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Partisan Voting Index for US House Seats and % of Seats won by Democrats
Cook Partisan Voting Index for U.S. House seats and percentage of seats won by Democrats
It's amusing to see Sean Trende saying "I blame society," but that's kind of the upshot of his thorough new piece, the latest salvo in the forever-war among political scientists and other elections junkies on the topic of whether gerrymandering is or isn't to blame for the rise in polarization in the nation's body politic. The title is "Gerrymandering isn't to blame for D.C. impasse," but the article is more subtle and even-handed than the headline might suggest.

For starters, Trende acknowledges that gerrymandering is a real factor, and that it helped House Republicans to win more seats than one would expect based on popular vote, as the median district moved further to the right in the latest round of redistricting. However, Trende points out that there may be bigger factors at work, and that they originate with voter behavior, not with the cartographer's pen. For starters, there's the matter of increased geographical self-selection, with likely Democratic voters packing themselves more and more into urban areas; they aren't distributed efficiently, which makes it difficult to draw a Democratic-friendly map.

And perhaps most significantly, there's the problem of the decline in ticket-splitting. No doubt you've noticed how few House Dems are left in districts that Romney won, and vice versa how few GOPers are left in Obama districts, whereas in previous decades it wasn't terribly unusual to find Blue Dogs in red rural districts or (though more rarely) Rockefeller Republicans in blue suburban districts.

Trende demonstrates that gradual change through a variety of interesting tables. The overall number of "Highly Partisan Districts" has increased, while at the same time, the ability of a person from the "wrong" party to get elected in one of the HPDs has dwindled even more dramatically.

Take districts that went for Republican presidential candidates by 20 points more than the national average, for example (so-called "R+20" seats, using the parlance of the Cook Partisan Voting Index): In 1992, 15 percent of those seats were held by Democrats, while today it's only 3 percent. Nine percent of R+15-19 districts were held by Dems in 1992, compared with 2 percent today, while among R+10-14 districts, Dems held 18 percent in 1992 but 2 percent today.

If Democrats were able to win seats across each of these tiers at the same ratio as they did 20 years ago, they would comfortably control the House. Since there are more HPDs that are Republican than Democratic (and because the median seat is now around R+2), you can see how that decline in ticket-splitting hampers Democrats.

More over the fold ...

Data viz whiz Adam Carstens took some of the data from Trende's piece and turned it into a fascinating graph (reproduced above) that brings the disparity into sharp relief, but also may undercut some of Trende's points.  For starters, those Dem declines in dark-red seats stand out less when you see how many fewer dark red seats there were in 1992. The same goes for dark blue seats too, which are also much more numerous today. In 1992, around half of all seats fell in the generally competitive range (D+5 to R+5), while now it's only around one third.

Of course, that only serves to emphasize how important the percentage of seats won by Dems in those swing seats is, and that varies greatly depending on the way the national wind is blowing. After a Dem wave, it's high (like 63 percent after 2008, in the center-most  D+2-3 cluster), after a GOP wave it's very low (28 percent in that same tier after 2010).

Carstens' graph is kind of a Rorschach test for whether or not you're in the "gerrymandering bad" or "gerrymandering meh" camp (or if you're on the fence, like me). On the first few glances at it, it looked to me like a very gradual decline: With each passing cycle, the number of swing seats ticked down slightly.

That would tend to support the "Big Sort" hypothesis, about not just geographical mobility, but also more conformity among those already there: some Americans increasingly joining their neighbors in voting Republican in rural or exurban areas, while others increasingly join their neighbors in suburban and urban areas in voting Democratic. But on the third or fourth pass, I noticed how much the number of medium-red seats (especially in the R+8-9 range) jumped between 2010 and 2012. What happened between those two years? Redistricting, of course.

There's one more related visualization that you should check out, from Drew Linzer. (I'm not sure if it's in response to Trende's piece, but it's certainly on point.) It focuses purely on the shift from 2010 to 2012, and it shows the Republican percentage of each congressional district's vote:

Histograms of the Republican percentage of the congressional district vote, 2010 & 2012
Note how the modal GOP percentage shifted from around 70 percent in 2010, down to around 58 percent in 2012. That's right where most redistricting experts agree the sweet spot is, where you're most efficiently distributing your votes without putting yourself at risk of losing the seat in a wave year. (Think of the new GOP House map in North Carolina, and how almost all of the red seats clocked in around 58 percent Romney—or conversely, how many 58 percent Obama seats there are in the new Illinois map. That was no accident.)

