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Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Old 02-05-13, 12:55 PM
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Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/...ican-politics/

Spoiler:
In a recent interview in The New Republic, President Obama said this about the politics surrounding gun control:
That does not mean that you don’t have some real big differences. The House Republican majority is made up mostly of members who are in sharply gerrymandered districts that are very safely Republican and may not feel compelled to pay attention to broad-based public opinion, because what they’re really concerned about is the opinions of their specific Republican constituencies.
Obama expressed a common view: that gerrymandering has created a bunch of safe seats for each party, making representatives responsive only to their partisan base and unwilling to forge bipartisan compromises.
It would be nice if this view were true, because it would suggest a clear solution to our polarized politics: draw more competitive districts. But unfortunately it is not true. The most important influence on how members of Congress vote is not their constituents, but their party. This makes them out-of-step not only with the average American — the “broad-based public opinion” that Obama mentioned — but also, and ironically, with even their base. Members are more partisan than even voters in their party.
The easiest way to see how little constituency matters is to compare how representatives vote to the partisanship of their constituents. Here is what the 113th House looks like so far, based on calculations (pdf) by Stanford political scientist Simon Jackman

The vertical axis is a measure of candidate ideology based on roll call voting. Higher numbers indicate more conservative views, and lower numbers indicate more liberal views. The horizontal axis captures how well Obama did in that district in 2008. The red dots are Republican House members and the blue dots are Democrats. All of the red dots are higher than all of the blue dots. Polarization in the 113th Congress is already evident.
The important thing in this graph is the black lines that capture the relationship between, essentially, how liberal or conservative the member’s constituents are and how liberal or conservative the member is. Those lines should slope downward: the more liberal the district, the more liberal the member. But the lines are mostly flat, with only a slight downward slope among Republicans. No matter whether Obama won 20 percent or 50 percent of their district, Republican representatives have voted similarly — that is, they have taken conservative positions on average. No matter whether Obama won 50 percent or 80 percent of their district, Democratic representatives have taken liberal positions, on average. Constituency hasn’t affected anyone’s overall voting behavior that much.
And the 113th Congress is no exception. Here, via political scientist Nolan McCarty, is a picture of ideology in the 108th House compared to the 2004 vote for George W. Bush in their district:

The lines, which now should slope upward, do so a bit. But party is still the more important influence.
What about the Senate? Same thing. Just think of states with split delegations. How ideologically similar are, say, Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin? Or David Vitter and Mary Landrieu? Not very, even though they ostensibly represent the same voters. And it’s not only Congress where this happens. Here’s the same graph but for state legislatures, drawing on research (pdf) by McCarty and Boris Shor:

In sum, Democrats and Republicans are just polarized, no matter whether their district is red, blue or purple. It’s hard to imagine that creating more competitive districts will mitigate polarization. Members in purple districts are pretty polarized, too.
But surely there is some price to pay for being ideologically out-of-step with your constituents? The answer is yes. Being too ideologically extreme (pdf) or too loyal to party is associated with a greater chance of losing (not that many incumbent actually lose, of course).
There is a catch, however. If an incumbent of one party gets booted by a challenger from the other party, this challenger won’t be similar to the average voter. Instead, they’ll be more extreme than this voter, just in the other direction. Political scientists Joseph Bafumi and Michael Herron call this “leapfrog representation.” Party power changes hands, but the average voter gets leapfrogged: their representative merely jumps from one side of the ideological spectrum to the other. In fact, Bafumi and Herron find, representatives are often more ideologically extreme than even the average member of their party, as this graph (modified by me from their original) illustrates using data from California:

All of this begs the question: where did this polarization come from, if not from gerrymandered districts or even from voters generally? That deserves another post, but here are two possibilities. One is that polarization has deep roots in fundamental structural transformations of American politics — the realignment of Republican and Democrats on civil rights and even the rise of economic inequality. Another possibility has to do with who controls local and state party organizations, who play a large role in selecting new candidates to run for office. In research on one of the most polarized state legislatures, California’s, Seth Masket finds that local party organizations have been captured by activists for whom ideological fealty is paramount.
None of this suggests that we shouldn’t reform the process of redistricting. But when it comes to polarization, the people drawing the district boundaries — that “league of dangerous mapmakers” — aren’t so dangerous after all.


