Legitimacy and the So-Called House Popular Vote

The “House Popular Vote” is not really a thing, only it is kind of a thing. And there are those, particularly those who wish to defend the status quo, who react with some heat when the concept is mentioned. By “House Popular Vote” I mean the aggregate number of votes cast for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, sorted by party.

This number isn’t directly used for anything, so it turns out to not be a number a lot of news outlets offer. As of the time I write this article, though, the New York Times has it, and here’s what we see:

Legitimacy and the So-Called House Popular Vote

That number may change as late ballots are counted and some races go through recounts and so on. But it’s good enough for my purposes right now. What I’m interested in is a question of legitimacy: does the partisan composition of the House of Representatives as a whole roughly match the vote of the American people as a whole? Whether we like the mixed results of last night’s election or not, did the system demonstrate small-d democratic trustworthiness?

An important test of this question is if the margin of control resulting from the election is roughly the same as the proportional split of votes cast. If so, democracy appears to be working.

A lot of folks no doubt read the forecasting for the House election on fivethirtyeight.com as often as I did, in part because it gave a fairly quick understanding of the big picture of where things were headed and in part because the forecasting model that site employed has proven consistently less wrong than other forecasting models. But, I wonder how many people looked at the graphic that came at the bottom of that forecasting page?

Legitimacy and the So-Called House Popular Vote

What this chart told me — still tells me, in fact — is that the net House election result is an inefficient, imperfect reflection of the overall vote of the people as a whole. To the degree that the actual seating of the House is out of proportion with the proportion of votes distributed for the parties, there is a proportional degree of concern that the system of government is not legitimate and therefore unworthy of respect. The chart shows a trend line going from upper left to lower right, with the upper left showing larger Democratic majorities in the House correlating with larger Democratic vote percentages in aggregate (or average, if you prefer) popular vote counts. In a proportional parliamentary system, the trendline necessarily runs through the centerpoint.

Notice how it was possible for Democrats to get significant popular vote majorities but still not have a majority of seats? That’s inefficiency. And too much inefficiency calls illegitimacy into question. A perfectly legitimate trend line would go exactly through the centerpoint of an even vote producing an even split of control in the representative body. The shift of that trendline which on this chart is illustrated downward represents the direction of the potential inefficiency.

But: as of this morning, a total 50,814,980 votes for Democratic Party candidates are on record for the House, compared to 46,893,830 votes for Republican Party candidates for the house. Now, the Times reports the percentage of overall votes, but that’s not accurate for my purposes. Because it’s a first-past-the-post system in the U.S.A., we need to drop out the third parties and independents and compare only the two major party aggregate vote counts.

That gives us 97,708,810 votes total, or 52% Democratic votes and 48% Republican votes. A perfectly efficient system would award 52% of the House seats to Democrats and 48% to Republicans, giving Democrats a 226-212 majority. The actual result, assuming that the still-too-close-to-call races all go to the current leaders, is going to work out to be pretty close to that. Which is pretty amazing to me: the result is actually quite efficient, obviously within tolerable limits.

So there’s no problem, right? The system is legitimate, efficient, and working as intended, isn’t it?

Hang on a second.

It’s true that this House election is not evidence that our Federalized, districted, first-past-the-post system to elect legislators to the lower house of Congress is, at a high level, fundamentally flawed. Notwithstanding all of the things we might call noise, interference, inefficiency, or illegitimating factors, things like gerrymandering, voter obstruction, dirty tricks, or public lies. These things are all out there, but nevertheless we’ve happened to land pretty close to a House that approximately reflects the degree to which Democrats were favored, overall, over Republicans. That’s the good news: it looks like, at his level, democracy is in full effect.

But the House approximating the popular will is only a part of the system. The overall system is much more complex than that. And the overall system is not wholly small-d democratic, as I notice lot of capital-R Republicans have been hastening to point out over the past few weeks.

The Senate, very much by design, is not nearly so directly responsive to the expression of popular will as the House. We all know the structural differences between the House and the Senate. All the states have equal representation in the Senate, as a result of the Connecticut Compromise in 1787 preserving that feature of the Articles of Confederation. State borders are very inflexible over time – I can think of only one time in American history that a state’s border has changed, when West Virginia broke off from Virginia in the Civil War. That makes states impossible to gerrymander, and it also makes states impossible to apportion for population precisely because population differences between the states are irrelevant to the Senate. The Senate’s elections are staggered and Senators serve longer terms.