So Linzer's histograms show basically the same thing as the 2010 to 2012 shift in Carstens' map, where the bulge around R+8-9 (in other words, the upper-50 percent range for Romney) grew much fatter. Now, that growth in medium-red districts, in itself, doesn't cause polarization. But connect the dots: Thanks to the decline in ticket-splitting, a district that went 58 percent Republican still had a good shot at electing a Blue Dog in 1992 (or Boll Weevil, since the term "Blue Dog" hadn't been invented at that point), but today, it's very likely to elect only a fire-breathing Republican.

If you see how increasingly sophisticated computer-aided gerrymandering, self-sorting, and declining ticket-splitting all interact and feed on each other, then you're approaching a full-bodied theory on how polarization is increasing.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:14 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My two cents is that gerrymandering (25+ / 0-)

    caused the shutdown only inasmuch as it gave Republicans the House, but not because it created tons of safe seats. When I looked at what the House might look like if every state were drawn by a non-partisan commission, that diary concluded that 1) gerrymandering likely is the sole reason Republicans won the House and 2) that you're still going to have a ton of hardcore Republican districts that make up a majority of their seats. So the problem with Republicans electing tons of firebreathing tea partiers isn't that they made their seats so safe no one need fear a Democrat, it's that Republican primary voters have gotten obscenely conservative over the past two decades and will nominate these sorts of candidates even in marginal seats.

    If you wanted to look at polarization further, you could make a graph of the distribution of counties or states by partisanship and see how that has changed over time and I would imagine that (weighted for population) you would definitely see a move away from the center since the early 1990s.

  •  Out of the hands of the state legislatures (14+ / 0-)

    It's really a pity that more states don't have the problems the Republicans in California had, thinking that jiggering with the electoral process would get them more seats. That's why we have term limits - they thought it would reduce the power of Democratic incumbency. That's why they put open primaries on the ballot, even though that tuned out to be unconstitutional. Finally, that's why we have the independent commission, and the be careful what you wish for scenario that led the people who PUT the commission on the ballot to produce an initiative that got rid of the commission-generated state senate map (which failed).

    If EVERY state had an independent commission doing the redistricting . . .

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:32:58 AM PDT

    •  only if its truly independent (16+ / 0-)

      like California's, and not filled with party-hacks like Washington and New Jersey.

      ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

      by James Allen on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:55:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Seriously (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Allen, redrelic17, MichaelNY

        no one can look at New Jersey's congressional map and say that is truly what an independent commission would do.  Take NJ-05, which goes deep into rural Sussex and Warren Counties, but then extends out to take in parts of urban Bergen County.  Or NJ-12, which sends a narrow finger from Trenton to some deep blue pockets of Union County.  And how NJ-06 so carefully excises the Dem voting towns from Monmouth County.

        Nothing about New Jersey's map is remotely independent.  It was drawn purely with the interests of their incumbents in mind, specifically the GOP incumbents.  The redistricting commission made sure to shore up Rep. Runyan and Lance.

    •  I say take it out of the hands of the people, even (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eikyu Saha

      and put into the realm of longitude and latitude.  Make districts conform to strict latitudinal and longitudinal lines, irrespective of county or geographic concerns.  Straight squares or rectangles.  Capture a cross segment of America in each district, and you will elect centrists, not idealogues.

      Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

      by Keith930 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:04:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not sure how doable it would be (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean, Eikyu Saha

        to do that while staying within state lines and preserving a relatively even distribution of number of voters per representative.  You'd end up capturing a lot of empty space with few voters, and then concentrating everyone in a district that has urban voters.  

        If you're going to take it out of the hands of the people, do it by computer, by population.  You would end up preserving urban and rural districts, and the rural districts would be comparatively huge in terms of area because there isn't any other way to 'counteract' the urban concentration, .  I think it's fair to preserve that distinction.  I'm not sure whether it's a good idea to have 'rich' and 'poor' districts, on the other hand, and to the extent that the income distribution can be evened out, that seems at first blush like a good idea.

        Silence is not an effective reply to propaganda.

        by fleisch on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:19:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think both of these are bad ideas (4+ / 0-)

          districts shouldn't be drawn arbitrarily.

          ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

          by James Allen on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:56:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think that was the point. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Zack from the SFV

            The goal should be to depoliticize the process of drawing boundaries, or, more specifically, to minimize the tendency to stuff one or another party all into a single district.  If it is not "arbitrary" to some extent, it will be "willfully" gerrymandered.

            Japan has responded by constructing a mixed system whereby people can vote based on region, but can also vote based on party affiliation.  That way, minority voices are protected, but an odd form of gerrymandering lingers in that the rural districts retain the same number of representatives despite declining population, while the cities burgeon and thus end up with considerably higher voter-to-representative ratios (meaning less power per voter).  

      •  Not possible (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eikyu Saha

        There is no map that does that and that has equal numbers of people in each district.

