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It was a great election if you're a Democrat.  Obama won, without too much drama, against all odds, Democrats added two Senators and changes make the incoming class far more liberal than the outgoing group. Locally, my state defeated a Voter Restriction Amendment and gave control of both branches of the legislature to the Democrats, giving us in Minnesota the "trifecta"--Democratic governor and control of both houses of the state legislature.

With all the gains made by Democrats, why did they gain a piddly number of seats in the US House of Representatives?  More after the cute orange squiggle!

The answer is Redistricting, pure and simple.  The magnitude of the disaster two years ago in 2010 continues to show it's ugly head.  Gerrymandering by Republicans cost Democrats chances to make big gains in presidential blue or purple states.  Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and Virginia were controlled in total by Republicans and despite all of those states going for Obama, gains for Democrats in the House were minimal.  Indiana also was controlled by Republicans.  Texas, Arizona, and Utah are red states controlled totally by the vote suppressors.  Democrats did their work where they got the chance, but that really is only Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland.  California and Washington were redrawn by commissions, so the maximum partisan gain couldn't be extracted.

A nearby example of gerrymandering is Wisconsin.  Republicans lost no strength in their federal delegation, plus they regained the state Senate, won by Democrats through recalls. All of this in the wake of an Obama victory in the state.

Because of redistricting, Democrats will suffer all or most of the decade being underrepresented in the House of Representatives.  Governors matter, as do state legislatures.    

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Comment Preferences

  •  One word- "Gerrymandering" (7+ / 0-)
    •  Thanks for this diary and precisely. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence

      When Republicans took over in Ohio in 2010 they created a map so lopsided, so confusing and so hostile to communities and citizens it's beyond description. It's not even a gerrymander, it's an abomination. It gives the GOP 12 districts (although one is not safe; I'll explain in a minute), the Democratic four.

      And tragically, that's what happened last night because we lost one of the best and most dynamic and productive progressives in Congress, Betty Sutton, and three other fantastic women candidates who ran hard campaigns while their dreadful do-nothing opponents goldbricked and avoided constituents won.

      Also losing, as I predicted, was Issue 2, which no one who wants better and more honest government — whether Republican, Democrat, independent, Green, Libertarian or whatever — should even have thought for one second of voting against. It would have changed the redistricting system from the garbage we have now to a nonpartisan citizen-controlled one with guidelines to ensure fairness.  Frankly, the Issue 2 folks ran a weak campaign, and the partisan GOP side ran a campaign of giant money-driven lies (sound familiar? The other thing that needs to go is Citizens United).

      I haven't seen the totals yet, but I'm willing to bet that statewide, votes for a Republican and a Democrat were close to 50/50. Worse, it may have even been that Democrats got slightly more votes statewide. That has happened before.

      There's one district we could have taken — 14, LaTourette's old district, which the GOP didn't really bother to protect because of LaTourette's inexplicable popularity and relative youth (he's in his 50s). He would have been there a long time — but he suddenly retired late in the cycle. The Democrats, focusing on other districts they thought more winnable, didn't put up a real candidate this time. They let pretend candidate Dale Blanchard, who has run in every Democratic primary in this district in the last decade and lost every time, usually finishing last, be LaTourette's victim.

      But LaTourette quit. And Blanchard — who would have been to the right of the Blue Dogs anyway — almost won against the handpicked GOP candidate, also worthless and weak. Monday night when my best friend, who lives in the district, called to get some advice on the ballot and asked about this race, I had to tell her she had no good choices. (There was also a Libertarian and a bunch of write-ins).

      BUT it's a swingy district. And if the Democrats in it start, like, THIS WEEK, thinking about candidate recruiting, it can be won in 2014.

      I hope we put Issue 2 back on the ballot in 2014 and run a better campaign, and keep doing it until it wins until maybe 2022 when, if the Democrats take the key state offices (governor, auditor, secretary of state), they can eliminate the Ohio Republican Party. By that time, I'll be just that angry, even though I think it's wrong no matter who does it. (in Illinois, they keep moving the district line from one side of my sister's street to the other. She got moved from Bobby Rush's district to Jesse Jackson Jr's. My other sister is safely in Nancy Pelosi's district, and that's not going to change. Too many gay neighbors for that to go GOP — she lives in the Castro).

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:48:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly (0+ / 0-)

      We should keep track of the nationwide Congressional popular vote, and if the Democrats won while getting almost 40 fewer seats, raise some hell.

      "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - George W Bush

      by jfern on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 03:00:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, the GOP plays the redistricting game (4+ / 0-)

    ruthlessly while Democrats whine that their candidates "did not run a good campaign".  Until we realize that politics is life and death, not American Idol, Republicans will continue to clean our clock.

    “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

    by ahumbleopinion on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 12:34:21 PM PST

    •  Well, I hope in Ohio they don't whine that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence

      because we had four fantastic women candidates who lost who all ran amazing campaigns. But the district maps were tough.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:49:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Unfortunately, it is what happened in 2010 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wilderness voice

        that determined the election results in OH in 2012. Democrats stayed home in 2010 and handed redistricting to Republicans on a silver platter. Republicans took advantage of the gift and redistricted Democrats out of power in the Hose and state legislature for the next decade at least.