As a result, the composition of the Senate is a trailing and inefficient indicator of the popular will. Indeed, until 19201 not all Senators were even elected by popular vote. Most of us will recall arguments in the Federalist Papers that the Senate was intended to be the “cooling saucer” for the hot tea of the popular “passions” thought likely to be abrew in the House: it was always supposed to be a more elite, deliberative, small-c conservative part of Congress’ operations. A brake on change.

It’s easy for me as a relatively new partisan convert to be frustrated at this. But the truth of the matter is I’m really not massively frustrated so much that Republicans wound up not only keeping control of the Senate but actually gaining seats, in any given cycle. I can be sanguine that it’s a state-by-state process, driven heavily by personalities of the individual candidates and by various political pressure points. Heidi Heitkamp, for instance, did herself no favors in North Dakota by voting against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, which has at its root the concerns that a majority of North Dakotans have about abortion. While I don’t like that particular result, I also can’t call that particular result illegitimate. Therefore I can accept it.2

Where I think we’re seeing a breakdown is not so much how we select our leaders. It’s how they’re using the power they get as a result of that process. I wrote in the elections livethread yesterday:

We can accept the occasional contramajoritarian result. We’ve had two plurality popular vote winners denied the Presidency in five cycles. We can see that Democrats are getting significantly more votes around the country but have actually lost ground in the Senate. If the system continues to return contramajoritarian results, there will continue to be strains on the legitimacy of the Constitutional system. It will eventually break if those tensions are not somehow addressed with something more meaningful than “It’s a republic and not a democracy, so ha ha we won.”

And the most trenchant response to this, I think, came from pillsy, and from Chip, who I hope will forgive me for amalgamating their statements:

…the reason for the counter-majoritarian mechanisms is, according to their defenders, to check lawless, corrupt, and demagogic impulses.

*   *   *   *   *

… The counter-majoritarian mechanisms reflected the founder’s belief that the rabble would be lawless and corrupt, and the elites like themselves would be the sober defenders of the rule of law.

As originally framed, no one was supposed to be more “elite” in the way Chip describes than the President. He was to be selected as the best person in the country by the best people in the country. The backstop against the depredations of a lawless, corrupt President was supposed to be impeachment, or at least the treat of it.

What we’ve got now is a combination of political realities that the Framers didn’t plan for, and it’s hard for me to say that they left things this way by design. We have a lawless, corrupt President who spouts outrageous lies to the American people on a daily basis, offers evidence in his behavior and diplomatic deeds suggesting that he is in cahoots with foreign powers for monetary gain, and sees his route to power as predicated upon stimulating the morally worst impulses imaginable in a polarized electorate. Donald Trump is the sort of person Congress is supposed to remove from power.

The elites of the Senate, who were supposed to be the sober, principled, high-minded, well-educated, moral, and wise guardians of the Republic, have instead come to regard the President as a Useful Idiot who they prefer in place despite all of his misbehaviors. They fear that removing Trump from office would weaken their own ability to govern (perhaps correctly) even with another Republican taking his place as President. Consequently, they are apologists for and debatably enablers of the very corruption, lawlessness, and cultural erosion against which they ought to be our guardians.

The results of the 2018 Senate elections — gains for the Republicans in the upper house of Congress — will at best do nothing to remedy this. More likely, the enabling will be aggravated.

Democrats are now in control of the House. It is plausible that they will use their majority there to impeach President Trump. But the notion that an even-more-Republican-than-before Senate would convict him and remove him from office is risible. Readers will please note my deliberate omission from this paragraph any reference to the merits of the theoretical articles of impeachment, for I believe that they are, for practical purposes, irrelevant.