        We could try to minimize the difference between actual districts and straight lines. It is complex to figure out how to do that, even if you got agreement that it is a good idea.

      •  Horrible idea (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sapelcovits, James Allen

        Democrats are disproportionately concentrated in cities, so if you just make a bunch of neat rectangles, you are likely to create a tremendous Republican gerrymander, even if it looks neat.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:55:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The sweetheart redistricting between 2000-10 (0+ / 0-)

      had a lot to do with democratic electorate going on along with the plan...

  •  If you're ticket splitting, you're not informed (10+ / 0-)

    Take a look at the important issues of the day and whenever a bill comes up to address them, it's a party line vote.  Only in VERY rare occasions does it make any sense at all to vote for one party in one branch, and another in a different branch.

    The parties are Soooooo different, I would argue ticket splitting is part of the problem.  How in the world can anyone who has the slightest understanding of what's going on, vote for President Obama AND Scott Walker?!

    We need people to pay attention so that ticket splitting goes down, not up.

    •  Barry Goldwater in 1964 (7+ / 0-)

      When he left the polls after voting for himself for President, reporters asked him if he had voted the straight Republican ticket.  Goldwater responded, "No, I split my ticket, I always do."

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:38:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  50 years is a long time in politics (7+ / 0-)

        Back then I could understand it, but since 1980 it's gotten worse, and now, it's down right crazy in (most) circumstances.  Even if you like your Republican house member, he's going to be forced to vote ultra conservative on most important issues.

        •  local RW radio blowhards have a lot to do with (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean

          that growth in extremism.

          people keep going back that far but the last 25 years has really been a disaster- that's when reagan killed the fairness doctrine and the right started buying up the loudest biggest soapbox in US media history.

          rove used talk radio to take lee atwater style of politics  national and helped create the alternate reality and polarization. local GOP is tied into those major radio stations and can heavily influence politics in rural low density states- what is and isn't acceptable. rove wanted corrupt and blackmailable loons and sycophants and all they had to do to advance past the moderates was repeat the talk radio talking points to the talk radio party base.

          and keeping members in line is easy when the local carnival barkers start yelling traitor! so now we have the tea party, which should more appropriately be called the talk radio or Limbaugh party.

          This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

          by certainot on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:30:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The Rightwing Revolution of Today Started Around (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp, MichaelNY

        the day after that quote. It's a very different nation today.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 12:51:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's hilarious for a Republican presidential (0+ / 0-)

        candidate to say.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:56:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Obama-Walker is easy to understand (5+ / 0-)

      You want something nationally but want something different locally.  Not an unreasonable idea.

      What doesn't make as much sense is voting for a Dem president and GOP rep/senator.  That doesn't happen much anymore, and some people who do that do it specifically to encourage gridlock.  They don't trust either party, so they split control specifically to ensure not much happens.

      Mr. Gorbachev, establish an Electoral College!

      by tommypaine on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:42:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Obama/Walker quite easily rationalized (12+ / 0-)

      There's a substantial crossover vote in Wisconsin motivated by a "goo-goo" -- good government -- tendency.  It's how William Proxmire was such a fixture for so long; it's how Russ Feingold took out Bob Kasten when no-one gave him a chance.  I don't think this came into play at all in 2010; what happened then was that both the goo-goos and the hardcore Dems stayed at home and we got a putrid package deal of Walker and Johnson.

      But in the recall and 2012, we really see the goo-goo tendency; voters who lean Democrat but nonetheless buy into the GOP efficiency rhetoric, in this case, Walker's assertion that the public sector is feather-bedded and wasteful and his determination to invoke everyone up to and including FDR in his attack on public sector collective bargaining rights.  This is a key development, and something that I can't think of any other Republican having this successfully pulled off in state and national politics.  But at lower levels of government you see a lot of voter discontent/envy/misinformation with regard to public sector benefits and how they've more or less remained the same while the private sector has been 401k'd.  

      I see this being a potential problem for as long as private sector wages and benefits remain so depressed and so unequally distributed.  Democrats need to find a way of changing the game from fairness achieved through wrecking the public sector to private sector standards, to fairness achieved through a general lessening of inequality and an improvement of the private sector to public sector standards — while also pointing out that the public sector involves putting up with reduced pay in return for better benefits.  Lucky that the Tea Party is self-destructively making it easier for the Dems, but Ted Cruz is not the only problem; we've got the whole Third Way and Pete Peterson crowd to deal with too and that's a tougher nut to crack because it includes misguided but highly sane and rational people.

      •  That was then, this is now. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fleisch

        You argue that some Dems and many Indies bought into the walker lies.  I agree, and that's precisely my point, they are uninformed or misinformed.  It was wrong for their own personal interests to split their ticket by voting for Walker and then Obama.

