Thursday, October 3, 2013

Where The GOP's Suicide Caucus Lives

Ryan Lizza writes in The New Yorker that the GOP's "suicide caucus," composed of 80 Republican House members who pushed the government shutdown over defunding Obamacare, actually represent just 18 percent of the country's population. Regardless, Speaker John Boehner has lost control to the most ideologically extreme members of his party. As reflected by the map above showing "where the GOP's suicide caucus lives," these representatives come from gerrymandered districts that are more white, more rural and less educated than the rest of a rapidly diversifying nation. In fact, these "suicide caucus" districts are less diverse than ever:

As the above map, detailing the geography of the suicide caucus, shows, half of these districts are concentrated in the South, and a quarter of them are in the Midwest, while there’s a smattering of thirteen in the rural West and four in rural Pennsylvania (outside the population centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh). Naturally, there are no members from New England, the megalopolis corridor from Washington to Boston, or along the Pacific coastline.

...While the most salient demographic fact about America is that it is becoming more diverse, Republican districts actually became less diverse in 2012. According to figures compiled by The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, a leading expert on House demographics who provided me with most of the raw data I’ve used here, the average House Republican district became two percentage points more white in 2012.

The members of the suicide caucus live in a different America from the one that most political commentators describe when talking about how the country is transforming. The average suicide-caucus district is seventy-five per cent white, while the average House district is sixty-three per cent white. Latinos make up an average of nine per cent of suicide-district residents, while the over-all average is seventeen per cent. The districts also have slightly lower levels of education (twenty-five per cent of the population in suicide districts have college degrees, while that number is twenty-nine per cent for the average district).

...In short, these eighty members represent an America where the population is getting whiter, where there are few major cities, where Obama lost the last election in a landslide, and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular. Meanwhile, in national politics, each of these trends is actually reversed.

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