And, on top of all that, a Supreme Court which has also been packed with a majority bloc of Justices who are all the products of a strongly filtered political process and debatably were selected for political reliability on a now-broad constellation of issues. While I’m not hopeless that the Court will abdicate its duty in all cases to independently  address the legal merits of cases that come before it, I’m no longer confident that the majority will reliably be able to rise above partisan pressures, either.3

There is simply no further backstop in the Constitution against a state of affairs in which neither the Senate nor the courts would check a lawless President. The Constitutional system is working as intended, to the extent there was intent in the first place. We’ve run out of safety net.

The Framers did not ever pretend to themselves that they’d created a perfect system. They intended that we, the heirs of their design, would periodically evaluate how the system was working and make necessary and wise changes. They would not have wanted us to treat their messy political compromises as holy writ, any more than they would have wanted us to have been led to a place of hyperpolarization by corrupted elites. We aren’t where they would want us to be at all — in thrall to a passionate faction of populists and left unguarded by elites themselves corrupted.

I’m not hugely optimistic that House Democrats are going to take on the President for reasons beyond partisan brawling, either — I’m looking ahead to government shutdowns as House and Senate refuse to compromise on budgets, the President throwing his weight around like a bull in a china shop during conciliation negotiations, and frenzied partisan yammering about the imminent collapse of the republic from all sorts of procedural improprieties, and what ought to be small-scale disputes.

That’s separate and apart from the very serious issues of the behaviors of the President and the adaptation of our laws to meet the very difficult challenges of our times: keeping our pension and medical payment systems functioning; keeping relative peace; falling less short of meeting our ideals for justice and fairness; and cleaning our poisoned environment to leave a world capable of prosperity for our children to inherit from us. Two years of one-party rule aimed strictly at catalyzing economic growth has not advanced us towards those inescapable challenges one damn bit. Heighten the partisan wrangling and accusations of lawlessness and bad faith to that? I’m not optimistic we can get the hard work done — and I’m not sure we’re capable, in that environment, of addressing how the system can be reformed to let us get that work done.

Fasten your seat belts, folks, it’s going to be a very rough ride. That’s how our system is designed.

 

  1. The Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913 and then it would have been three cycles of elections thereafter that all Senators had been directly elected. []
  2. Now, if we find out there was some sort of vote tampering going on that’s a different story. But there’s no evidence of that that I’m aware of, so I can accept the result of the vote as an accurate reflection of the popular will. []
  3. The Court in the 19th Century was, while not particularly partisan, also not a particularly strong check against abuses of power by the elites of the day, nor were the Presidents of the era particularly ambitious in their use of it compared to today. []

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92 thoughts on “Legitimacy and the So-Called House Popular Vote

  1. I guess I have to take a contrary position, at least with regard to the roughness over the next two years. The suburban Midwesterners in Pelosi’s (or whoever’s) new majority won’t put up with too much. McConnell has a bit more breathing room. I see two years of continuing resolutions for the budgets, easy passage of debt ceiling increases to cover the deficits, a steady change in the philosophy of the federal courts, a methodical writing down of regulations by the executive branch (both agencies and Cabinet departments), and a swing in authority from federal to state governments in some areas*.

    * I think states will get to do voter id, for example. Whether California gets to continue writing its own clean air requirements is a different matter. For policy where I care the most, an interesting question is whether CJ Roberts will go along with overturning Massachusetts v. EPA.

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  2. There are lots of things we like to tell ourselves about democracy and ideas.

    One thing is that lots of people probably have a deep-seated psychological need/belief that their ideology can compete and be successful in the market place of ideas/democracy,

    But what if your ideas are not being bought by the public? Labour spent a long exile as a minority party in the U.K. because of this from 1979-1997. It took them a long time to moderate.

    Here, the GOP/right-wing response to having unpopular ideas seems to be to game the system and say “no it is the public that is wrong.” They can justify this because the Founders did want Congress to be somewhat to very counter-majoritarian and our pompous pundits intone on this endlessly. Or they have the nonsensical rejoinder of “neener neener, we are a republic not a democracy,”

    Even though the GOP did well in the Senate, yesterday was largely a disaster for conservative policy if you look at the referendums and proposals that passed easily like marijuana reform, medicare expansion, minimum wage hikes, plus voting reform. These passed in areas where Republicans had their best successes.

    But as we saw in Maine, lots of Republican politicians would rather fight something like ACA expansion tooth and nail because it goes against their first principals than let democracy/the people have their say.

