2010 redistricting yields new breed of recalcitrant Republicans


David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, in tonight’s discussion with Rachel about the role of gerrymandered Congressional districts in creating a political atmosphere in the House that encourages radicalism and recalcitrance over negotiation and accountability, shared some remarkable statistics about the current crop of House Republicans. On top of previous TRMS reporting on how redistricting allowed Republicans to win fewer votes but more House seats in the 2012 election, Wasserman presented the following:

Back in ’95 and ’96 when Republicans had 236 seats during that shutdown, there were 79 out of those 236 seats that were carried by Bill Clinton in 1992. That was many more than the 17 districts that Republicans represent that were won by Barack Obama in the 2012 election. So you’re talking about going from 79 districts where there was some incentive to compromise to 17. 

Republicans are living in a completely alternate universe from the rest of the country. Their districts are 75 percent white, compared to 63 percent for the national average and 50 percent for Democratic districts. Consider that only 37 Republicans in the House today out of 233 were around for the ’95, ’96 shutdown. And then, you also have the fact that 48 percent of all House Republicans, and this blows my mind, were elected after George W. Bush left office.

These people owe no allegiance to John Boehner. They ran against not only Democrats, but Republican leadership to get to Congress and they’re reflecting what the primary electorates, which decided their elections back home, wanted in the first place.

Wasserman’s statistics bear out what many have, sometimes jokingly, taken as common wisdom: whatever President Obama supports, reactionary Republicans automatically oppose: 

Out of the 80 letter signers who are essentially what Democrats would call the hostage takers, Obama actually lost their districts by an average of 23 points. And so, you’re talking about Republicans sitting in districts – and I call this the extreme index – fewer than a third of House Republicans in ’95, ’96 came from districts that were at least 10 points more Republican than the national average. Today, more than half of House Republicans come from districts that are at least ten points more Republican than the national average on the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index. 

And so, you’re talking about a situation where Obama actually has negative leverage. If he comes out and tells America that he supports one thing, that drives the incentive on the right to actually oppose things more. 

Wasserman offered more through his Twitter account:

  • In ‘95, the average House GOP seat was 6.59% more Republican than the national average. Today, average GOP seat is 11.12% more GOP.
  • In 1995, median Dem seat was D+6.7, median GOP seat R+6.8. In 2013, median Dem seat is D+11.8, median GOP seat R+10.2. #bigsortshutdown
  • The “Extreme” Index: In ‘95, fewer than a third of House GOPers (73/236) came from CDs R+10 or more. Today, more than half (122/232) do.
  • In ‘95-‘96, the average Clinton ‘92 share in House GOP seats was 46.6%. Today, the average Obama ‘12 share in House GOP seats is 40.4%.