Monday, December 30, 2013

Andrew Hacker: GOP Holds The House Through Gerrymandering

Writing in The New York Review of Books, Andrew Hacker (left) reminds us that gerrymandering, along with voter suppression, is central to the Republicans' hold on the House–and warns that this factor will continue to affect races in 2014:

If we are to fathom the power and demeanor of the current House of Representatives, two numbers are central to the story:


These are the respective electoral totals for Democratic and Republican candidates for that chamber in 2012. Yet Democrats ended with only 201 of the 435 seats, an easily ignored minority. House Republicans are in no way diffident about holding sway with a minority of the votes. As heirs to Alexander Hamilton, they see no reason to heed the “mass of the people” who “seldom judge or determine right.” In their view, the 47 percent described by Romney as freeloaders don’t deserve to have their ballots carry weight, any more than they deserve Medicaid coverage. Indeed, an avowed GOP strategy is to reduce the electorate, deploying a modern variant of the poll tax. In more than a few states, anyone lacking a driver’s license or a passport will have to unearth a decades-old birth certificate in order to be eligible to vote.

The GOP used its statehouse victories in 2010 to make the House its permanent preserve, regardless of overall totals. The method used was careful gerrymandering—the old art of massaging political maps, now augmented by computer algorithms...

...In 2012 House races, eighty-two Democrats won with margins over 70 percent, but only forty-six Republicans did so. Another tactic is to ensure that the GOP’s own seats stay relatively safe. ...almost all GOP districts [have] ample margins, with only one under 55 percent. For Democrats to break up this bloc will require an extraordinary effort. By my count, in Pennsylvania they will need to rally 185,384 new voters in counties where their support is already quite sparse. The same kind of recruiting will be needed in a dozen other states. Indeed, the Democrats’ demography is such that they will need well over a majority to get their numerical share of district-based seats.

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