    The very difficulty in living in a democracy at its ideal is coming to terms that you might be in the minority or even wrong.

    LeeEsq noted many times that the GOP has adopted the posture of a revolutionary vanguard part.

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  3. Anytime we have a situation where districts are drawn, someone is going to complain. I’m not saying gerrymandering doesn’t happen, but it’s a byproduct of congressional districting. Some ideas to improve things for Democrats:

    – Take the lessons from this election to heart. Focus on local issues, not national ideology. I heard an anecdotal story this morning on MSNBC about a SC Democrat who was receiving votes from Republicans because they pledged to fight offshore drilling there. Do more of that.

    – Figure out smarter ways to spend HUD money and similar programs that will spread out the populations that votr for you. Gerrymandering is only possible because Democratic voters tend to cluster together more.

    – Also see how competitive you were around the country and adopt a philosophy that you will vigorously pursue every single office in the country.

    – Stop whining about the popular vote every 4 years and start winning races. If you actually have a good message, people should be voting for you everywhere, not just in cities.

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      • Right off the top of my head, I’d say healthcare and clean air and water, esp wrt to regulations protecting them from frakking fouling their wells.

        Ending stupid trade wars that are leaving soybean harvests to rot should also be pretty attractive to a lot of non-urban voters.

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        • Agree with Bookdragon on this. Also, being smarter about subsidies and mitigating waterfall effects, diversification of agriculture, high speed internet and a guest worker program that still addresses national security concerns.

          My WPA-renewal idea would also create a lot of economic opportunity in those places.

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        • The issue is that everyone pretends that these are things that Democrats don’t do. Hasn’t anyone heard of the ACA/Obamacare? When have Democrats been known to be bad on the environment? Democrats did not vote for Trump’s tariffs or approve them.

          The ACA finally began working as a good issue for Democrats this year, Maybe in 2012 though. When it comes to the environment, everyone likes to say that this is Democrats pleasing their upper-middle class Whole Foods base at the expense of economic opportunity for working class and/or rural dwellers. Or it is just Mommy Democrats telling people what to do. Hence rolling coal.

          I know there is a certain kind of person that thinks “Bernie could have won.” I’m not sure this is true considering how much anti-Semitism we have seen. What we don’t want to deal with is wrestling with the issue of how many white Americans see white supremacy as in their best interests? They aren’t necessarily going to express it terms that are direct but that doesn’t mean the issue is not there.

          FWIW I don’t think we want to address the issue because we wouldn’t know how to react or process if someone were to admit plainly. Especially if that person was not an out and out neo-Nazi but someone whose look we see as respectable.

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          • This is why I am so harsh on the self-described moderate Republicans, who nonetheless seem like they find every excuse possible to avoid voting for the Democrat.

            This idea floats around, that there are all sorts of people who would vote Dem, “if only” the Dem candidate did this, that, or the other thing.

            So the moderate is compelled- forced, against their will mind you- to vote for someone they admit is a vicious racist.

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            • Republicans have succeeded in turning the words Democratic, liberal, or progressive into dirty words for much of White America. Many White Americans might vote for ballot initiatives that would come from the Democratic Party if they were traditional legislation but can’t abide to vote for a Democratic politician. They are seen as bunch of freaky, deaky hippies long after the 1960s ended.

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              • Someone over at LGM had a good point this morning that with essentially the same electorate that we have now, the Dems won a the Presidency, the House, and a 60 seat Senate majority in 2008, so it isn’t some structural defect.

                Which is a very good point.
                But I also note that even in the heydey of the New Deal, white supremacy was still a barely concealed facet of the electorate.

                I don’t think it is a structural defect, or magical persuasive voodoo on the part of the Republicans, so much as the willingness of people to vote for a combination of financial and ethnic interests, in varying combinations depending on circumstances.

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            • I am a moderate conservative (no longer a registered Republican). There are plenty of Democratic policies that I like, but I also don’t want to sign up for the kooky stuff. And yes, there is plenty of kooky stuff on the Right, so I have plenty of reservations there. Ultimately, it comes down to weighing the good and hoping the bad doesn’t happen. I would say right now I vote Republican maybe 60% of the time.

