Fifty-five members of the House of Representatives ran unopposed by the other major party in 2008. Forty-two Democrats did not face a Republican opponent and 13 Republicans did not draw any Democratic challenger. We have a two-party system in which 13% of House members did not face any opposition, no matter how weak, from the other the major party.

The number of representatives that face zero opposition for the other party is small compared to the number that faces only very weak or even token opposition. In addition to the 55 members of the House that run unopposed, an additional 97 members of the House (84 Democrats and 13 Republicans) won by blowout margins in 2008. Races where the winner secured 70% or more of the popular vote. All told, in one of the highest turnout and politically charged elections in recent history, over a third of the members of the House faced no or extremely weak opposition from the other major party.

If you wonder why Congressional members never seem to be held accountable for their promises and actions, or don’t seem responsive to the voters, it is because so many of them just aren’t.

I don’t believe that 55 members ran effectively unopposed because essentially everyone in their districts regardless of ideology thought they did such an amazing job they should just be handed re-election. This is a result of an inherent design flaw.

This is not because voters are lazy, or pure random happenstance. It is the result of both major parties spending years systematically putting in place mechanisms and election laws to reduce accountability and protect incumbency. If you want to bring back more democratic accountability to the system, you need to first understand and then dismantle the obstacles to accountability that have purposefully been erected within the system.

Information about House election results compiled from CNN elections

Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at