The GOP advantage in the House

In the decision desk at Fox News on election night, none of us paid much heed when it became clear that Republicans would maintain their majority in the House of Representatives. The information was broadcast quickly and everyone went back to talking about the presidential election. But actually it was rather extraordinary.

Republicans won or are leading in 236 of the 435 House seats, down just six from the 2010 midterm. And they achieved this despite losing five seats because of partisan redistricting in Illinois and another five in California thanks to a supposedly nonpartisan redistricting commission that the Democrats successfully gamed.

The GOP has now won control of the House in eight of the past 10 congressional elections, dating back to 1994. When I began following politics it seemed like that would never happen. Republicans failed to win a majority in the House in the 20 elections between 1954 and 1992. Political scientists wrote articles about how the Democrats would always have a lock on the House.
One structural advantage is demographic. Democratic voters tend to be clustered in black, Latino and gentry-liberal neighborhoods in metropolitan areas. Republican voters are more spread out. In 2008, Mr. Obama carried 28 congressional districts with more than 80% of the vote. John McCain carried zero congressional districts by that margin; Mr. Romney may have gotten that much in a couple of districts in Utah. 
Those heavily Democratic neighborhoods contribute to the landslide margins candidate Obama has won in states like California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Illinois. But their voters don't do as much to elect Democratic House members as they would if they were spread randomly through the population. In addition, many such areas have been losing population and therefore representation in the House. 
On top of this is another Republican structural advantage: the Voting Rights Act. The prevailing interpretation of this otherwise benign law is that redistricters must maximize the number of "majority-minority" congressional districts. That means packing blacks and Latinos into certain districts and keeping them out of adjacent districts that tend to go Republican. This results in districts with grotesque and elongated boundaries to fit the bill of majority-minority.
The Democrat wins come in blue states where their liberal policie sare making people poorer and chasing off job creators.  At some point that demographic shift will be fatal to the Democrat party.  Hopefully that will be before it si fatal for the country.


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