              Biggest issue I have with Democrats is that I see more bad potential in their policies, which is a byproduct of their Progressivism being much more radical than my own.

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              • If by “kooky stuff” you’re referring to my push to replace Americans with genetically engineered super soldiers with microchip brain interfaces and cyborg implants, that’s not official GOP policy, yet.

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          • This actually was my point: Dems already have bunch of policy that *ought* to be appealing to rural voters. The idea that liberal policy is solely good for or appealing to urbanites makes no sense but has somehow become The Narrative.

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    • – Figure out smarter ways to spend HUD money and similar programs that will spread out the populations that votr for you. Gerrymandering is only possible because Democratic voters tend to cluster together more.

      ??? Seriously? This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

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      • We have a new neighborhood going in near us. They are building 96 homes in the $250K range but 50 will be subsidized by HUD to about half that. That’s hopefully going to create diversity and a little less condensing of Democratic voters in the city.

        Mixed income neighborhoods are Urban Planning 101.

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        • No, Urban Planning 101 doesn’t contain a chapter on how to use the power of the state to overcome electoral disadvantages.

          What’s weird is that I tend to view you as embracing some pretty wild Dem conspiracy theories and here you are suggesting they actually engage in the behavior those conspiracies attribute to them. Very strange indeed.

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        • that sort of urban planning assumes good public transportation and good schools, plus a willingness by the community to actually enbrace the diversity the planners intend. In the South one or more of those conditions is lacking.

          Plus, as has been demonstrated in Pennsylvania and North Carolina (to name but two examples) Republican gerrymandering goes to great lengths to create narrowly and bizarrely drawn districts. You need way more then 50 houses of subsidized buyers to correct that.

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        • There are a lot of arguments for mixed income neighborhoods, but countering gerrymandering isn’t one of them.

          A better approach might be to skip the guestworker program and provide a way for unemployed or unemployed urbanites to move to some central spot in farm country and underwrite transportation that would let them move around and fill the need for labor.

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          • “…provide a way for unemployed or unemployed urbanites to move to some central spot…”

            I don’t know this would work. As I previously mentioned, a lot of communities put themselves at risk for gerrymandering by clustering themselves, but at the same time, that’s what like-minded people often do. I don’t know that we could actually persuade people to leave those areas for farm jobs.

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            • It was just a vague counter proposal. I don’t know that they would leave for farm jobs either honestly. However I would expect people to stick together. So maybe that group gets gerrymandered, but they probably aren’t large enough to be their own district so they do influence some other district.

              I mean, on the one hand, there are areas of inner cities with high poverty and crima, so going elsewhere where there are jobs and less violence should be something to consider. Otoh, bad as it might be, that neighborhood is something you know and in the same way that a bunch of rural folks seem to think of cities as being filed with scary dark skinned gang bangers, it’s easy for someone from the city to imagine that rural America is filled with people with KKK hoods in their closets. (And ironically both sides can arrive at those views from watching Fox News). So I can see where someone even from a bad part of Chicago might be reluctant to take a chance on moving to farm country, at least not without a decent cohort of people like them to cluster near.

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    • Depends on what you think the UN is for, I suppose. If the answer is “a forum in which international disputes may be resolved peacefully as opposed to by means of war,” I fail to see how having a very small number of very dominant actors within that system is a problem. Indeed, it may be a benefit. That’s particularly true if those actors are committed to the resolutions being somehow fair. Note that “fair” can have many practical and theoretical meanings, all of which as a realistic matter amount to “what it takes to have the side obliged to accept a burden do so nonviolently”.

      The U.S. Constitution of 1787, as amended, is set up for a different purpose — the distribution of power among several different governmental entities such that no one entity can dominate in all spheres of activity. (It silently assumes that disputes arising within that system will be resolved peacefully and within legal and political processes.) My essay here is concerned not with who wins, particularly, but whether the system of U.S. government as a whole is considered fair enough that everyone, regardless of how much power their side holds, is willing to peacefully accept the burdens imposed by that system. Seems to me they should, notwithstanding my own dissatisfaction with the faction holding most of the power still, and that’s in part because we see that power can still shift in response to democratic inputs.

