them look stupid or petty?

  25. 25
    Keith G says:

    @Punchy: A good part of it is local organization. In many non/or less urban districts, the GOP has better organization…and quite frankly an easier message to sell.

    At that level, being able to raise a quick $20,000 or so to achieve basic visibility is key, so having a few FIRE businesses who like your message makes a big difference – and FIRE tends to like the basic GOP message.

    edit:
    @Feudalism Now!:

    Obama will be impeached after the 2014 elections

    Now that’s just silly.

  26. 26
    Schlemizel says:

    @scav:

    I prefer them deep fried or chocolate covered. Honey ants are incredible – they earn that name! I assumed ours here was a troll.

    The Obama org has said they are still fine tuning the demographic & GOTV stuff they had & plan on deploying it in 14 so thats a leg up. What we need is to get people fired up. Somehow we need the sort of drive people feel in Presidential years. I’ll be volunteering again & encouraging as many of my friends to do the same as possible

  27. 27
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Amir Khalid: I don’t think they mind looking stupid or petty. I’m not going to worry between now and 2014 about impeachment though.

  28. 28
    Napoleon says:

    I can’t believe this subject has come up and no one has mentioned this:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/wei.....llege.html

    http://www.thenation.com/blog/.....l-college#

    The Republicans do not intend to leave office without essentially staging a coup before the voters show them the door. None.

  29. 29
    Ken T says:

    @Amir Khalid:
    When has looking stupid or petty stopped them from doing anything?

  30. 30
    different-church-lady says:

    They know they’re going to be in permanent minority status someday if they continue on the path they’re on…

    …but they’re enjoying the view far too much to change paths.

  31. 31
    Felinious Wench says:

    1. So how do we change the gerrymandering issue? In Texas, it took legal action to stop it.

    2. I don’t believe there would be an impeachment, though they were looking for ammo on Benghazi. I do believe there’s a very large desire to do it and they’re looking for a reason of any kind. Thus, the completely disproportionate response to everything will continue.

    I see that as an advantage. The crazier they get, the more they marginalize themselves from everyone but the fringe. I’m totally fine with that.

  32. 32
    scav says:

    Somehow this all resolved into the image of the GOP as the Surly with the Fringe on top.

  33. 33
    Lojasmo says:

    @Punchy:

    Minnesota flipped both house and senate to D this election. Bad example.

    In 1010, when Kraaaavaaaak won in CD8, both house and senate flipped to red.

  34. 34
    cmorenc says:

    @ant: @ant:

    They’ll gain senate seats as well. Hopefully not enough to gain control.
    If they gain control of the senate, Obama will be impeached.

    It would take a 2/3 majority vote in the Senate to successfully remove Obama from office by conviction of impeachment. It only takes a simple majority vote in the House to initiate the necessary impeachment resolution for the matter to be referred to a vote in the Senate (technically, the “impeachment” is the House resolution which is the rough equivalent of an indictment forcing a Senate “trial” and vote on whether to remove the President from office or not).

    Notice that the GOP already *has* enough votes in the House to initiate impeachment, but they’re restrained by two things: a) not enough votes in the Senate; b) public relations fiasco when they tried in against Clinton for perjury, which technically they did have him on for lying to a judge about the blow job. IMHO Boehner will work mightily against dissipating the GOP’s mojo on fruitless impeachment ventures that would be more productively (in his terms, not ours) put to use working to whittle entitlements and spending.

  35. 35
    gene108 says:

    the concentration of Democratic voters in urban enclaves.

    The Constitution is slanted towards rural/small states having greater representation than urban centers.

    I vaguely remember learning about a Supreme Court case, in high school U.S. history, about the SCOTUS ruling to require equal representation in House districts, i.e. rural Reps were representing much smaller constituencies and therefore had disproportionate power.

    We’re never going to get away from disproportionate representation.

    I think we need to somehow consider ways to persuade rural voters that despite the lip service Republicans pay to Jesus, they actually aren’t practicing what Jesus taught or something that can break through the cultural angst rural voters have against voting for Democrats.

    I have no clue what it is or could be. The cognitive dissonance with conservatives is very very high, so how to break through that is a real challenge.

  36. 36
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Punchy: In WI, the blue is rather geographically concentrated. Madison, Milwaukee, and a few heavily unionized areas. Much of the rest of the state is small towns and farms.

    Also too, guns. If gun fear disappeared, I think WI would be deep, deep blue.

  37. 37
    Roger Moore says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    what on earth are the Republicans hoping to impeach him for that won’t make them look stupid or petty?

