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Sunday Late Night: House Party

Dana Milbank had one of his very rare useful moments Friday. I think it’s important to add focus to what he’s told us about the GOP House majority. For one thing, it’s pretty clear that John Boehner, or his GOP successor, can be the Speaker of the House until the 2020s Census, or unless there is some as-yet-unbegun nationwide effort to rein in Gerrymandering mid-decade.

The final results from the November election were completed Friday, and they show that Democratic candidates for the House outpolled Republicans nationwide by nearly 1.4 million votes and more than a full percentage point — a greater margin than the preliminary figures showed in November. And that’s just the beginning of it: A new analysis finds that even if Democratic congressional candidates won the popular vote by seven percentage points nationwide, they still would not have gained control of the House.

Does anyone actually believe that Congressional Democrats could ever pull off a seven-point win of the national popular vote? They could only manage slightly more than a full percentage point while the third Democratic president in 100 years got himself re-elected. Even winning in 2012 by nine points would have yielded only an eight-seat majority for Speaker Pelosi: easily undone on most legislative votes by the dwindling Blue Dogs and ascendant CorporateDems.

Anyone who looks at 2012’s raw data can see the problem:

According to the Jan. 4 final tally by Cook’s David Wasserman after all states certified their votes, Democratic House candidates won 59,645,387 votes in November to the Republicans’ 58,283,036, a difference of 1,362,351. On a percentage basis, Democrats won, 49.15 percent to 48.03 percent.

Personally, I think this means the current electorate cannot change who runs the House for the next twelve years. And that probably means disturbing the electorate’s composition, in a major and fundamental way: registering huge numbers of currently unengaged voters who can then use their electoral muscle to move a new majority. If Speaker Pelosi (or her Democratic successor) owes her gavel to these new voters, and to the presumably new organization that registered those voters and got them to the polls, it would be fascinating to watch her respond to that new political powerhouse. Who are those voters, then? Climate voters? Equality voters? Election finance voters? Anti-gun voters?

What’s the big issue this decade that could possibly spark a huge increase in voter registration? One so big as to move congressional district math, nationally, against all odds?

It’s clear the current electorate is as fixed as its assigned districts: only changing the composition of the electorate will change the vote tally. Democrats probably hope enough discouraged GOP voters stay home, in a mirror-image rerun of 2010. But the best bet is more voters and better ones. And that’s a House Party someone needs can organize right away: the half of US citizens who are currently unengaged, uninterested, baffled, and uninspired — or fed up. If a significant percentage of those currently unregistered citizens can be brought into voting, the board is upended.

Unless, of course, all the power players are quite pleased with the current arrangement.

Image by don relyea under Creative Commons license

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Teddy Partridge

Teddy Partridge