        In most cases, ticket splitting by a voter today, not 20 years ago, is a sign of an uninformed voter.  

        •  Nice assertion but still no evidence of that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          On the other hand there is mounds of evidence that 1) some people like gridlock, 2) some people think both parties are two extreme.

          Ticket splitters are not uninformed about the parties.  They are unimpressed by the parties.

          Mr. Gorbachev, establish an Electoral College!

          by tommypaine on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:15:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think this is precisely the explanation for (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, frenchconnection

            some ticket splitting.

            On the other hand there is mounds of evidence that 1) some people like gridlock, 2) some people think both parties are too extreme.
            I'll go by my own example.  Why does Mary Landrieu get re-elected in a state that is really, really red? Because she's definitely a moderate, especially when it comes to her support for the oil and gas industry, and because she's often had the good fortune to run against a right-wing extremist -- Woody Jenkins, for example.  I know Republicans (the pro-business types rather than the fundamental religious types) for whom the decision to vote for Mary over Jenkins was easy - despite the fact that they were huge Reagan supporters and voted Republican in every Presidential campaign since Nixon.  I think there are a lot of "middle-of-the-road" types who will vote for a moderate from either party over a left-wing or right-wing extremist.  I know a lot of people who don't want one party to get control of both Houses of Congress and the presidency, because they perceive that as an opportunity for the extremists in that party to take over, and they prefer that both sides have to compromise.  

            I think that sometimes some at this site surround themselves with those who believe as they do and therefore lose site of the fact that there are many people out there who would vote for an Evan Bayh or a Mary Landrieu or a Mark Pryor, or on the other side, an Olympia Snowe or a Lamar Alexander or a Charles Grassley, who would never vote for an Alan Grayson or a Bernie Sanders, or a Michele Bachmann or a Joe Barton.  

          •  I think its both (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            or either. I think there are a small number of people who are unimpressed, as you say, but I think most of the dissenters are not in the middle, but on the extremes, and so may be unimpressed by the Dems as a left-wing party, but think the Republicans are not even an option, or the reverse.

            There are also people who just don't have well-developed ideologies, mainly because they're on the low end of the average Americans who give little thought to politics anyway, and they really don't care enough to watch the news or read a political story more than once every few months.

            I think there's a lot of crossover between the two groups. Not the people on the extremes, though, because they generally pay a lot of attention. Generally filtered through niche sources, though, not mainstream media.

            ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

            by James Allen on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 02:46:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  But the data=ticket splitting DOWN significantly, (0+ / 0-)

              primarily imo b/c of nationalization of off-year elections and that primarily by Thugs (Gingrich, the Movement, T-liban, tho also by Ds in 2006).  Presidential election years tend to be nationalized by definition, and non-heavily gerrymandered states tend to produce results by CD close to their results for president.

              So, the discussion about the pro-s and con-s of ticket splitting, while interesting, is off the mark.

    •  Character. (6+ / 0-)

      It matters -- and I don't consider being a Republican to be an ipso facto indication of bad character. If you ask me to choose between a blatantly corrupt Democrat and an honest, at least somewhat moderate Republican, I'll either vote Republican, cast a write-in vote or sit that race out.

      We do ourselves no favors by enabling crooks and hacks in our own party. That's how we got Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris in Illinois.

      "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is the first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk. Every state is totalitarian at heart; there are no ends to the cruelty it will go to to protect itself." -- Ian McDonald

      by Geenius at Wrok on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:57:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  splitting sometimes makes sense for local offices (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      La Gitane, Calamity Jean, MichaelNY

      Living in a deep red state with a weak Democratic Party means that some really weak candidates sign up to run for some of the lower offices.

      I can recall Dem local/ state candidates who were completely lacking in relevant experience or plainly incompetent. Like the guy running for treasurer? auditor? with zero experience in accounting or finance.

       This can even happen for Congressional races here. The most depressing was one of the races for US Congress some years ago, thankfully not my district. At a "meet the candidates" forum I attended, the Dem candidate appeared to be either drunk, heavily medicated, or otherwise mentally unfit. It was stunningly awful. The Republican was pretty vile, and the most reasonable person running was actually the libertarian (and I generally think libertarians are nuts). I mean, really? Sure, it was a district that even a quality Dem candidate would never crack, but c'mon, do we really need to give the other side ammunition for saying Democrats are idiots? That's just embarrassing. Running such a bad candidate does our side no favors.

      All of which means that I research all the candidates and the Dem candidates don't automatically get all my votes.

  •  My parents are registered Democrats. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    They always have been.

