America’s unfair democracy will hurt Democrats in 2018
Doug Jones’ remarkable victory in the Alabama Senate special election on Dec. 12 is the strongest sign yet that Republicans will lose seats in Congress in 2018 because of their unpopular president and extremely unpopular agenda. And yet a close reading of the Alabama result also highlights just how American democracy can thwart the will of the majority rather than serve it.
Despite his statewide victory, Jones lost six of Alabama’s seven congressional districts. That’s a symptom of gerrymandering, just one of the features of the American electoral system making it very
In most democratic frameworks, the Republican Party would be facing near-certain doom in the 2018 mid-terms. The party that occupies the White House usually loses ground in mid-term elections. This is even more true if the president is divisive, inspiring the opposing party to turn out. The tax cut bill that Republicans passed this week is the second-most unpopular proposed legislation in recorded history. The least popular was the Republican proposal earlier in the year to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
This has created an electorate very hostile to the GOP. Democrats have an 11 point lead among voters for the next election, but whether Republicans will even lose control of either house of Congress remains very much an open question.
Democrats tend to be concentrated in cities, while Republicans are more evenly spread in conservative-leaning suburbs and rural areas.
This means that even a non-partisan approach to drawing congressional district boundaries would favor Republicans. But in most states, both parties attempt to draw district that favor their team. Hence the result in Alabama, where Republicans were in charge of the redistricting.
Since Republicans dominated the 2010 elections, they had the advantage of controlling more state legislatures – and therefore the redrawing of borders – during the last round of decennial redistricting. That means Democrats could fail to win the House despite getting far more votes.
Even though the Senate can’t be gerrymandered, the situation for Democrats there is just as bad because the third of the Senate up for re-election in 2018 overwhelmingly consists of seats held by Democrats. Republicans held 52 of the 100 Senate seats before Jones’s upset victory. They are now down to 51-49, but – as with the House – Republicans could win fewer Senate votes than Democrats and still retain their majority. That’s happened before, most recently in 2016, mainly because the Senate has a rural bias: smaller states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Nebraska each get the same two senators as populous California. In order to control the Senate, Democrats must win races in states that go consistently Republican in presidential elections.
Then there is the randomness of which third of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs in any given election cycle. The 2018 Senate map is especially favorable to Republicans. Democrats have to defend 23 seats to Republicans’ 10. Democrats must hold seats in 10 states Trump carried, including conservative bastions Indiana, West Virginia, and North Dakota. While political conditions will favor Democrats overall in 2018, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Democrats failed to hold one or two of these seats.
*This abrigded article is taken from Reuters