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Yesterday I had a long drive back to my home in PA after spending about a month in Massachusetts where my organization was doing work on behalf of the Warren campaign. It was a five-state (all blue!), five-hundred+ mile journey, so I had a lot of time to think. And the one question I couldn't get out of my head was this:

If Barack Obama won a decisive electoral college victory AND the popular vote AND Democrats picked up several important Senate seats (winning all but one of the "close" elections in the Senate) and there was great turnout in Democratic districts across the board--then how the hell did the GOP keep a nearly forty vote margin in the House?

Now, I know there are split tickets and the like (something we were working hard to keep down in MA, as when I got there quite a few voters identified as Obama-Brown), but how many people vote Democratic for president, Democratic for the Senate, and then vote GOP for the House? Is that what happened? I was itching to get home and look at the results of the House races. What the hell had happened?

It turns out that Democrats actually received more votes for the House of Representatives than Republicans did.

That bears repeating:

Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives earned MORE votes than Republican candidates did.

So split tickets aren't a likely reason for the GOP keeping solid control of that body. What's the other possible explanation?

Gerrymandering.

Now, distraught already did a great job of analyzing the gerrymandering results in PA, OH and VA and showed just how skewed they are compared to a state like IA that has districts drawn by a non-partisan commission. Please follow the gerrymandering link for that. But I do want to say a few things about why I think this is a very important topic for discussion.

First, it counters GOP claims that there was no "mandate" in this election. Democrats got more votes for president, senate and house. All three. To deny it and work to block the Democratic agenda is a sign the GOP still believes it can alter the rules of the game to win elections and doesn't have to adapt to a changing electorate.

Second, it shows the HUGE importance of midterms and just how costly it was for disillusioned progressives to sit out the 2010 midterms. Sure, maybe you were disappointed with the president and the Congress. Sure, maybe you wanted a public option (like I did) or a single-payer system for healthcare and not what we got in the Affordable Care Act (like I also did but felt was highly unlikely to happen). If you really wanted to register your protest, you could have left Congressional races blank. But in not showing up at all, we allowed the GOP to win big majorities in state legislatures it had no business winning. Here in PA, a blue state, we got a Republican governor, state house, state senate, and US Senator in that election. And boy did we feel the effect last night.

Third, local elections are just as important and have huge impacts on national ones and you CAN gerrymander election victories. Pennsylvania, my home state, is just the most disgusting evidence for this. In a state where Democratic House candidates out performed their GOP opponents by a 50-48 margin as a whole, the GOP still managed to win 72% of the House seats! That's 13 of 18 House districts going red in a blue state!

Fourth, gerrymandered districts further help conservative candidates these days because of the influence of money. I feel the best evidence of this is in PA-12, where Keith Rothfuss, who no one here in western PA had ever even heard of before, narrowly defeated Mark Critz by a 52-48 margin in a redrawn district. Before I left for MA, Pittsburgh TV was full of anti-Critz ads (though the city of Pittsburgh was not a part of the district) like this one calling a bobble-head Critz "Obama's Yes Man."

In the end, the PA-12 race, in a rust belt district with seriously distressed economic areas like Johnstown, Aliquippa and Ambridge became the third most expensive House race in the country. And while labor and its allies fought back bravely, you just can't compete with high quality (in terms of production value) ads going day and night and even during Steeler games. (I have to imagine that's about the priciest ad buy in the western PA market)

And the GOP could focus almost all of its efforts into this one race because it was the only truly close contest. Sure, Dems could too, but we all know who has the money advantage.

Finally, it shows that political activism cannot end after a presidential election. We have real work to do over the next four years. We need to keep the pressure on the Democrats who did win to stick to their principles. We need to let GOP winners know we are going to hold THEM accountable for what they do. We need to show up at midterms. We need to stay active. We can't let laziness or disappointment--and there WILL be disappointment with a GOP controlled House, you can bet on it--keep us from the midterms in 2014. And we should be thinking NOW about local and state elections in 2020 when a new census is taken and new districts will be drawn again.

