America is an electoral mess. Though it is still possible (somehow, and at the expense of America’s intellectual rigor) that Donald Trump can win and become president, Hillary Clinton has an electoral landslide within her grasp… if her penchant for thinly disguised political opportunism does not reveal some epic, quid pro quo Clinton Foundation scandals; if her infamous email catalogue does not continue to sink her honesty numbers; if her—well you get the point.
But a third, consecutive Democratic presidential term is likely to be greeted by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and this is the real problem of American politics: our legislative branch is a stranger to democratic, and often Democratic, representation.
If Clinton wins the popular vote, it will be the sixth popular vote victory for Democrats in seven elections. It is increasingly impossible for Republicans to win presidential elections, largely because they do not follow their own RNC ideas for making the GOP less exclusively a party for elderly, white males. Please, pass that link on to any Republican friends and family you have, I suppose they really need to read it again.
But despite the GOP’s national electoral woes, the House of Representatives currently has the biggest Republican majority in nearly a century. The Senate also has a Republican majority, though because only one-third of Americans vote in midterm elections. Republicans have realized the minority party-electoral advantage in a small voting base, which is why they have worked tirelessly to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters under the partisan illusion that they are trying to prevent voter fraud—a disproportionate reaction to a problem that rarely affects a double-digit number of votes. Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola Law School in LA who researches voter fraud, compiled a list of 31 credible instances of fraud throughout the country between 2000 and 2014 for the Washington Post. Out of more than a billion votes cast over fourteen years, 31 instances of credible voter fraud have been found.
This averages about eight cases of fraud every presidential election. But Republicans risk disenfranchising, literally, hundreds of thousands of voters—poor people, made up disproportionately of ethnic minorities, who cannot take off work to drive across the state to get a voter ID; the elderly who aren’t mobile enough to get an ID; married women and others who have recently changed their names or do not have proper birth records—to stop single-digit instances of voter fraud. That’s some Orwellian problem-solving: Democracy Through Disenfranchisement.
This is the tip of the iceberg, though. Gerrymanders have long infested America’s congressional districts, but Republicans have historically disproportionate, national representation because of them. The swing states of past elections tend to have some of the worst gerrymandering in the nation, and it’s not surprising that Republicans have gotten caught in Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia drawing racially-focused congressional maps. This is why some states that routinely vote blue have impressive, state-wide Republican majorities: Republicans are cheaters!
Some legal efforts have been successful in combatting Republican’s chicanery, and another swing state, Florida, is one such positive story. A few years ago Florida mandated computer-generated districting maps that don’t base themselves on the racial makeup of Florida’s communities, and Democrats are likely to pick up a handful of extra Congressional seats because of it.
Of course, Democrats have been guilty of gerrymandering as well, but look at the Congressional scoreboard. In 2012 Democrats handily won more House votes than Republicans, but the GOP kept its massive House majority; Ohio voted for Obama twice, yet has twelve Republican Congressional Representatives compared to only four Democrats; Pennsylvania has voted blue since 1992, but somehow also has only four Democratic Congressional Representatives compared to 13 Republicans. Just look at North Carolina’s Congressional map. It’s hilariously undemocratic (and subsequently unDemocratic).
The Republican Party took advantage of the nation’s mid-term apathy amidst the 2000 and 2010 Census updates, which effectively allowed them to pick their own constituencies. It’s not surprising that hyper-conservative districts have elected hyper-conservative representatives. Does it make sense that Minnesota, a state that has voted Democratic since 1972 (Minnesota was the single blue state alongside Washington D.C. in Reagan’s 1984 landslide) would have ever elected Michele Bachmann, a Christian fundamentalist who interprets God’s punishment in most negative occurrences around the world and attributes it to America’s liberalism? It doesn’t until you see how purposefully uncompetitive the district she represented has been drawn.
Meanwhile, in Texas, if Louie Gohmert’s district wasn’t designed to help carve up liberal areas into multiple conservative districts, does it make sense that Louie Gohmert would be in elected office? Google the keywords “Louie Gohmert + dumb” and marvel at the televised meltdowns that show up. He still believes that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, only that they were given to Syria before the US invasion! Louie Gohmert is truly a national treasure as someone who both looks and sounds like someone named “Louie Gohmert.”
Most of our political problems can be traced back to this absurdly disproportionate influence that the Republican Party wields in Congress, despite the nation’s contemporary aversion to the idea of a Republican president. The number of GOP House seats is simply unrelated to America’s actual democratic and Democratic makeup, and it’s a stain on America’s history that Christian fundamentalist Representatives like Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert can be successful Republican politicians (Bachmann herself was a former, Republican presidential primary frontrunner, and Gohmert once earned three votes in an attempt to be elected Speaker of the House), even amidst the disappointing number of Tea Party Republicans in Congress who erroneously believe that President Obama is a Muslim America-hater. Is racism a motivation for the POTUS smear? Apparently it is politically incorrect for me to call Republicans racist, but certainly the white-nationalist sympathies of the GOP primary voting base helped Trump outflank a pool of Republican presidential candidates who somewhat unitedly agreed that Trump’s nativist vision did not accurately represent America’s value of diversity.
This hyper-conservatism is further amplified in state legislative bodies, but the federal Congress has caused bigger problems for much more people than any individual state legislature. For instance, state legislatures have not shut down their state governments because Democratic governors were elected, while Republicans are two-for-two in shutting down the federal government during Democratic presidencies.
Democrats can continue getting elected to the presidency, but the Congressional dysfunction that has plagued the last two Democratic presidents will continue until Republicans stop having such an outsized, illegitimate majority in Congress. Florida serves as a quality example on how to fight the racially-biased districting of which Republicans are so fond. North Carolina is the example of how not to draw a state’s congressional districts. Seriously, study NC: it’s 12th district is a particularly offensive example of bullshit politics, though literally none of the state’s districts aren’t bullshit.
When the GOP-controlled House is so willfully undemocratic, is it any surprise that Republican politics would beeline over the rubicons of civil decency and responsibility that would ordinarily stop someone like Donald Trump from winning the GOP presidential nomination? Trump is likely to lose Election 2016, but Republicans are likely to keep their House majority and stonewall Hillary Clinton because she’s a female Democratic President who beat their preposterously unqualified and terrible nominee. It’s uncertain which of those Clinton characteristics makes Republicans angriest, but the GOP’s inflated House majority of Tea Party hotheads is America’s eternal problem.
The only comfort will be in watching Paul Ryan struggle with the House Freedom Caucus.