    But they almost always vote for a conservative position or person.

    My mom says she "votes for the person and not a party."

    :) the above thoughts come from a crazy mind. ;)

    by Shreve on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:41:21 AM PDT

  •  I'm a ticket splitter from way back (6+ / 0-)

    I have been registered non party since 1972. I voted for George McGovern that year. When I lived in Vermont I voted for republicans and democrats. Now, I live in northwest Arizona and I vote straight democrat while still registering non party. Whoever wins the republican primary here in local elections is usually the winner although democrats do have a statewide presence in Arizona.

    I use my vote to send a message to the local republican clowns that there is a democratic presence in northwest Arizona.

    Recently, quite by accident I became aquainted with some tea baggers through a sportsmans group. Instead of engaging in reasonable debate and tolerating other viewpoints they attenpted to convert me. Big mistake. They used bullying tactics and tried to get me to accept their crazy conspiracy theories they heard on Glenn Beck. Now I keep them at arms length.

    Knowledge is Power. Ignorance is not bliss, it is suffering. If you like hypocrite Obama, you'll love hypocrite Hillary.

    by harris stein on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:43:05 AM PDT

  •  Electing Dems means nothing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Em, fleisch

    in and of itself. Just electing Dems and not Dems with progressive politics, while the right has purged their party's liberals and moderates has moved todays politics light years to the right of Nixon and Reagan. The mere fact that a Dem gets elected instead of a Republican in itself means next to nothing. Until there is a coherent left that imposes its will on the party we will keep moving to the right. We are now celebrating that we won against shutting down the government. What we won was the Paul Ryan budget that lost in a popular plebiscite 2 years ago and we now have Obama and Durbin trying yet again to cut Social Security because they actually are right of Reagan themselves.

  •  Number and age of voters might figure in to the (4+ / 0-)

    equation.  Neighborhoods change over time.

    Only gun owners can control their guns and they say oopsie way too much. I lost it, I forgot it, it just went off. Support Gun Kill Speed Limits and Gun Ownership Speed Limits.

    by 88kathy on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:51:50 AM PDT

  •  Is undervoting an issue too? (6+ / 0-)

    I've noticed that in some races that what appears to be crossover vote, is really more an issue of undervote.

    27, Male, CA-26, DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

    by DrPhillips on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:54:01 AM PDT

  •  mono-polarization -- rightward pull (6+ / 0-)

    R's have drifted right for a long time, while D's have treaded water, more or less. This doesn't mean polarization is less than posited above, just that we need mainly look for reasons for an increasing rightward turn of R's.

    A few hypotheses, for consideration:

    1) reactions, starting in the 1980's, to the increased voting rights and equal-er opportunity resulting from the movements of the 1960's (blacks) & 1970's (women),

    2) the rise of right-wing media (e.g., Limbaugh on radio and Fox on TV),

    3) increasing money in politics, thus steering all players to the right, toward moneyed plutocratic interests, and

    4) increasing income inequality along with a weakening of union representation.

    These and more, along with the factors noted in the post, e.g., residential self-sorting, gerrymandering -- all have contributed to polarization -- with some key factors pressuring mostly the right-side pole.

  •  I've voted for a Republican... (5+ / 0-)

    twice in my life. Once was youthful stupidity (S.I. Hayakawa for Senate) and the other because I felt the Democratic nominee for Insurance commissioner was too much in the bag with the insurance carriers, believe it or not.  

    I think the whole "vote for the person and not the party" thing is really pretty silly especially for the House or Senate. That's saying you voted for John Glenn or Harrison Schmitt because they were cool astronauts instead of looking at specific policy ramifications. Especially now, it's foolish for anyone with any shred of progressive instincts to EVER vote for Republicans, because they ALWAYS vote in a block. That includes bullshit "moderates" like Susan Collins or Mark Kirk.  Last I checked these two "moderates" were still against the ACA.

    As for Trende and the RCP website in general, Meh. Trende has the bad habit of drifting into villager speak or "conventional wisdom" which is usually off base. I haven't looked at RCP in a while but if they are still pulling the false equivalency of linking to oligarch funded crazy like Clownhall.com or WorldNutsDaily to counter anything from ThinkProgress or Kos, then they still aren't worth reading. RCP under the guise of being "balanced", just mainstreams the crazy.

  •  If a dem won the seat then how is it republican? (0+ / 0-)

    I'm from Europe. I don't understand a lot of things about US politics, but this makes no sense to me.

    If a district was won by the democrats then how can it be counted as an R +7 district? Is it that the partisanship is based on the presidential vote and this chart is comparing the presidential and the congressional vote? If so then which presidential vote is it based on?

    These charts really needs some 'splainin.