I would also like to see real reform in how districts are drawn, but that is perhaps a pipe dream for now. But it CAN happen with voters who are AWARE of the problem and ACTIVE in pushing their representatives to do something about it.

Originally posted to greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:09 AM PST.

Also republished by The Royal Manticoran Rangers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This bears shouting from the rooftops. nt (11+ / 0-)

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:12:09 AM PST

  •  The house majority that isn't (8+ / 0-)

    This bears repeating. Particularly when Boehner uses the retention of the House to justify his continued obstruction and sabotage.

    If an asteroid was hurtling toward Earth, Republicans would refuse to consider any plan that didn't start with tax breaks for the rich.

    by Brix on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:14:46 AM PST

  •  This makes me wonder if its is a civil rights case (6+ / 0-)

    Making legislative decisions designed to suppress the power of the vote in largely minority communities - seems like an interesting Supreme Court case.

    Howard Dean will always be my president.

    by 4democracy on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:17:49 AM PST

    •  Anyone with legal knowledge... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mannie, Lujane

      ...have an opinion on this? I think it's worth considering. Though the protections the voting rights act, I think only apply to states that were part of the Confederacy or had a long history of vote suppression. So PA and OH would be unaffected by those (in terms of what the Justice Dept could do, for instance)

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:23:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some comments from an earlier discussion (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane

        Disclaimer: If the above comment can possibly be construed as snark, it probably is.

        by grubber on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:28:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Note the quasi ghetto Philly seats (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grubber, Roger Fox

          Both PA-01 and PA-02 are big city districts, with 50%+ minority majorities.

          So 226,000 Democrats to 40,000 Repubs in one and 303,000 to 32,000 in the other. One with a white Representative, the other with a black.

          Take 50,000 or 100,000 voters out of each district and add them to any one or two or three suburban districts and those might become competitive. And in turn, move 50,000 or even 100,000 suburban voters into each big city district.

          The nay-sayers in the thread you link to suggest that no minority persons would ever be elected except in districts that are more than two-thirds minority. To me it seems almost racist to think that in most states a black could not get elected in a district that was barely 50% minority.

          Over and over again blacks won big city mayorships for the first time with 90% of the black vote and 15% or 20% of the much larger white vote, and that was 30 years ago. There are still plenty of bigoted white voters, but surely fewer of them than a generation ago.

          But for now, we segregate most black voters into ghettoized districts that are overwhelmingly black, and thereby deny them the right to help chose more than one Representative, instead of from several districts that are more inclusive and more like the demographic make-up of the state or nation.

  •  For the second time in the last 10 years, (7+ / 0-)

    gerrymandering reform went down big when the Republicans and their newspapers did a big advertising campaign calling Ohio Issue 2, an Amendment, a big bureaucratic boondoggle.

    As the diarist shows, in neighboring Pennsylvania, the current system of drawing political boundaries is the worst of all possible solutions, it isolates minority representation, reduces minority power in the legislature, and absolutely no process drawing the lines could possibly be worse than the situation we have in both Pennsylvania and Ohio, not to mention nearly every other state that has more than one representative.

    Republicans are like alligators. All mouth and no ears.

    by Ohiodem1 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:19:58 AM PST

    •  Distraught had OH breakdown (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mannie, Ohiodem1, Lujane

      in the link I provided. Almost as bad over there, but I do think the GOP had a narrow margin of victory in the "popular vote". But still won way more house seats than was even remotely reasonable given how close the overall vote totals were.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:24:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was hoping "Gerrymandering" would be your (7+ / 0-)

    concise one-word answer, and sure enough.  THANK YOU.

    It is an obscene mockery of our democratic process, the extremes to which the GOP in some areas has taken 'redistricting.'  

    Here is a wonderfully tight diagram that explains it.

    •  And here are two egregious examples (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lujane

      Not sure if these are both Republican examples (I think so), but -- goose, gander, etc: it's bad no matter which party does it.

      •  One of each (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Torta

        The first one, in IL, I believe is a Democratic gerrymander. The second one is GOP.