        “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

        by ahumbleopinion on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 09:51:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We didn't vote in 2010; the Rs own OH state house (7+ / 0-)

    We have to vote in 2014 to get rid of the rotten Rs then keep voting for Dems in 2018, esp for SoS and the governor.

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 12:36:42 PM PST

    •  It's not about the statehouse in Ohio (2+ / 0-)

      It's about who wins governor, secretary of state and auditor in the census year. If the Ohio Democratic Party had not dissed women and played games with the SoS office, we had a shot at keeping all three. We definitely would have kept governor (and attorney general) if women activists had not sat out. And don't blame them. Blame the party (and alas, Governor Strickland) for slating an anti-choice, anti-gay statewide candidate who even supported a Personhood Amendment. Swear to god. A "Democrat"!

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:51:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Definitely Redistricting. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ssgbryan, dotalbon, dewtx, highacidity

    After 2010, new GOP houses and governors wasted no time in redistricting their congressional districts.

    I would also add that high turnout for Romney in various districts that were held by blue dog Democrats before and after 2010 helped keep Republicans seated.

    Obamacare is upheld by the SCOTUS. Time for some Kossacks to eat a plate of crow.

    by kefauver on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 12:36:55 PM PST

  •  The Solution: Increase the number of rep's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dotalbon

    to 1 for every 30,000 Americans.

    (I read this in the Constitution).

    Notice: This Comment © 2012 ROGNM

    by ROGNM on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 12:37:35 PM PST

  •  asdf (7+ / 0-)

    Three fairly obvious reasons:

    1. 2010 was a Census year, so gerrymandering resulted in a far friendlier GOP geography (with special help from the fact that a majority of governors and state houses are Republican in composition)

    2. House seats are the most LOCAL of federal elections - and no matter what, people are always going to be most susceptible to the political positions they feel has the MOST impact on their daily lives.

    3. The hundred of millions of targeted ad buys by SuperPACS most definitely have some influence on LOCAL elections.

    Sadly, everything Communism said about itself was a lie. Even more sadly,, everything Communism said about Capitalism was the truth.

    by GayIthacan on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 12:40:40 PM PST

    •  If people are most susceptible (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence

      to things they feel would impact their every-day lives, then explain how in Ohio a couple of candidates who campaigned almost entirely on jobs highly specific to their districts — one of whom had a track record of supporting and passing legislation that probably kept her district from spiraling into depression — lost. The awful GOP candidates opposed measures that protected the lives of constituents. I drive through Oh-09 and see the ravages of Congressman Bob "Who?" Latta's rubberstamp GOP policies. It's hellish. His opponent, Angela Zimmann, campaigned on THE most local and personal issues — preventing more jobs from leaving the district.

      But she was outspend and the district map was not in her favor. And people DON'T vote policies that impact them — they vote image and tradition. They probably don't even understand Latta's role in destroying their economy, or how much worse it would have been had the auto bailout not happened (THis is one of Ohio's most auto-industry dependent districts, which Angela made the centerpiece of her campaign).

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:56:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  So what do we do in 2014? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    highacidity

    A House flip in two years ain't gonna happen. But how much of an inroad can we make?  Where does it begin?  

    I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones. (John Cage)

    by dotalbon on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 12:49:59 PM PST

  •  Some people blame recruiting, but I have to say (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madcitysailor

    that without those gnarly gerrymanders, we'd be talking about incoming Speaker Pelosi today.

    The other thing is that we, yet again, underperformed in the Rust Belt. Part of that is the perpetuation of Republican success at the state level in 2010, but we'll have to wait until 2014 to see if there's actually a permanent trend against us there.

    Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.

    by Zutroy on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:02:44 PM PST

    •  Our recruiting in Ohio was top-notch (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence

      We had some strong, strong candidates who busted their asses. The maps were too tough for them. In fair, competitive districts, they could have won.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:57:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In NC (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckstop, highacidity, jfern

    The total votes for congress were:

          GOP                DEM
    1,952,887    2,075,243

    We got three of 13 offices (with one were we are ahead but it is too close to call).

    Knock, knock...who is there? -- One more vote for Obama.

    by NCJim on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:03:32 PM PST

  •  It isn't just redistricting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckstop, RandomNonviolence

    We got a majority by running 50-60 dems that were either corporatist tools or stupak-type economic liberal/social conservatives in the seats now filled by Rs.

    Neither is a very comfortable fit in a party that is succeeding with Elizabeth Warren type populists and gay marriage as a convention plank.

    We need to figure out what kind of candidate fits in the modern Dem party AND can win seats in those reddish-purple gerrymandered seats.

    And then recruit and fund a bunch of them, just as we did with the blue dogs.