  •  Gerrymandering doesn't account for the extremism.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wasatch, certainot

    Gerrymandering creates safe districts for one party or another. Period.

    It doesn't require that candidates in that party's Primary be rabid, racist, anti-women, climate change deniers and shut-down-the-house types. The old school Repukes (moderate, cooperative) lack wingnut sex appeal and won't inflame Baggers with Gadsen flags marching behind Sarah Palin.

    •  Indeed, to a certain extent, the extremism ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Radhika

      ... amplifies the gerrymanders ... the extremely aggressive gerrymander resulting in quite insane district boundaries are rationalized and legitimized in the Ohio Republican Party by the extremist views of many Republicans, from which position anything done to deny the "dangerous to America" Democrats any opportunity to convert electoral majorities into representation is a good thing.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:59:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not necessarily. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, abgin, PrahaPartizan, Radhika
      Gerrymandering creates safe districts for one party or another.
      There's two kinds of gerrymandering.  One is intended to create some safe seats for both parties, and few or no "swing" districts.  

      The other kind of gerrymandering is intended to give one party the largest number of legislative seats possible.  This form of gerrymandering spreads out reliable Party A voters, giving it a lot of districts that it wins by relatively small margins.  Party B gets a small number of districts, but wins them by enormous margins.  The legislature is dominated by Party A, but at the next election if they have annoyed enough people and Party B can get enough people who don't normally vote to come out, the district can flip and elect the candidate from Party B.  In this second type of gerrymandering, all of the districts held by Party A are potentially swing districts.  

      It's this second type that was done in many Republican-dominated states in 2010.  As the decade wears on and the Republicans get nuttier and demographic change happens, many districts now held by Republicans could change to Democratic representation, either in 2014 or in 2016.  

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

      by Calamity Jean on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:56:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  District Population Ratios Differ Too (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Radhika

        The Congressional districts can also contain different populations, so long as the don't differ to much from the average for the state.  So, if a Republican controlled state legislature packs the Democratic CDs to the max of the range with reliable Democrats, then that means the ratio of Democrats left for those gerrymandered districts declines.  So long as the CDs remain within the allowable band, the redistricting effort can proceed.  As you point out, though, it does make some of those newly gerrymandered districts potentially fragile in a hostile environment, particularly if they're populated with a number of pissed off independent voters.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:36:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think self selection is over rated (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Naniboujou, James Allen, MichaelNY

    There is nothing that prevents a district being drawn that INCLUDES urban, suburban, and rural areas in the same district. In fact gerrymandering will often do this, but make sure to include an overwhelming amount of one of these types or areas (look at maps of Ohio and you'll see it). The self selection hypothesis seems to pretend that district lines have to be drawn nice and neat.

    The self selection hypothesis also underrates the existence of independent/moderate voters, there is nothing that prevents a district being drawn to maximize the number of them!  

    I'm firmly in the camp that believes that gerrymandering is more important than self sorting (even though it is a force).

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)! Follow on Twitter @dopper0189

    by dopper0189 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 12:11:16 PM PDT

  •  Self selection isn't the cause (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Naniboujou, fleisch
    However, Trende points out that there may be bigger factors at work, and that they originate with voter behavior, not with the cartographer's pen. For starters, there's the matter of increased geographical self-selection, with likely Democratic voters packing themselves more and more into urban areas; they aren't distributed efficiently, which makes it difficult to draw a Democratic-friendly map.
    That has been reported on a lot - however, if that were the root cause of the changes in distribution in heavily partisan districts, you would expect to see a constant shift in PVI in a given district in non-redistricting elections. When you look at the trends over time, those shifts are present but very small compared to the changes that occur in redistricting years.

    Those who ignore the future are condemned to repeat it.

    by enigmamf on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 12:22:13 PM PDT

  •  Then our "democratic system" is... (0+ / 0-)

    more flawed than any parliamentarian government in the world.

    Sure, we have a president elected separately from "representatives" or "ministers", eh? But with the winner take all, there is NO power in coming in 2nd.

    To me, this means trouble in the future if the GOPers can continue to make more efficient their means of gaining and keeping power.

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Randian Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of West Dakota!"

    by unclebucky on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 12:36:54 PM PDT

  •  My Cure for Congressional Dysfunction (4+ / 0-)

    1) Eliminate geographical districts. Replace them with virtual districts, to one of which each voter is assigned at registration. This allows the voting population of each state to be divided evenly and efficiently, and does away with gerrymandering entirely. Selection can be made by random number generator.

    2) Candidates may only raise or accept money from registered voters in their district. No "corporations are people too" election rigging. No outside money coming in.

    3) Tie each Representatives pay to the median income of the district they represent. Want a pay increase Congressman? Work to raise the pay of your constituents.

