CHART: Why The House Is A Fortress Dems Can’t Win

Unbreakable House GOP
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After Republicans expanded their majority in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, giving the party its largest number of seats in the lower chamber since World War II, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd made an observation that probably triggered even more Democratic heartache.

“So this really secures the House Republican majority for the rest of this decade,” Todd said during NBC’s election coverage. “Not until 2022, I think, at the earliest, will you see Democrats have a chance at winning the House.”

A closer look at the numbers shows why the GOP House majority is basically impenetrable until the next redistricting, and maybe beyond. It was never more stark than in 2012, when Democrats received about 500k more votes nationwide than Republicans but still ended up with substantially fewer seats. Some of this is due to an extremely effective gerrymandering effort by Republicans after the 2010 election. But it’s not only that. Democrats are also increasingly concentrated in small geographical areas, which greatly amplifies the effect of gerrymandering and is also a significant and growing issue in itself.

Here, TPM has taken a look at three states that are among the most populous in the country and that figure prominently in presidential elections. Democratic House candidates in Pennsylvania and Michigan won more votes overall in 2012 but in each state the party ended up with fewer seats than the GOP. In Ohio, Republicans garnered more votes overall in 2012 and 2014; in each year, their percentage of seats won was vastly higher than their share of the vote.

Republicans did better in all three states in 2014, but the distribution of House seats remained the same. And this pattern, if not always to the same degree, shows itself in numerous states.

It’s a good illustration on how virtually unwinnable the current House is for Democrats. As currently constituted, the chamber is relatively immune to big swings in popular opinion and voting support.

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  1. Two or three observations. These gerrymandered districts in the House are very similar to what was known as rotten boroughs in the early 19th century United Kingdom. These boroughs would have a population of one or two and yet return a member to Parliament. So that Parliament was weighted greatly in favor of the wealthy and nobility in the UK. We may need to make an effort to reform these districts. Second, the gerrymandering is unconstitutional in that it does not provide equal votes. I am surprised that no one has made an effort to change this. Three, the Senate was supposed to be, in our constitution, the saucer that cools the heat of the cup. The Senate was not supposed to be representative of our political will and in this design, the House is the least representative of our political will. This needs to be fixed.

  2. The entire purpose of gerrymandering is to defeat fairness to the individual voter. Thus, the use of algorithms to restore fairness is quite straightforward. Here, for example, is range voting dot org’s solution using its algorithm:

  3. These districts do not have a population of one or two. It is also a practice that both sides have been guilty of doing for their Party’s benefit. I agree that something needs to be done about the Senate, are you suggesting we go back the Constitution and have Senators be appointed by the State Legislatures instead of direct vote by the people?

  4. “…unwinnable…”

    Democracy’s equivalent of a hypoxic dead zone in the sea. Conservatives call it “Citizens United”. There are other names for one-party rule.

  5. Avatar for k88dad k88dad says:

    The solution is nonpartisan redistricting. I live in the blue state of Michigan that has a overwhelmingly red legislature (at both the state and US levels.) A cursory glance at the chart shows that the legislature is not a representative body for the Michigan electorate.

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