Most of the Hillary Clinton Supporters I’ve spoken with, would have no problem voting for Bernie Sanders, but the reverse isn’t quite as true, and that’s a sad statement. As it seems virtually certain that Clinton will be the democratic nominee (Sanders won’t have enough delegates even if he were to take 60% of the remaining delegates and flip 40% of the superdelegates) this seems like the perfect time to underscore why Democratic Party unity is of utmost importance in the general election.
There are three interesting quirks of the constitution that we need to underscore: presidential elections are every four years, congressional races are every two years, and a census is held every ten years. This means, of course, that all censuses (censi?) correspond with a congressional election but only half of them correspond with a presidential election.
It’s an unfortunate truth that presidential election years have higher voter turnout than mid-term election years. I wish I could give a better explanation for this fact but I guess some people don’t consider local representation as important as the presidency, despite where the true constitutional power actually lies.
Depressed voter turnout favors republican candidates since their constituents vote more consistently than their democratic counterparts. When you figure that half of the censuses correspond to mid-term election years, this enables gerrymandering to favor the Republican Party at least half of the time. This is how, for example, my home state of Pennsylvania, which has more registered democrats than republicans in the general population, skews heavily republican in terms of congressional representation (5 democrats vs 13 republicans). The Wikipedia page on Pennsylvania’s congressional districts, at present, shows how the five democratic districts are all overwhelmingly “blue” but none of the republican ones are anywhere near as “red”.
The other half of the time, the eventual victor of the presidential race will usually have a direct impact on down ticket races. A democratic presidential victory generally means more success for the other democratic races, and a republican presidential victory generally means more success for the other republican races.
But if you look at recent history, the gerrymandering has more consistently favored the GOP in all census years. Look at this set of trends:
2010 — Barack Obama was the sitting president in a mid-term election year. This favors the republicans.
2000 — Bill Clinton was constitutionally ineligible to be re-elected and the presidency shifted from the democrats to the republicans. This favors the republicans.
1990 — George H W Bush was the sitting president in a mid-term election year. This favors the republicans.
1980 — Ronald Reagan swept into the presidency in a landslide. This favors the republicans.
1970 — Richard Nixon was the sitting president in a mid-term election year. This favors the republicans.
1960 — Dwight Eisenhower was constitutionally ineligible to be re-elected and the presidency shifted from the republicans to the democrats. This favors the democrats.
1950 — Harry Truman was the sitting president in a mid-term election year. This favors the republicans.
1940 — FDR was the sitting president and was re-elected to what was, at the time, an unprecedented third term in office. This favors the democrats.
Of course, any historian would be quick to point out that the republicans didn’t actually control both houses of congress for most of this time period until 1994 and I acknowledge this point. It was a slow climb for the GOP as the odds favored them more consistently. They knew that they could only test the waters and it was a gradual shift.
But it’s still noteworthy that, if we assume a democratic victory in the 2016 elections, the 2020 census will be the first opportunity to shift the congressional representation away from the republicans in what will be, at the time, 60 years.
Am I getting a little bit ahead of myself? Sure. But when you consider that the current electoral college map very strongly favors the democrats (and will for at least this year and 2020), isn’t this something worth recognizing?