    Who says they’re worried about looking stupid and petty? Besides, the right wing echo chamber will convince them that whatever charges they settle on are a major concern of the electorate, no matter how stupid and petty they are in reality. It worked for the Clinton impeachment, and the right wing echo machine was nowhere near so well developed back then.

  38. 38
    Keith G says:

    @gene108: I think just any organized messaging effort at all would immediately pay dividends. We have essentially left large geographic areas in fallow. Howard Dean wanted to correct that and as 2008 came to a close, I was so hopeful that Obama would use his organizational inroads for a greater good….but, no. Although now, they seem to heading down that road, finally.

    Sometimes, just showing up makes a big difference.

  39. 39
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Everyone’s looking at the fiscal crisis, and no one’s looking at the brewing crisis of legitimacy.

    These people simply don’t believe a Democratic government is, or can be, a legitimate government. Replacing or circumventing one is therefore the highest form of service to the nation.

    Salus populi, suprema lex. When you reach that point, anything goes.

  40. 40
    NCSteve says:

    @rikyrah: Sure they did. In 1860 and 1864, they totally believed in democracy.

  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ant:

    Since an impeachment conviction requires 67 “yea” votes in the Senate and the Senate is currently 55-45 Democrat, that would require all 20 Democrats up for re-election in 2014 to lose, plus every Republican up for re-election in 2014 to win, plus 2 Democrats not in Class II to die in office or quit before their terms are up and be replaced by Republicans.

    But you are completely convinced that this perfect storm of events will happen and John Kerry, Dick Durbin, and Al Franken, along with every other Democrat up for re-election, will be defeated in 2014, plus 2 additional seats will flip to Republicans due to Democrats leaving the Senate before their terms are up and Republicans taking those seats.

    If anything, we’re going to flame you for being very bad at math.

  42. 42
    gene108 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Also too, guns. If gun fear disappeared, I think WI would be deep, deep blue.

    Oooohhhhh!

    I just figured out how Democrats can outflank Republicans on gun rights.

    Give anyone, who buys a gun a tax credit on his/her tax return!

    That’d totally catch the Republicans and NRA off guard as not being pro-gunsie enough.

  43. 43
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gene108:

    The Constitution is slanted towards rural/small states having greater representation than urban centers.

    And, of course, that was because the slave states were afraid that the large population centers in the North would swamp them in representation.

    IMO, a big part of our problem is that the House is way too small — IIRC, each House representative represents something like 700,000 constituents (or, if the state has fewer than 700K people, they get one rep). That’s WAY too many to effectively represent their constituents. Expanding the House probably would not change the balance of power very much, but it would be more fair to urban and rural populations.

  44. 44
    redshirt says:

    @Napoleon: Agreed. This is a real threat and needs to be addressed ASAP. I read Pennsylvania is trying to do this as well.

    So, here are the steps towards continued Republican control:

    1. Take state legislatures
    2. Redistrict to enhance Republican chances
    3. Break electoral college votes down by gerrymandered districts.
    4. Profit!

    In this scenario, in 2012, Romney wins Pennsylvania.

  45. 45
    cmorenc says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    IMO, a big part of our problem is that the House is way too small—IIRC, each House representative represents something like 700,000 constituents (or, if the state has fewer than 700K people, they get one rep). That’s WAY too many to effectively represent their constituents. Expanding the House probably would not change the balance of power very much, but it would be more fair to urban and rural populations.

    Expanding House membership size wouldn’t work out at all the way you hope, because increasing the size of a deliberative, legislative body usually has the paradoxical effect of concentrating power in proportionately fewer, rather than more, people. Furthermore, the people who wind up in these key leadership positions disproportionately tend to come from “safe” enough districts enabling them to stay around long enough for them to accumulate the power to rise into leadership positions. This general principle is true of most organizations: the bulk of influence and work on any issues of broad implication tends to be concentrated among a relatively small group of participants. Bodies where this operating principle has broken down tend to be too chaotic and dissonant to get much of anything constructive accomplished.

    This observation is not AT ALL a recommendation of or resignation toward authoritarianism, whereby the leadership forcefully institutionalizes its control in a way cutting off effective pressure or influence by those outside the small elite. It’s rather simply a real-world observation on how most even ideally democratic organizations in fact function on deference to get any real effective work done; the key to democracy is that those down the hierarchy from the elite (all the way down to the voters) have a realistic shot at influentially pressuring the leaders or replacing them at elections. All you’ll accomplish by increasing congressional membership via smaller disticts is finer-grained gerrymandering with a net result of the same proportion of “safe” rather than competitive districts.

  46. 46
    Donut says:

    They know they’re going to be in permanent minority status someday if they continue on the path they’re on, but they’ve kicked that can far down the road by dominating legislatures and governorships.

