10.2.13

THE REAL REGIONAL PARTY.

Court intellectuals for the Democratic Party have been peddling two narratives about the Republicans: first, that its evangelical and Tea Party factions are poisoning the party's appeal with mainstream Americans, relegating the party to southern or relatively unpopulated states.  The current presidential electoral map reinforces that perception.




Second, their reaction to Republican legislators in swing states implementing "as Maine goes, so goes the nation" allocation of electoral votes is typically that it's an attempt to reverse, or to steal, the presidential election.  The dorks and prissy women and near men on MSNBC were able to speak of little else, at least for one segment per hour, for much of the last few days of January.

Look closely, though, at the allocation of electoral votes by Congressional district.



That map allocates electoral votes using the Maine and Nebraska allocation formula, in which the winner of a plurality in a Congressional district receives one electoral vote, with the winner of the state plurality receiving the two electoral votes representing the state's two senators.  In the fever swamps of Democratic loyalists, though, as Maine goes should not go the nation.
Two little states — Maine and Nebraska — can theoretically divide their electoral votes, though that’s only happened once, in 2008, when Barack Obama won a vote from Nebraska.

But now the Republicans have a scheme to rig the system, and they are seriously pushing it. Thanks in part to their landslide victories in the 2010 midterm elections, they control a lot of legislatures in so-called “blue” states, which vote Democratic for president, like Pennsylvania and Michigan.  What’s more, they controlled congressional redistricting, and in all these states, they crammed as many Democrats into as few districts as possible.
That's not the most hysterical response to the Republican proposals.
Since those "rotten borough" districts are ridiculously gerrymandered in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia and Florida, such a plan would virtually guarantee the Republicans a stranglehold on the White House.
Reapportionment has long been an exercise in political power, and Fruits and Votes have given some thought to what can go wrong.
But, actually, the core problem derives from the electoral system itself. Or, more precisely, an electoral system designed to represent geography having to allocate a balance of power among organizations that transcend geography–national political parties.
That is, if there are national political parties. The maintained hypothesis among court intellectuals and media shills for the Democrats is that there is no such thing as a national Republican party, and what remains is busily marginalizing itself.
Fox and friends can still crush their own, as Obama noted. But that only drives the Republican Party further to the fringes. Virtually everything the broadcast bullies are against — sensible gun measures, immigration reform, raising taxes on the rich — are favored by a majority of Americans.

It makes sense, then, that the logical next step for these folks is to retreat into an actual bubble of brick and mortar — their own city. Glenn Beck has announced plans to build “Independence, U.S.A.,” a sort of new urbanism for paranoids. In that world, at least, all the fantasies of the far right are always true.
Back to Fruits and Votes for something more scientific.
However, the “norm” here refers to two (or more) national parties without too much geographic bias to where those parties’ voters reside. Only if the geographic distribution is relatively unbiased does the plurality system work for its supposed advantage in partisan systems: giving the largest party a clear edge in political power (here, the majority of the House). Add in a little bit of one big party being over-concent[r]ated, and you can get situations in which the largest party in votes is under-represented, and sometimes not even the largest party in seats.

As I have noted before, plurality reversals are inherent to the single-seat district, plurality, electoral system, and derive from inefficient geographic vote distributions of the plurality party, among other non-gerrymandering (as well as non-malap[p]ortionment) factors.
Further complicating the analysis: apportionment of House districts must respect the various civil rights laws that may or may not be among the "other factors".  Think about it this way: "Maximize Republican-leaning districts" might produce fewer Republican-leaning districts than "Maximize Republican-leaning districts subject to producing at least one or two majority-minority districts" does, particularly if the majority-minority districts tend to lean Democratic.  And thus the Outside the Beltway objection to allocating electoral votes by Congressional district.
For many years, and in many posts at my personal blog and here at OTB, I was a supporter of the District Method of allocating Electoral Votes. However, it’s become clear to me that, at least in our current political climate, this simply isn’t a viable or appropriate way to allocate votes in the Electoral College. The primary reason for that, of course, is the fact that so many of our Congressional Districts have been drawn in such a way that they are essentially noncompetitive for the opposition party.
Thus allocating votes by district has the potential to hang the Electoral College?
While there isn’t always a correlation between how a district votes for Congress and how it votes for President, it’s becoming increasing rare for ticket splitting of the type that made Ronald Reagan’s landslides in 1980 and 1984 possible to take place. As long as Congressional District lines are drawn in a manner that protects party interests, using those lines to allocate Electoral Votes strikes me as an incredibly bad idea.
Consider, though, some other adverse consequences of creating districts that protect party interests.  The plurality-by-district map suggests that the Republicans are the national party, while the Democrats are crowded into the coasts, with isolated connected regions in New England and the Driftless Area centered in southwestern Wisconsin.  And among the safe Democratic districts one finds exemplary public servants such as Gwen Moore and Bobby Rush and Maxine Waters and John Conyers,  each of whose re-election chances would diminish should there be an outbreak of bourgeois ambition among their constituents, although each representative has done well by hectoring what used to be mainstream America into providing Obama Phones and other palliatives for constituents rendered helpless by years of Democratic policies.

Thus, there might be some potential in future for reapportionments, as what looks like mainstream America continues to evolve, to create Congressional districts that can be contested by more than one major party.  Whether doing so, to return to the Outside the Beltway evaluation, is desirable, is subject to debate.
The 2000 Election, where Al Gore’s popular vote margin ended up being a relatively small 543,895 votes is one thing. An election where someone who lost by 5,000,000 votes and yet still went on to win the election is something that I think we can agree would simply be unacceptable. Under the Constitution, the states have the right to allocate Electoral Votes however they choose, but the path that Virginia is suggesting is not in the interests of the nation.
Perhaps not, but a large margin in the popular vote may not suffice to win the electoral vote. Contemplate President Dukakis. For that matter, some of the warning signs of what looks like irreconcilable sectional or partisan differences were present in the 1972 and 1984 Republican wipeouts of what looked like weak Democrats.

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