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  4. Mike Dwyer: – Figure out smarter ways to spend HUD money and similar programs that will spread out the populations that votr for you. Gerrymandering is only possible because Democratic voters tend to cluster together more.

    Um…. if you look at PA, especially my part of it, the clusters of Democratic voters are STEM professionals and other college-educated suburbanites. Not sure how HUD money would get any of us to spread out into the blood red Appalachian regions with terrible schools and poor job opportunities…

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      • PA had a redistricting recently that created more rationally shaped districts, but until this year, my district looked like a Rorschach blot – a blob with little fuzzy-legged loops and strands coming off one side.

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    • bookdragon: Um…. if you look at PA, especially my part of it, the clusters of Democratic voters are STEM professionals and other college-educated suburbanites. Not sure how HUD money would get any of us to spread out into the blood red Appalachian regions with terrible schools and poor job opportunities…

      Ditto the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

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      • Well, you could move them “out there” to a certain extent. The Patent Office, for example, opened a branch in Denver a few years ago. They didn’t open it out in Bent County in the southeast corner of the state, because the people they were looking to transfer/hire all want urban amenities at some level: hospitals, orthodontists, decent Thai food, whatever.

        Will Truman and I argue sometimes about the problem of maintaining health care providers in rural areas. I claim that one of the fundamental problems is that most people — not all, but most — who have spent eight to ten years living in the kind of areas that support colleges that get you into med school, medical schools, and hospitals suitable for internships and residencies don’t want to live in small-town America.

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  5. If we absolutely need to have districts, they should be drawn to create a result that will match the voting intentions of the populace as closely as possible, not to create compact or nice districts.

    The truth is, districts that would have to be drawn to be actually representative of the votes of the people would in some cases, look far worse than gerrymandering, but I don’t care about that.

    Give me a silly looking map that actually gives a result close to the populace of a state as opposed to a “compact and clean” map that over represents land over people.

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    • “If we absolutely need to have districts, they should be drawn to create a result that will match the voting intentions of the populace as closely as possible, not to create compact or nice districts.”

      How often are these re-drawn?

      How do you assess voting intentions?

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      • “How often are these re-drawn?”

        I mean, we have computers now, so I see no need why we can’t redraw them every election, but I think the once per decade we do it now works fine, when the mapmaking is actually done well.

        I mean, in my perfect world, we’d go to list-based PR, but people have weird connections to their districts.

        “How do you assess voting intentions?”

        A combination of the percentage of the vote for Governor, President, Congress, state legislature, etc.

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          • What do you mean? I’m not saying there needs to be, for example, 5 for sure Republican districts and 5 for sure Democratic districts.

            I want a map where if there are 10 seats in a state, and Party A wins 55% of the vote, they get 5-6 seats out of the 10, not 3, as it is in many states.

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          • Gerrymandering as commonly understood shapes districts to be uncompetitive.

            You can also shape districts to be competitive.

            It’s not all upsides (what is?) but doing so provides endless incentives for parties to contest districts.

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            • I’m not sure that “competitive” is the best way to measure it either.

              I like the idea of areas that have things in common with each other. Like, if I were to carve up Colorado Springs, I could make one area “the Broadmoor”, another area “Rockrimmon”, another area could be West of I-25 between Garden of the Gods and Bijou, another area could be East of that.

              Each neighborhood has a distinct character and drawing up the map so that half of Rockrimmon and Garden of the Gods and Colorado City get one rep and the other half of Rockrimmon and Garden of the Gods gets Colorado College’s area…

              Well, I suppose it could be argued that carving things up like that would give two competitive districts but I don’t know why competitive wouldn’t be better than all of any given area represented by one guy.

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                • Well, I think we need to go with “communities of common interest” but mix that with… here, let me cut and paste myself:

                  I very much like the idea of repealing the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 as well as the Apportionment Act of 1911.

                  If we went with the “Wyoming Rule”, (a rule that said that the smallest populated state would get one and that state’s population would be the unit of representation), we’d have something like 550 Congressmen now.