Interesting article. They use data to suggest that Congressmen vote more with their party than their constituents. This goes counter to some folks thinking that gerrymandering is the problem with the polarity in Congress. I figured wendersfan would like the graphs...and probably prove them wrong.

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Old 02-05-13, 01:29 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Sides knows what he's talking about, and he has my full and unconditional endorsement.
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Old 02-05-13, 02:45 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

But how many people are just little puppets of the party. Its been pretty amusing to watch my pro gun Democrat friends trying to defend Obama on the "Assault Weapons Ban".
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Old 02-05-13, 04:24 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Yet another example of "it's not what you know, it's what you think you know."
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Old 02-05-13, 04:34 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Gerrymandering is a considerable part of what's wrong with American politics.

It may not affect the 'polarity' issue as suggested by Obama and examined in the article, Wenders endorses this fella and that article seems based on reason and solid data, but rigging districts is a serious problem in American politics.
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Old 02-05-13, 04:44 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

I don't know if it's a huge problem but the way districts in my state are set up is such a tangled mess it is idiotic.
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Old 02-05-13, 05:16 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by BKenn01 View Post
But how many people are just little puppets of the party. Its been pretty amusing to watch my pro gun Democrat friends trying to defend Obama on the "Assault Weapons Ban".
Maybe they realize it's not a takeover by a fascist dictator, and they really won't be marched into the ovens for owning a gun?

I know wrong thread.

Funny that gerrymandering is only a problem when it creates minority districts.
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Old 02-05-13, 05:23 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Obviously, gerrymandering isn't the problem in politics.
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Old 02-05-13, 07:47 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by Jason View Post
Maybe they realize it's not a takeover by a fascist dictator, and they really won't be marched into the ovens for owning a gun?

I know wrong thread.

Funny that gerrymandering is only a problem when it creates minority districts.
No, I wont give them that pass. Let me tell you where KY is. Our Democrat controlled house recently passed an open carry bill in public buildings. Its more like they dont want to criticize Obama. You know kind of like Wars sucked when George Bush was in charge but its all good now.

Dont get me wrong I am a member of Republicans Anonymous, I drank to much of the Kool-Aid in my time but I think for myself now and that is the problem there are not enough people who will critisize the party of their choice when they are wrong. You might think they are crazy but it is good to have politicians like Ron and Rand Paul who will buck the status quo.....
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Old 02-05-13, 07:48 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse View Post
Gerrymandering is a considerable part of what's wrong with American politics.
Yes, it certainly is. When the number of statistical swing districts has dropped from 103 twenty years ago (which was already arguably too low) to one third of that now and one looks at the ridiculous shapes of many of these districts, it's pretty hard to conclude that it is not a major factor.
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Old 02-05-13, 07:52 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by Jason View Post
Funny that gerrymandering is only a problem when it creates minority districts.
I thought gerrymandering was a problem because...Republicans. Booga booga.
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Old 02-05-13, 08:03 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

What's with all those bubbles on the graph.
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Old 02-05-13, 10:01 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Bill Maher posted his thoughts on this:


In the last election, Democrats got a million more votes for their House candidates than Republicans did. In a fair world, Nancy Pelosi would be Speaker again, but Republicans still have a 33-seat majority because of gerrymandering.

Let's call gerrymandering what it really is: segregation. It carves up district lines so "urban" voters -- aka African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics -- are bunched up in Democratic districts, while suburban and rural districts are carefully kept just white enough to go Republican.

Short-term, gerrymandering is the only thing that keeps the GOP in power. Long-term, it just might kill them. They can't compete for Hispanic votes because they don't have to. Using redistricting as a crutch only allows them to stay in denial about demographic reality, which is that the fastest growing groups in the country are racing to the polls to vote for Democrats while the Republican base is racing to the morgue. Moreover, it only encourages them to continue insulting voters they need to take back the White House, or even hold onto Congress over the next few cycles.