    Much as I dislike blue dogs, the worst of them is better than the best R at the moment.  But I think that kind of democrat was a solution in the 90s, and we need a different approach now.

    •  The candidate in my district in Texas ran as a (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence

      "frugal progressive". He was an engineer, and was big on
      wind and other renewable energy.
      He wasn't a corporatist.
      We can find folks who are "frugal" and responsive to their district without being whores to Wall Street.
      Pres. Obama has been trying to make this point: We have to convince the American people that government can be responsive, adroit, adaptive and make the most of their tax dollars.
      Instead of "blue dogs", I think we need "kitchen table" Dems, esp. female.
      At the same time we have to cut off the Romneys from continuing to extract the wealth of America out of the country.
      If we do that, we will win the trust of the American people, and it will be easier to move the country in a progressive direction. This election shows we've made a good start on that. We're going to have to work very hard until the next census, and then we can hopefully have some reform in the redistricting process.
      We are on the cusp of gaining momentum in the recovery, and move forward on clean energy, infrastructure and a broad response to climate change.
      Even without the House this will happen. We just need to hop on the wave and ride it.

      You can't make this stuff up.

      by David54 on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:43:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We figured it out in Ohio (0+ / 0-)

      and i think you are wrong. We cannot win by running watered-down Republicans. We need the type of candidates we had in Ohio — strong, relatable women who focused on bread-and-butter issues and interacted with constituents tirelessly for months. By the way, our comeback Blue Dog lost yesterday too. No one will vote for a Blue Do anymore. They have no constituency.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 02:01:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That was my point (0+ / 0-)

        The majority we had was won with Third Way types.  That was a good call in 2006 and served us well in 2008, a hell of a lot better than being in minority.

        But that (blue) dog doesn't bark anymore.  We need something else.

        We're not going to take a red seat though, with a Nancy Pelosi or an Alan Greyson.   We need a new type of democrat that can appeal to folks in those districts who are turned off by the crazy but don't see a typical Dem as an improvement.

        You may be right about the kind of candidate we need.  But we need to identify it, recruit and support it just like Rahm did with the blue dogs in 2004-2006.

  •  Absolutely (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madcitysailor, RandomNonviolence

    The power of redistricting has perverted our system and shut the door on democracy. Getting rid of it ought to be a major part of the battle for legislative reform that must be a part of the second term agenda.

    "What everyone wants is a job and some hope."--RFK

    by For Dean in Dixie on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:37:56 PM PST

  •  Gerrymandering is a bit of an excuse (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madcitysailor, RandomNonviolence

    The DCCC underperformed the gerrymandering.

    The failure to nationalize GOP obstruction in the House allowed most GOP incumbents a free ride unless they were very very crazy.

    Some of the Dem losses were Blue Dogs who didn't lose two years ago.

    OFA did not coordinate a downticket strategy in the GOTV so a lot of Obama voters failed to vote for the member of Congress or split their ticket.

    The Dark Money that was ineffective in the Presidential campaign found easy pickings in House and legislature campaigns because it went unanswered.

    The geography aside from gerrymandering does not favor Democrats.

    And possibly the strategy of not highlighting the severe GOP obstruction and irresponsible action with the debt taken by the House.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 01:50:28 PM PST

  •  Though it has been said already in other ways: (0+ / 0-)

    The election for the House in 2012 was lost in the election of 2010.  Too many people once excited about Obama got too discouraged that change was not coming quickly and lost their hope.  Angry Rs and Tea Partiers replayed the election of 1994 in a lot of ways (without the loss of the Senate).  The most grevious loss was in control of state legislatures just before the 2010 Census and subsequent redistricting.  

    There is a solution in two steps: 1) increase Dem representation in state legislatures over the next 8 years to put some fear into Republican pols. 2) Use that fear as leverage to require that each state adopt uniform redistricting rules constituting legislative districts as contiguous pre-established governmental units (plain English version - don't split part of a county into separate districts that have other counties in them - no wacky Gerrymandering allowed) with such districts determined by a non-partisan or bipartisan commission rather than the party in control of the state legislature.

    Check out the some of these gerrymandered districts. My favorite is in central Alabama

  •  I'm going to go out on a limb here. (0+ / 0-)

    If we manage to get a wave next election, it's possible to redo redistricting even though we are not in a census year.

    I believe it may be possible to do what Tom Delay did in 2003 and redistrict in a non census year in order to get the districts drawn to be more favorable. However we would need to win both the governor and state house and Senate control at the very least.

  •  2010 isn't the only problem (0+ / 0-)

    I do believe it is the biggest problem.  Here are some thoughts to try to win back the House.

    1) Win more governorships.  Compromise maps in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin would gain as many as 10 seats.

    2)  Compete and win state legislative seats.  Most aren't as safe as Congressional seats.

    3) Watch for population or demographic changes in the House.  As time goes on, some seats can be more winnable as the population changes.

    4)  Make fair remapping a national priority.  The people who draw the maps shouldn't be the same ones whose jobs are impacted by the same maps.

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