                  If we instead went with something like “what was the Congressman/Constituent ratio back in 1910?”, we get an even bigger number. If we go with something INSANE like “what was the Congressman/Constituent ratio back in 1780?”, we’ve got four digits.

                  The upside, however, to that last one is that the tactic gerrymandering is destroyed (and not merely John Oliver destroyed).

                  The biggest issue that we have with Gerrymandering is that we’re still operating under 1929 rules. That’s insane. We should get rid of that law and have our representatives go back to representing a representable number of people.

                  And it’d have the extra upside of nigh-eliminating gerrymandering *AND* take some of the bite out of the difference in how much a Wyoming vote is worth vs. how much a California vote is worth.

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                  • It would seem the Wyoming approach would be a relatively low-risk update.

                    I still think that in this age of computing we could settle on one set of “fair” rules for drawing the districts. Not saying that the 538 project is the only set… we might end-up-with “Compact (borders) Community of Intrest Wyoming Lyndi-twist v.3.x.a” model and take the special pleading out of the project.

                    The radical change from even just 1990 to 2010 in the ability to algorithmically map districts with computers really ought to give way to a unified method.

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            • Gerrymandering draws a map around a bunch of people inclined to vote together but also includes a piece of a smaller group of people inclined to vote differently, thus negating their vote.

              The plan proposed above draws a map around a group of people inclined to vote together and also includes a smaller group of people that don’t vote that way, because no area is 100% homogenous.

              Either way, doesn’t the small group get their voice suppressed? I still come down on the side of the affected parties actually creating the conditions which ultimately make gerrymandering possible. Congregating together, becoming a predictable voting block, etc. Those conditions all make gerrymandering possible.

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                  • They absolutely do not live everywhere. They live in some suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas, very frequently among other Evangelicals.

                    I don’t see why that should entitle them to special political treatment. And I really really don’t see how it justifies blaming liberals for having their votes suppressed by gerrymandering.

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                    • I disagree with your assessment. I think what you actually mean by ‘Evangelicals’ is ‘people whose faith is an indicator of how they will vote’. There are plenty of devout Christians in inner cities, but often their economic needs trump their religious preferences unless you have a social referendum like the SSM legislation of the earlier 2000s.

                      And I’m not blaming liberals, I’m saying that a good tactic for making yourself gerrymandering proof is not to prefer to live with people that think like you do. We used to always say that the worse thing a group can do for their own political self-interests is to become predictable voters. This works both ways.

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    • Two of the most popular criteria for district drawing, both extremely popular with voters of all stripes to the extent of being embedded in a number of state constitutions, is “maintain communities of interest” and “minimize division of cities and counties.” In my state, both urban Denver (80% blue voters) and the vast but sparsely populated Eastern Plains (80% red voters) would fight tooth-and-nail to avoid giving up “their” Representative.

      Colorado may be a bad example. Over the last 20 years, the seven districts have gone as far as 5-2 Republican, and 5-2 Democratic.

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      • I mean, in most cases it won’t require more weird seats that we currently have to get closer to a better division of vote vs seats in most states. But, I also don’t think “look, this map is compact and clean” is a good argument that it’s a good map.

        However, it’s a good starting point for a map that might need to be slightly edited to better match the population

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  6. In 1860, Democrats needed 62 percent of the popular vote to elect a President. That doesn’t have anything to do with multiple candidates running against the Republicans (and they were all anti-Republican candidates in one way or other); if they had combined all of their votes behind one candidate, they still would not have had a majority of the electoral votes.

    Democrats thought the outcome was illegitimate, seeing the Republicans as a mere faction. But the lens of history is that the Democratic Party had evolved to be a faction isolated geographically from the North and West. The Republicans had broadened their platform and electoral strategy in light of the rules of the game. They were hungry.

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  7. Jim Acosta has had his press pass revoked by the White House after… well. Stories differ but Sarah Sanders tweeted that he… well, I’ll just link to the tweet:

    President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern…— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018

    Here’s the video of the incident:

    https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4759451/trumps-fear-acosta

    The physical contact occurs at 1:26ish. Jump to 1:25 and watch the next 3 seconds.

    That’s what got Acosta’s pass suspended.