    Uh, yep, and this explains why they are still trying desperately to hang on to the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip and hostage. The redistricting processes resulting from 2010 occurred as they wanted – now they have a pretty good shot at keeping the House for several years, at least. There will have to be another big wave election for Democrats to get it back. Boehner and ihs cronies and supporters have to be figuring that there is more political downside to NOT forcing the debt ceiling issue. Their base still wants it, badly, and the way the districts are drawn and the make up of the GOP primary electorate is such that they may not be punished for acting badly, for at least another cycle, and maybe more. 2012 elections proved the media as a whole is not comfortable calling them out in sustained meaningful way. If you’re a nihilist and mostly interested in fulfilling the far right agenda, what the fuck do you have to lose?

  47. 47
    liberal says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Now, I know that the US Constitution is silent on the question of what a POTUS can be impeached for, so as not to tie Congress’ hands in this matter.

    Tell that to all the concern troll pundits who claimed we shouldn’t impeach W for invading Iraq.

  48. 48
    liberal says:

    @Napoleon:
    Yeah, if they keep this s#it up we’ll have a civil war on our hands.

  49. 49
    Gravenstone says:

    For the handwringers worrying about impeachment post-2014; the Republicans would need to flip all 20 Democratic seats running in order to have the required 2/3 majority to impeach and convict on whatever whim flies forth from the greater Republican ass.

    Not.gonna.happen.

  50. 50
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @liberal: I didn’t realize you needed to be a concern troll to think that. I think there’s a reasonable case that the invasion of Iraq was a war crime for which bush should hang at Nuremberg, but it’s not clear to me that he broke any US laws.

  51. 51

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    If gun fear disappeared, I think WI would be deep, deep blue.

    Neither the president nor any Democrats of any consequence have said or done anything with regard to guns in quite some time. Still the complaint that “The Democrats are going to take our guns” persists. And along with it is the belief that, but for the Democrats’ intentions to take said guns, people who are voting for Republicans would vote for Democrats. I don’t believe this.

    The “guns” thing, like the “God” thing, is a symbol or a signifier for something else, for a set of beliefs about the world that cannot be readily matched with any policy or set of policies.

  52. 52

    @Mnemosyne:

    a big part of our problem is that the House is way too small

    I have been arguing this for a very long time. The number 435 was set in 1911 for reasons that I have not been able to determine. It is not clear whether the people who chose that number intended it to last forever, or whether we should care what they intended.

    More congress-creatures would not only mean that congress would more accurately reflect the country, in the aggregate. It would also mean that each congressional campaign would be less costly, less daunting for challengers. I believe those would be good things.

  53. 53
    JR says:

    FWIW, I’m not sure that 1996 cite is actually correct. Louisiana conducted most of its House elections in October that year through the old “open primary” system (all candidates were listed on one ballot, any candidate receiving a majority was deemed elected, and only if no candidate hit 50% would they vote on the national Election Day: the Supreme Court struck it down in 1997).

    Adding the vote totals from those races to the Nov. general election totals should put more total votes in the R column.

    Meaning, this is even rarer than Goedert suggests.

  54. 54
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @James E. Powell:

    The number 435 was set in 1911 for reasons that I have not been able to determine.

    Architecture, according to a friend who did a project on it. He imagined what the Capitol would need to look like to accommodate a 2,000-member House, with all the staffing requirements. That’s clearly blue-sky thinking — cmorenc’s arguments have backing in standard power-law network analyses — but I think the House could have a couple of hundred more seats and it wouldn’t impinge on the network.

    (An alternative argument is that it was a reaction to two different phenomena — the rapid urbanisation of the US and the final incorporation of western territories. StraightDope thread here.)

    The two-year House term is basically ridiculous, especially given the size of districts and the fact that the re-election campaign begins even before the new intake is sworn in. And big districts, of course, mean more wealthy donors.

    Supposedly, the effects of census-year gerrymandering wear off in the second half of the decade because of demographic shifts, but it’s a long wait to 2016.

  55. 55
    Mnemosyne says:

    @cmorenc:

    And that would make it worse than our current gerrymandered system, how, again?

    I’m thinking more in terms of basic fairness when I say that congressional districts should not be larger than, say, the population of the smallest state. That’s Wyoming, which had a 2010 census population of 563,626.

    It’s probably not going to do much for the balance of power, but it kinda pisses me off that living in a populated state means that I have less say than someone in fucking Wyoming, particularly since the zero-sum game of the 435 number means that representatives are taken away from states and given to other states when small population fluctuations happen.

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