    4) Make it a felony for members of Congress to accept speaking fees, honoraria or other forms of compensation. We already pay them amply to talk. Apply "insider trading" rules to members so they may not benefit personally by stock, bond or commodities trading based on information they have as a result of being in government.

    •  I like this one (0+ / 0-)

      Some ideas in there that are new to me.

      Silence is not an effective reply to propaganda.

      by fleisch on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:30:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I like these (0+ / 0-)

      but I'm not sure I understand #1.  At some point they have to be geographical, because local issues are important.

      But I LOVE #2 & 3....  I don't see how conservatives could be against that.  But you know, you can never underestimate the stoopid....

      "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

      by La Gitane on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:33:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Unfortunately (4+ / 0-)

      getting rid of geographic districts would probably elminate 90% of the racial minorities in Congress.  Compare the racial diversity in the Senate to the House.  States like Georgia (31% Black) would probably send zero African-Americans to Congress, rather than the current four.  You would probably get a delegation comprised entirely of Repubicans.

      Sure we would eliminate all the Republicans from New York, California, and Illinois under such a system.  But we'd also lose all the Democrats from Texas, including a good chunk of the Latino caucus.

      I don't think that would be a helpful development.

      •  Exactly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, Skaje

        Congressional districts are a sufficiently large number of people that if you assembled them randomly you would end up with each one pretty closely resembling the statewide population as a whole in terms of demographics (racial breakdown, partisan breakdown, etc.)  For example, you would end up with every single Rep from NY representing a "district" that's about 65% white, 58% Dems, and 43% from NYC.  

  •  Both parties are less diverse than they were (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, LordMike

    It is no surprise that ticket-splitting has declined.

    A few decades ago, both parties substantially overlapped each other in terms of policy issues, class, age brackets, gender, ethnicity and geography - in no small part because of the Southern white voting majority's attachment to the Democratic Party.  For example, wealthy Northerners could be categorized as business-oriented Republicans or "patrician" Democrats. A significant percentage of African Americans remained loyal to the party of Lincoln.

    From the 1960's onward, the Republican decision to adopt consistently conservative positions and pursue the Southern white vote resulted in a realignment of both parties so that today they are each ideologically more uniform and demographically they are more distinct from each other. The gender gap is one obvious result.

    Ticket-splitting was possible when voters found like-minded and appealing candidates in both parties. For example, Senators Javits in New York and Lodge and Brooke in Massachusetts appealed to voters who generally favored Democrats. Even today, Montana has two Democrats in the Senate.

    The diary assumes that electing Blue Dogs to the House of Representatives is a good thing. I tend to agree, if it results in the election of a Democratic Speaker. But realistically, we can't expect those members of Congress to vote with the rest of the party on a consistent basis, and in any case their numbers have declined. Ideological outliers in both parties have either been defeated or switched parties. We Democrats, and even more emphatically the Republicans, do not have as big a tent as they once had when ticket-splitting was more common.

    •  We Don't Have a Big Tent? I'm Trying to Figure How (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      We've got more ethnic diversity than the Republicans and I think also age diversity. We're a 70's conservative party that also includes liberals; we contain practically the entire non-crazy political spectrum.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:01:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps s/he means (0+ / 0-)

        we don't have a big tent as far as Representatives.  We have a wide spectrum of voters, but a narrow spectrum of ideas actually represented, so less reason to split your ticket.  If not, then I agree.  Our tent is huge.  Probably even big enough to have some crazies of our own.

        Silence is not an effective reply to propaganda.

        by fleisch on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:38:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  We are diverse and we do have a big tent but ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fearlessfred14, MichaelNY

        ... we don't, for example, have many of the Southern white racists who were once a major wing of the party.

        The decline in the overlap between the two parties is mostly the result of what the Republicans have done rather than any effort by Democrats to exclude anyone. Perhaps the center of gravity in the Democratic Party hasn't moved much to the left because "moderate" suburbanites increasingly vote Democratic, but the party is more cohesive without the reactionary extreme.

  •  GOPers DO NOT split tickets, and they DO vote... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    I recall a local election about 6 years ago an interview with the local GOP head...he stated very frankly that the Democrats tend to vote for individuals rather than the straight party line...Dems split tickets, Republicans DO NOT...and Democrats are far more likely to sit out mid term and local elections than GOPers.
    Republicans LOVE to have their extremists on school boards and in elected office in your town and county..they have much more control over your life at that level than even the Federal government..

    We MUST register and we MUST vote!

