Sunday, September 07, 2014

Why Democrats Can’t Win the House

Nate Cohn, NYT
SEPT. 6, 2014

WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats are struggling for control of the Senate in this November’s midterm elections. But there is no real fight for control of the House of Representatives.

The Republicans are all but assured of retaining control of the House, despite last fall’s unpopular government shutdown and the party’s dismal ratings.

“The Republican hold on the House is the graveyard of the hopes of Democratic policy change,” says Neera Tanden, president of the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. It has stifled not just President Obama’s agenda, but also the aspirations of his coalition of young, secular and nonwhite voters, who have represented a majority in presidential elections.

How is it possible that the Democrats, who have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, are at such a disadvantage in the House, theoretically the most representative body of government? It is the biggest paradox in American electoral politics.

Democrats often blame gerrymandering, but that’s not the whole story. More than ever, the kind of place where Americans live — metropolitan or rural — dictates their political views. The country is increasingly divided between liberal cities and close-in suburbs, on one hand, and conservative exurbs and rural areas, on the other. Even in red states, the counties containing the large cities — like Dallas, Atlanta, St. Louis and Birmingham — lean Democratic.

In presidential races, Democrats used to win by expanding their appeal beyond urban areas, particularly in the South, but Mr. Obama took a different path to victory in 2008 and 2012. He won the nation’s largest cities with more than 80 percent of the vote — margins that Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson could only have dreamed of. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, didn’t win the countryside as decisively as Mr. Obama won the big cities.

(More here.)

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