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    • OK. I watched that 10 times. What it looks like to me is he tried to drop his arm to get it out of the way of her face as she stepped into his physical space (he was looking up at the president, not at her) and her arm was there unexpectedly-to-him and he immediately went as “soft” with his arm as possible and retreated to holding on to the mic with both hands.

      “Placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job” is not at all what I see there….

      At all.

      Funnily enough I’m pretty sure other White Houses somehow dealt with the issue of having people refuse to stop asking questions without having someone whose job was to physically remove the mics from them, but perhaps I’m wrong on that one.

      But “He should have reached down and grabbed her by the pussy!” is a pretty low and disgusting thing to say, even in sarcastic frustration, Chip, and leaves me feeling more like the speaker (you’re not the only one I’ve seen saying it) doesn’t *actually* care much more about people not doing that than the people he’s attempting to shame by saying so, than it does that you (and the other folks) actually don’t want women being groped with any kind of priority. I’m so sick of people who aren’t women treating women’s bodies and rhetoric about women’s bodies being objects as something to score points with, whoever those people are (and without at all equating the level of awful… just, ugh. Knock it off already).

      And I say that as someone who sees nothing wrong with what Acosta did do and find it ridiculous (and not unthreatening) that it got him booted.

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      • Isn’t this exactly what Jaybird mentioned upthread?

        Where Trump shoots someone in public, and we start to debate whether the guy needed shooting.

        There isn’t any room for debate among reasonable people about Acosta’s actions.

        Trump can’t abide opposition, and resorts to whatever force is needed to shut it down.

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        • And here’s the comment that I think Chip is referencing:

          I imagine that contradictions will be heightened and Democrats will find themselves in a situation where the issues are not whether Trump did anything illegal but whether the person accusing Trump of illegality is more alienating to the average person than Trump manages to be.

          After all, Trump could go into Times Square and shoot a guy and his supporters would still support him. His opponents would still oppose him.

          But Trump will manage to turn the conversation into whether the guy needed shooting or not rather than on whether shooting people is illegal.

          And journalists will cheerfully write articles about the victim and about the journalists writing articles about the victim rather than about how shooting people is wrong.

          And it’ll become a referendum on the victim and the journalism about the victim vs. Trump.

          Off the top of my head.

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        • If you don’t want people to argue with you about your anti-female language and distract from the issues, maybe try being less casual with your anti-female language in the first place.

          #metoo and misogyny and false accusations of same actually do matter, a lot, they are not just some distracting side issue that should just be ignored because the timing is deliberate on Trump’s end. They are literally one of the things *he is doing* to crush the populace. He’s afraid of women and what they can do to unseat him, and all this twisting of legitimate grievances from other people into snarky defense of his own bullshit is *part of his game plan* (or his handlers’), not only a distraction.

          I’m *not* at all going to lose track of Sessions or Rod Rosenstein or Mueller in any of this, in fact I’m materially supporting a demonstration that is one of a national chain tomorrow afternoon. (I’d be *going* to it but I’m f’ing disabled and working night shifts and it’s not an option for me to do that right now.) I’m *working on it*. In the mean time, I’m allowed to also be pissed off at rampant misogyny (theirs) and casual weaponization of misogyny (yours) when I come across it.

          I’m not the media. I rarely even tweet. I don’t have some journalistic obligation to “keep my priorities straight”. And I’m really sick of people who are supposedly on my side avoiding legitimate complaints that they seem casually willing to weaponize the -isms of the other side without regard for the harms they themselves cause, by claiming “distraction! distraction!” F’ing do the work of not being an asshole to the people on your side AND address the serious most dangerous problems.

          You can and should do both.

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    • I’m pretty sure this is b******* because secretary Sanders felt the need to share a video from prison planet Paul Joseph Watson which is digitally altered to make it look like a Acosta really is karate chop action reporter.

      I mean if you have a real case you don’t need to share videos from internet idiots who fake their own videos.

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    • I forget my favorite part of this right here all of this is coming from the president who what was it just like a week week and a half ago was in Montana saying “hey if a guy can do a body slam That’s my kind of guy”

      I mean it’s touching the way they’ve suddenly discovered how manhandling people is bad but I suppose when you’re that deep in the bubble nothing penetrates.

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