    Anger management class really pissed me off.

    by old mark on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:29:08 PM PDT

  •  Our culture is undergoing major shifts, rather (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, MichaelNY

    quickly.  That kind of change creates polarization.  Established forms always resist and fear change, and the more clear the change the higher the resistance.   The changes always occur, no matter how hard the pushback is.  It's ugly to be around at the height of the battle, which is where we are now IMO.  

    Consider the timelines for GLBT rights- marriage was a couple of decades off, at the earliest.  A black President wins twice. A woman will be next.  I didn't expect to be young enough to celebrate those things!

    I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

    by I love OCD on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:36:05 PM PDT

  •  This diary and the comments (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, JGibson

    are really interesting - lots to think about that I haven't before.

    My $.02:

    I think the onslaught of right-wing extremism comes from the success of the dems in the '90s.  The economy thrived, the GOP dream of the permanent majority withered, impeachment of President Clinton not only failed but increased the popularity of the democrats, and the Democratic Party started encroaching on conservative turf like it never had before.

    The GOP was losing; all they had left was defense and their crazy ass social issues.  So, what happened?  They turned up the volume on Fox and RW radio, they rigged the 2000 election, and then there was 9/11.

    You had a president who brazenly used inflammatory language against Islam and Muslims, which in turn stoked smoldering fires of racism and made it okay to be open about it.  At first, yes, it was more focused on middle easterners.  But once Obama ran for President, all shades of brown ran together.  After eight years of it being not only okay to be openly racist but actually beneficial to GOP candidates, all it took was a black man to win the White House.

    Then all hell breaks loose.  I tell you that the number one underlying reason for right wing extremism in this country today is because of that black man in the White House.  It's the Southern Strategy all over again, only today it should be called the Rural Strategy.

    Those people are literally scared to death that gay and brown people are taking over their country; Fox, RW radio and blogs only gin up more fear and hatred until they are insane with fear.  And sure, there are more "moderate" Republicans who will deny up and down that they are racist, but in quiet rooms they will still complain that those lazy black/brown people are stealing everything we've ever worked for and they don't deserve any help at all.

    That's what I think.  I have seen otherwise very even keel people say the most fucked up things regarding minorities and it makes me sick to my stomach.  We have a lot of people to thank for that, but the number one that I blame is George W. Bush for being the leader, the first one to make it "okay" to be openly racist, instead of being a true leader and being the voice of reason.  McCain tried once, and look what happened to him.  But W was president for eight years - he could have made a difference and he didn't.  He was a coward.

    Wow....  this diary really did make me think :)  Thanks for reading if you got this far!  ;)

    "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

    by La Gitane on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:55:51 PM PDT

  •  Do we want blue dogs? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Or do we want permanent minority status? There are 241 Republican-leaning districts. That is a problem!

    •  Blue Dogs are not the only alternative. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, birdboy2000, MichaelNY

      A strongly anti-corporate populist Democrat would be in a position to win in the Ohio River Valley district in Ohio, for instance, while a generic urban Democrat would not be able to pull it off.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:53:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But they won't be with us on every issue (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, sapelcovits

        We could elect someone there who was rock-solid on economic issues, but we definitely couldn't count on their vote on anything social or environmental. They'd be a lot more like Sen. Manchin than Sen. Warren.

        Male, 23, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02. "You're damn right we're making a difference!" - Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin)

        by fearlessfred14 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:20:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Those dark blue seats are where most of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    our heroes in the House come from.

    Although it's not perfect, there is a strong correlation between the progressivism of a Democrat in the House and the % won by Obama (and also the % won by the member).

    One of the big exceptions is Grijalva, who does a great job in the House from a district that is swing-y nationally.

  •  i never split my ticket (3+ / 0-)

    i vote blue exclusively.

  •  GOP demise is similar to the end of the Whigs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, Zack from the SFV

    Party was divided between the Republicans and the American Party( aka the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic Know-Nothings) after the collapse of compromise politics such as the Compromise of 1850.

    "I know nothing but my country, my whole country and nothing but my country."

  •  Additional wrinkle increasing gerrym impact: state (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    distribution of CDs.  I.e., in swingy, and often blue-y, states like PA, MI, WI, OH, VA, NC, gerrymandering renders a disproportionate Thug advantage in the delegation, roughly 2 to 1 in many.  That accounts for much, if not all, of the Thug House majority - which after all is only 14 or so seats.

    This seems especially noteable as the difference in the popular vote for the House was only 1-2%.  Of course, that closeness may itself be a product of sorting as D turnout might have been even higher with more D-winnable seats - tho not likely much in a presidential year.

  •  Also worth reading... (0+ / 0-)

    is what David Weigel wrote about gerrymandering, specifically looking at how the GOP obliterated the Democrats in North Carolina with their gerrymander, despite what some denialists are saying.

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