You know who I think would back me up on this? George W. Bush. Remember, he was for immigration reform, but his own party killed him over it. If you're a Republican, isn't it a serious problem when George W. Bush is a couple steps ahead of the rest of your party? And even though the tide seems to have turned on immigration reform, most Republicans are still from districts whose voters are very uncomfortable doing the salsa.

Most Republican politicians are smart enough to know they've got an existential problem here, but their voters aren't. They see a pathway to citizenship as "amnesty," and won't soon forgive their congressman if he votes for it. So if you're a Republican House member, what the hell do you do?


http://www.real-time-with-bill-maher...ry-rigged.html
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Old 02-05-13, 10:03 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Ridiculous to just blame the GOP for using gerrymandering to keep seats. How does he think many of the blue states stay full blue?
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Old 02-05-13, 10:27 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Some history for Mr. Maher...
A history of gerrymandering defeat

More broadly, the Prairie State plan would arguably be Democrats’ most cutting reapportionment after a generation of repeated disappointments. Part of this record comes from bad timing: Over the past 30 years, Democrats have not enjoyed unilateral control in California, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and elsewhere – states where a well-crafted gerrymander could yield the most seats. To be fair, in 1991, Texas Democrats did impose a gerrymander that lasted for more a decade, but that same year, majority Florida Democrats foolishly failed to agree on a plan.

The last time Democrats held redistricting control in a large blue state came in 1981. Reeling from the loss of 34 House seats and control of the White House and the Senate, the late Representative Phil Burton (D) drew a fiendish gerrymander that turned a one-seat Democratic deficit in the California delegation into a nine-seat majority, providing a crucial boast to Tip O’Neill’s caucus heading into 1982. In addition to a dearth of opportunities, Democrats have not had a fearless or visionary leader like Burton, and it has shown in the past several rounds of middling nationwide redistricting.
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/...is-gerrymander
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Old 02-05-13, 10:31 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by Rockmjd23 View Post
Ridiculous to just blame the GOP for using gerrymandering to keep seats. How does he think many of the blue states stay full blue?

Who Gerrymanders More, Democrats or Republicans?


http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-dru...or-republicans

There's a graph there that wouldn't paste properly. Click the link for stats and all.
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Old 02-06-13, 09:11 AM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by Why So Blu? View Post
Who Gerrymanders More, Democrats or Republicans?


http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-dru...or-republicans

There's a graph there that wouldn't paste properly. Click the link for stats and all.
Now? I would expect the party trying to maintain control of Congress to do it more. Historically? Who knows. You should probably look into your friend President Obama's history of gerrymandering in Chicago before you cast stones at the GOP.
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Old 02-06-13, 09:43 AM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

I was actually waiting for Bill Maher and Mother Jones to weigh in on the issue until I made any decisions. We need to wait for these centrists to speak so we can recognize our own biases first.
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Old 02-06-13, 11:01 AM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Gerrymandering is stupid. We should do districts based on geographic boundaries and computers.

But Maher's logic doesn't make sense unless he has more data to back it up. You can have two nongerrymandered districts where the D wins one at 88% and loses the other at 48%. Just because the party got more overall votes doesn't mean they should win both districts. And there are also uncontested districts...
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Old 02-06-13, 12:31 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

In research on one of the most polarized state legislatures, California’s, Seth Masket finds that local party organizations have been captured by activists for whom ideological fealty is paramount.
In other words, the people who vote in primaries are the most concerned with nominating True Believers. Gerrymandering would still produce a House full of extremists, because a safe seat for your party also means that the ideologues who control your district will nominate a purer candidate if you stray towards the center. After all, they don't have to worry about the opposition.

There are other problems with our system, such as televising sessions. A confirmation hearing is transformed from determining the worth of a potential cabinet member to eight hours of political speeches that are directed towards the voters at home.
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Old 02-06-13, 12:54 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by BKenn01 View Post
No, I wont give them that pass. Let me tell you where KY is. Our Democrat controlled house recently passed an open carry bill in public buildings. Its more like they dont want to criticize Obama. You know kind of like Wars sucked when George Bush was in charge but its all good now.

