I was reading By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans prefer Obamacare to Republican replacements in The Washington Post today with great interest. At first, I found the article encouraging since it validated what I already felt: that the new “healthcare” bill proposed by the GOP is wildly unpopular so it must be doomed to fail. But as I read on, I had a shocking epiphany that should give anyone opposed to repeal/replacement of the Affordable Care Act concern.
There have been many people asking “Why is Mitch McConnell continuing to pursue passing this bill that is so “wildly” unpopular?” “How could they dare pass it?”
I took a close look closely at the charts and the statistics. Though the GOP bill is not exceedingly popular among republicans, they do still prefer their bill to existing ACA (“Obamacare”) by 59%. I guess it’s not really surprising. Fifty-nine percent is not overwhelming popularity, but it is still a majority of the party.
So, ask yourself again, why is Mitch McConnell so willing to go to the mat over this horrible bill? Why don’t they care that the majority of the country doesn’t want this change? Answer: The majority of what they see as their electorate still does.
Due to the GOP’s strong win in 2010, in many states they won control of the redistricting process which allowed them, through gerrymandering the voting districts, to ensure they dilute any votes against the GOP. This means in a lot of key states, they know their seats are safe as long as they keep the republicans in their district happy.
Gerrymandering allows the broadly unpopular to still win elections and pass bills. There has been increasing conversation about the need for Democrats to increase their efforts to fight for state seats to control the state legislatures before the next census and redistricting effort. There are some lawsuits pending and this is even the cause that Barack Obama has aligned himself with as his number one post-presidency issue.
John Oliver did a great episode on Gerrymandering: Gerrymandering: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) – YouTube
There’s other opinions on whether gerrymandering is really that important in this. Politico wrote an article in 2015 Gerrymandering Isn’t Evil Why independent redistricting won’t save us from political gridlock. which attempts to debunk what they called the myths of gerrymandering. They mention studies that have shown that the wasted votes (those votes that were for the losing candidate). I’d be very interested to see how the wasted votes in each state’s districts impacted the 2016 election results (at all levels, not just presidential contest). Their concluding point is that there is not a clear consensus on what would be considered a “good” district?
There is no universal set of rules or methods for defining the state voting districts. The US Constitution doesn’t even mention “districts”, but does connect the number of Representative each state gets in the House to the census which must be updated every 10 years. Except for some limited federal statutes, how this is done has been delegated to the states. Some, but not all, state constitutions require that districts should be “compact”. An interesting PRI story explained how one mathematician is working to help courts determine the compactness of a particular district. At the very least we should have non-partisan commissions defining the districts, but many states allow the majority party to own those decisions.
The health care bill is a potent example of why it’s important for our democracy that our voting districts NOT be defined along partisan lines. I don’t want to see democratic friendly districts either, BTW. To heal the divide in this country, We need to work to redraw those lines to FORCE our politicians to work for ALL Americans, not just those who already agree with them.
What do you think?