        To be clear, I think gerrymandering, in general, is a non-partisan problem. Both parties do it, and depending on state constitutions it can be anything from a minor annoyance to a HUGE problem. We should have non-partisan or bi-partisan committees to draw districts, or better yet a computer program agreed upon by a bipartisan committee. Anything would be better than the current system.

        The problem is not just rigging electoral victories and defeats. It also distorts the whole idea of REPRESENTATION. In the new PA-12, for example, the district runs more than a hundred miles from northwest to south east ends of it. No one could adequately represent such a geographically, economically and politically broad a group as that.

        "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

        by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:39:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, we gotchyer Republican example right here (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greywolfe359, Woody, Torta, dewtx

        in Texas!

        See this map:

        http://images.search.yahoo.com/...

        I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

        by tom 47 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 12:10:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You're welcome (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Torta, Lujane, Woody

      This is one form of voter suppression that has gotten way less attention than the Voter ID law here, which was thankfully put on hold--though just for this election.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:29:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Current numbers (5+ / 0-)

    Dems 55,167,192
    Reps 54,484,537

    Disclaimer: If the above comment can possibly be construed as snark, it probably is.

    by grubber on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:22:29 AM PST

  •  Republican control of the House is going to be (5+ / 0-)

    such a royal pain in the ass we are going to regret that we didn't get better organized over the last decade to prevent this Gerrymandered.

    I agree with your money quote here:

    Finally, it shows that political activism cannot end after a presidential election. We have real work to do over the next four years. We need to keep the pressure on the Democrats who did win to stick to their principles. We need to let GOP winners know we are going to hold THEM accountable for what they do. We need to show up at midterms. We need to stay active. We can't let laziness or disappointment--and there WILL be disappointment with a GOP controlled House, you can bet on it--keep us from the midterms in 2014. And we should be thinking NOW about local and state elections in 2020 when a new census is taken and new districts will be drawn again.
    While we did a fantastic job with our superior GOTV and grass-root organizing, interviews with the billionaire Super-Pac funders show they've noticed this and are promising to put their money now into copying Democratic strength and fund "grass-roots organizing."

    Anyone want to explain to them that "grass-roots" means the opposite of top-down hierarchically funded and controlled hit groups, which are more properly called "astroturfing."  Looks like grass but is fake.

    But. we need to learn from past Republicans victories as well, such as this Gerrymandering, which like current voter suppression,  and ALEC, was driven in part by a vast network of full-time paid Republican political operatives writing model legislation, and working full-time day-by-day to implement their agenda.

    Yes, we have a much stronger, and more powerful networks of real-life grass-roots volunteers but we need to do more to uumph up our power for the next round of battles, and undue the current districting, voter-suppression, ALEC, union-busting, all all the other right-wing shenanigans.

    New technologies may give us hope and potential.  I've read accounts of the new voter management software OFA used this year, and the contrasts with the disaster and chaos of Team Romney's software.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:25:02 AM PST

    •  Thanks for the thoughts (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lujane, HoundDog, highacidity

      Some good analysis there, and we need to stay active and alert on all of these fronts. And we cannot get disillusioned as easily as we did in 2009-2010. That was really the entire GOP strategy--block everything and make people feel like their votes didn't matter. And sadly, it worked for that midterm.

      But people woke up when they saw what the GOP did with power in places like OH, MI, WI and PA and people in those states did show up and vote this week. Sadly, all those blue votes have now been cordoned off into as few seats as possible.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:33:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  gerrymandering in Florida (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greywolfe359, Lujane, highacidity, dewtx

    is obscene.  

    We have to go back to the 2010 elections and see how many state houses and governorships were won by very conservative and Tea Party Republicans. In most states, they go to draw the new district lines, both for Congressional districts and state districts.  Until the next census, we are stuck with these horribly gerrymandered districts.  I live in the most populous city in my district and it is blue, but because of the way the district is drawn, we will never see a Democrat elected.

    IMHO, part of the blame rests on the Democratic Party which did not mobilize the GOTV in 2010.  Now we must wait eight more years.

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by gulfgal98 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:31:24 AM PST

  •  Solutions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greywolfe359

    Certainly a first step would be to have non-partisan commissions forming congressional districts similar to what Iowa does. However, you can go a step beyond this to create even fairer congressional elections by adopting Fairvote.org's idea of super districts with "choice voting".