Dont get me wrong I am a member of Republicans Anonymous, I drank to much of the Kool-Aid in my time but I think for myself now and that is the problem there are not enough people who will critisize the party of their choice when they are wrong. You might think they are crazy but it is good to have politicians like Ron and Rand Paul who will buck the status quo.....
Bucking the status quo is only effective when you present solid, workable alternatives, not endless tin foil hat lunacy about the Federal Reserve.
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Old 02-06-13, 07:51 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

tin foil hats are in the eye of the beholder. Some might think that having a 16 trillion dollar debt is a tin foil hat policy.....
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Old 02-06-13, 09:35 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by Jason View Post
Bucking the status quo is only effective when you present solid, workable alternatives, not endless tin foil hat lunacy about the Federal Reserve.
I don't even see "solid, workable alternatives" presented by the mainstream party members. All I see is kicking the can down the road.
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Old 02-08-13, 05:47 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

Originally Posted by Nick Danger View Post
In other words, the people who vote in primaries are the most concerned with nominating True Believers. Gerrymandering would still produce a House full of extremists, because a safe seat for your party also means that the ideologues who control your district will nominate a purer candidate if you stray towards the center. After all, they don't have to worry about the opposition.

There are other problems with our system, such as televising sessions. A confirmation hearing is transformed from determining the worth of a potential cabinet member to eight hours of political speeches that are directed towards the voters at home.
Exactly and California should be a lesson for anyone that thinks 1 party rule is so great. It is a mess and there is nothing that can be done till the place goes bankrupt or the stupid place falls in the Ocean.

Originally Posted by Why So Blu? View Post
Bill Maher posted his thoughts on this:


In the last election, Democrats got a million more votes for their House candidates than Republicans did. In a fair world, Nancy Pelosi would be Speaker again, but Republicans still have a 33-seat majority because of gerrymandering.

Let's call gerrymandering what it really is: segregation. It carves up district lines so "urban" voters -- aka African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics -- are bunched up in Democratic districts, while suburban and rural districts are carefully kept just white enough to go Republican.

Short-term, gerrymandering is the only thing that keeps the GOP in power. Long-term, it just might kill them. They can't compete for Hispanic votes because they don't have to. Using redistricting as a crutch only allows them to stay in denial about demographic reality, which is that the fastest growing groups in the country are racing to the polls to vote for Democrats while the Republican base is racing to the morgue. Moreover, it only encourages them to continue insulting voters they need to take back the White House, or even hold onto Congress over the next few cycles.

You know who I think would back me up on this? George W. Bush. Remember, he was for immigration reform, but his own party killed him over it. If you're a Republican, isn't it a serious problem when George W. Bush is a couple steps ahead of the rest of your party? And even though the tide seems to have turned on immigration reform, most Republicans are still from districts whose voters are very uncomfortable doing the salsa.

Most Republican politicians are smart enough to know they've got an existential problem here, but their voters aren't. They see a pathway to citizenship as "amnesty," and won't soon forgive their congressman if he votes for it. So if you're a Republican House member, what the hell do you do?


http://www.real-time-with-bill-maher...ry-rigged.html
The problem with this thought process is that somebody elected those Republicans on a statewide basis in the first place and as an example how the hell can you take a state like KY and draw it more fairly to the Democrats. The Democrats only really have a shot at 2 of the districts in this state.
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Old 08-28-18, 09:21 PM
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Re: Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics

I didn't want to create a new Gerrymandering thread, so BUMP!

Some good news on the Gerrymandering front:

WaPo - North Carolina’s gerrymandered map is unconstitutional, judges rule, and may have to be redrawn before midterms

A panel of three federal judges held Monday that North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans over Democrats and said it may require new districts before the November elections, possibly affecting control of the House.

The judges acknowledged that primary elections have already produced candidates for the 2018 elections but said they were reluctant to let voting take place in congressional districts that courts twice have found violate constitutional standards.
Crossing fingers that NC's ridiculous districts get redrawn more fairly.
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