The Census and the Republican Victory in the House
The Republican sweep of the House of Representatives is enough a triumph in its own right, but lost in the shuffle is a factor far more important than mere congressional gains: following the 2010 elections, the Republican party now controls 20 trifectas across the United States, up from just 8 leading into the election. This means that the GOP controls the state house, state senate, and governorship in 20 states.
The Democrats, meanwhile, lost at least seven trifectas, down from 16 to 9. (Some races are still too close to call across the country.) And even though Democrats gained a trifecta in California, Proposition 20 passed there as well, placing the question of redistricting into the hands of the nonpartisan California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The below map shows the number of trifectas leading into the November midterms (via):
The next map shows the trifectas coming out of the November midterms:
Redistricting happens once every ten years following the U.S. Census. This means that in 20 of the nation’s 50 states, redistricting will occur along strictly partisan Republican lines; in only 8 states can the same be said for Democrats. What this means, quite simply, is that 198 Congressional districts will be in states with Republican trifectas – compared to only 91 in Democratic controlled states based on the 2000 census based district lines. The actual new 2010 census based district lines will likely be even less friendly to Democrats interested in retaking the House that the discription above.
The next U.S. Census doesn’t occur until 2020, meaning that following the 2011 redistricting there won’t be another chance to redraw the lines until 2021.
Even if Republicans don’t fair half as well in 2012, these structural changes make it exceedingly unlikely they’ll lose the House. This applies to all subsequent House elections at least until the next U.S. Census.
In other words, Republicans could (in theory) hold on to the House of Representatives until 2022 at the very earliest, regardless of what happens in the Senate or the Oval Office.
That’s a 14 year Congressional coup, making the 2010 election GOP victory pale in comparison. For Democrats, this is obviously more bad news. For anyone who cheered on filibuster reform* when Democrats controlled the House and Senate, perhaps now would be the time to reconsider that position. No matter who controls the White House for the foreseeable future, only two options likely remain until 2022: divided government, or a Republican trifecta at the federal level.
*I admit to much ambivalence on the value of the filibuster, and have gone from pro-reform and back to anti-reform on several occasions. I think the filibuster is necessary to preserve the uniquely American-style legislative process, but it can be hugely frustrating for both parties. Then again it can also be the saving grace for the minority party and its constituents.
**I should also note that I favor reform of the redistricting process, making it less partisan across the nation, though that would obviously have to happen one state at a time, as it has now in California and Florida. My instinct tells me that the more we can remove the political games from our democracy, the better, though I could be wrong – we have a rich history of partisanship and wheelings and dealings that has, in its own way, contributed to our unique democratic process. I would also like to have lots more districts and members of the House – we could easily double or even quadruple the number of Representatives, making the House more truly the People’s House, something it achieved far better in the early days of our democracy than it does now. But that is a post for another day.