Anyone with an interest in why American politics are what they are– for better or (mostly) for worse– ought to read this New Yorker article about the increasingly partisan nature of Congressional redistricting (otherwise known as “gerrymandering”). We’ve reached the point where nearly 400 of the 435 places in the House of Representatives are essentially “safe seats” for one party or the other.
Today, the House and the Senate have precisely flipped roles. Senate races, which are not subject to redistricting, are decided by actual voters, who do indeed change their minds with some regularity. Control of the Senate has shifted five times since the nineteen-eighties. The House, by contrast, has changed hands just once in the same period, in the Republican takeover of 1994. In 2002, only one out of twelve House elections was decided by ten or fewer percentage points, while half of the governors’ and Senate races were that close. In 2002, only four House challengers defeated incumbents in the general election—a record low in the modern era. In a real sense, the voters no longer select the members of the House of Representatives; the state legislators who design the districts do.
Something here is badly broken. And no, I don’t like gerrymandered safe seats for liberal Democrats any more than I do for conservative Republicans.