    •  So kind of like proportional representation? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Quantumlogic

      Or something that delivers similar results? I kind of like this idea myself, and it would help eliminate a lot of the gridlock we get in winner take all politics.

      The other thing that gerrymanders do is create "safe districts" that drift further and further left or right politically, and then when representatives from those opposing safe districts get to Washington, there is very little common ground for them to work together--and no reason to electorally. Any real challenge to losing their seat will come in the primary--from further left or right!

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:44:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This can only happen on a national level (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greywolfe359, Quantumlogic

      Or else you will get good government Democrats sacrificing their majorities in New York, California, and elsewhere, while Republicans hold onto theirs in Texas and other red states.  

      While non-partisan commissions would doubtless be a step forward in the long-term, the short and mid-term consequences of implementing this on a state-by-state basis would be nothing less than suicidal for any hope of regaining the House - and with it - advancing even a moderately progressive agenda in the areas of climate change, regulatory policy, and fiscal affairs (to name just a few issue areas).

      •  Sadly, many reform issues face this (0+ / 0-)

        Meaning the problem of no one wanting to be the first to do it. No individual state wants to raise taxes on corp. or the wealthy cause they will just move. Or pass tougher regulations. Or whatever else. I believe someone else in the comments called it "unilateral disarmament." But I think we CAN do better. And states like PA and OH and VA which are fairly evenly split between the parties should have an easier time doing it, to be honest. Neither party will always benefit from redistricting.

        "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

        by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 03:15:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Totally agree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greywolfe359, highacidity

    My latest diary entry also ventures into similar territory, discussing "how the hell Democrats lost PA-8".

  •  Gerrymandering by the evil Rs (0+ / 0-)

    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 Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:49:07 AM PST

  •  in Ohio (0+ / 0-)

    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 Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:49:39 AM PST

  •  PA... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greywolfe359, grubber

    Is the perfect example of this bs.

    Statewide aggregate the Democratic House candidates polled a point and a half more than the GOP.

    Despite this the GOP has 2/3 of the House seats.

    In Western PA they created a ridiculous district stretching from the north suburbs of Pittsburgh to Johnstown.

    Nationwide, a lead of Dem + .5 should not translate into a 40 seat GOP margin in the House.

    Now I realize the a half point doesn't necessarily predict a Dem House but it certainly predicts a closely divided one.

    2010 was the wrong year to sit on the sidelines.  Lesson for the future: census years are as important as Presidential years.  Maybe more.

    We shouldn't have the same problem in 2020, since the census coincides with national elections.  But we will be paying for 2010 for a long time.

    Non-partisan redistricting outside the political process is the best answer...but it's not coming to most of the country any time soon.  Sadly.

    "I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell."

    by Notthemayor on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 12:16:18 PM PST

    •  How about PA-05? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greywolfe359

      It runs from Erie to past State College.

      For thirty years, Erie had hometown representation, usually moderate GOP, until they decided to vote for a Pittsburgh based guy. Now, with Erie split down the middle, 03 is stuck with a Pittsburgh guy, 05 is stuck with a guy who lives further away than the distance from New York City to DC. Can you imagine the Upper West Side of Manhattan voting for a representative who lives in Arlington, Virginia? Well, it happens here...

      "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

      by CFAmick on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 02:28:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think we can all agree (0+ / 0-)

        That PA has just about the worst gerrymandering problem now. My neighborhood got cut out of 12 and lumped into 14. Sort of cool for me, since I now have Mike Doyle as a representative and I actually like him, but those votes they bunched in closer to the city of Pittsburgh helped the GOP take district 12. That and a ton of cash.

        "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

        by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 03:13:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  NC voters went 51% for Democratic House (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greywolfe359, Roger Fox

    candidates, yet Democrats only won 4 of 13 seats. Worse yet, one of those 4 was by just 400 or so votes and is in doubt. The other 3 were by 50+ points.

    Even with 51% of the vote, a gerrymandered map led to just 30% Democrats - if McIntire holds on.

    Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

    by bear83 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 12:33:42 PM PST

    •  I think you posted that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bear83

      Wed or Thur in a comment, I almost couldn't believe it, so I added up the numbers, it was about 2k over 51%, which yields 9-4.

      We needed 25 in the House, we got hosed. We got 4.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 04:31:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is a good summary in Mother Jones (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx

    about Gerrymandering

    ■North Carolina, which Obama lost by around 2 percentage points: 9-4 GOP
    ■Florida, which Obama won by around half a percentage point: 17-10 GOP
    ■Ohio, which Obama won by nearly 2 percentage points: 12-4 GOP
    ■Virginia, which Obama won by around 3 percentage points: 8-3 GOP
    ■Pennsylvania, which Obama won by more than 5 percentage points: 13-5 GOP*
    ■Wisconsin, which Obama won by 6 percentage points: 5-3 GOP
    ■Michigan, which Obama won by 8 percentage points: 9-5 GOP

    http://www.motherjones.com/...

    "Speak out, judge fairly, and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people." Proverbs 31:9

    by zdefender on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 12:38:32 PM PST

    •  The solution is probably reform by (0+ / 0-)

      anti-gerrymander ballot initiatives and legislation.

      Sell it as fairness, and good government, and give up on the idea of Democrats getting some advantage by reverse-gerrymanders in the future.  If it is handed off to courts and non-partisan commissions with strict non-partisan rules, and geography, then it won't be seen as a power grab, but as power-balance restoration.

      "Speak out, judge fairly, and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people." Proverbs 31:9

      by zdefender on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 12:41:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for this link. Good stuff (0+ / 0-)

      The Wisconsin margin doesn't look that bad, it's only one away from 4-4. And local candidates DO matter and not just party. But in the other states it those are just big margins in terms of the total number of reps elected. Really awful stuff. Thanks for sharing!

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 03:25:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  same here in WI (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greywolfe359

    I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around my state reclaiming its Progressive mojo by electing a gay female senator, staying Blue for Obama (even my normally soft-red county went for O) and YET also gave the reins (started typing 'reigns'; Freud strikes again) back to Scott Walker. ?????????????????!!!!!!!!!!! No words.

  •  GerryMaryland (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    We had a Dem-inspired gerrymander to facilitate Roscoe Bartlett's retirement from Congress, in the process creating possibly the most contorted district ever, our 3rd CD.  And the map itself was on the ballot, as an accept/reject referendum.  My attitude?  As long as <insert long list of GOP-dominated gerrymanders here>, it's foolish to unilaterally disarm.  

    But recognize that with this map, it will be nigh impossible to take back the House before 2022.  And notice how, in gerrymander-proof Senate elections, we did pretty well.

  •  Finally someone said it (0+ / 0-)

    WE got hosed in the House and the Governors mansions.

    Instead of a dairy based on that facebook graphic of Karl Rove and Crossroads & about how they won nutin....

    The GOP defended their House majority quite nicely thank you.

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 04:24:41 PM PST

  •  Upon further review, nope (0+ / 0-)

    I looked closer at the source for my numbers, and found that it did not include races where the incumbent was unopposed by any candidate, even from a minor party. The AP just had a zero for the candidate. I went back and looked at the ThinkProgress article, and they note that their numbers also do not include unopposed candidates.

    The problem is that there were votes cast in these races. Boehner was unopposed, but got 240K votes. These votes were not included in my count, or in ThinkProgress' count. These unopposed races happened on both sides, but the GOP had five more than the Dems. That's ~1.2 million added to the dark side, more than the 700K lead that the Dems had under the incomplete analysis. Possibly the final count will kick over to the Dems, but the 'lead' was only growing <100K/day and there is a dwindling pile of uncounted votes.

    The House should probably be split right down the middle, but even under perfect representation, Boehner should hold the gavel.

    I have deleted my diary. This diary has much more substance than just the numbers, so I wouldn't suggest deleting it, but maybe an update for the record.

    Disclaimer: If the above comment can possibly be construed as snark, it probably is.

    by grubber on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 08:04:27 PM PST

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