Let me start off by saying that for the GOP to lose the House of Representatives would require a meltdown worse than we’re seeing in the Arctic.
“The number of competitive districts is at its lowest since Cook first started the partisanship rating in the 1998 election cycle,” the Cook Political Report announced earlier this year.
After the Republican landslide of 2010, the party’s leaders redistricted the congressional map so effectively that even though they received 1.4 million fewer votes than Democratic House candidates in 2012, they still kept a 17-seat majority in the House. And even without yogic gerrymandering, Americans have naturally gerrymandered themselves.
“Democrats move to cities and overwhelmingly vote for Democrats,” The Atlantic Wire‘s Philip Bump wrote. “If Democrats want to re-take the House, they should move to Wyoming.”
I explain how safe the Republican House majority should be to illustrate how remarkable it is that Republicans have begun to worry that they could lose the House, something they hadn’t imagined was possible until the first election after the next redistricting in 2022.
“Several influential Republicans told us the party is actually in a worse place than it was Nov. 7, the day after the disastrous election,” Politico‘s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei reported last week. They couldn’t find a Republican in Washington D.C. who didn’t see “a disaster in the making.”
Here are five reasons that even Republicans look at their representatives in the House and see disaster.
Photo: Screenshot via CookPolitical.com
“We have seen other voters pull back from the GOP, but among no group has this shift been as sharp as it is among senior citizens,” Democracy Corp’s Erica Seifert wrote recently.
The reasons behind this range from the obvious — Republicans have widely embraced plans for dismantling Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, all of which provide crucial support to older Americans — to the slightly less obvious — the economy and being frustrated with the GOP’s extremism.
In 2010, the electorate was much older than usual and seniors voted for Republicans by a 19 percent margin. If that margin stays where it is in Democracy Corps’ most recent poll — 6 percent — that wouldn’t give Democrats the House but it would set the stage for a very close election.
Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.com
There are at least five and maybe as many as a million ways that immigration reform could fall apart in the House. And there’s only one way it passes: “Shut up and get it done.”
That’s the recommendation of California’s Republicans, according to Politico‘s Jake Sherman.
If California is the ghost of the political future, Republicans should be terrified. The state’s redistricting reform and the GOP’s two-decade-old strategy of alienating Latinos has the state’s Republican House members feeling as if they are on the endangered species list.
“Eleven of the 15 districts held by Republicans are a quarter or more Hispanic — and some of them are prime targets for Democrats who need 17 seats to take back the House in 2014,” Sherman wrote.
But the worst-case scenario isn’t just immigration reform failing. It’s reform failing and lots more scenes like this crowd cheering the prospect of a little girl’s dad being deported.
Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.com
Voter Suppression Backfire
North Carolina’s Republicans have done the nation a service by highlighting how the GOP’s effort to pass voter ID laws and strengthen the “integrity” of the vote is just a bald-faced effort to stop minorities, students and Democrats in general from voting.
The only way to defeat these suppression measures is to focus on registration and getting voters whatever identification they need to cast their votes. This effort has already begun in California and as Texas and other states engage in the kind of discriminatory voting restrictions the Voting Rights Act used to block, the backlash could spread.
The minority vote will already be 2 percent larger in 2014 than 2010 because of population growth, according to Ruy Teixeira, a Senior Fellow at both The Century Foundation and American Progress. If minorities support Democrats at levels close to how they backed President Obama, that helps erase the advantage Republicans have going into the election.
Photo: hjl via Flickr.com
The number of people who identify with the Republican Party has been shrinking since last year’s election. This could be just a hangover of a big election loss, or the sign of actual dissatisfaction with the party.
In the House, Republicans have failed to pass a Farm Bill that includes Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits (aka food stamps or SNAP) and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee says that the sequestration, which conservatives are claiming as their one big victory in cutting big government, is unworkable.
“Later this year, Congress will contend with sequestration and equal pay for women, both of which present Republicans a choice of alienating their own base or riling their political enemies,” writes Salon‘s Brian Beutler. The second year of the sequestration includes cuts to defense that few Republicans are going to want to defend, meaning they may actually have to compromise.
The GOP’s aversion to compromise makes the likelihood of some sort of government shutdown or debt default a possibility.
Republicans have somehow won back the mantle of fiscal responsibility after blowing the surplus and George W. Bush leaving office with a $1.4 trillion deficit, but their intractability threatens to remind voters of the real reason they rejected Republicans so completely in 2008: incompetence.
If party of personal responsibility makes it clear that they are unwilling to govern, what’s is their argument for re-election? The Washington Examiner‘s Byron York, a conservative himself, says the House GOP needs an agenda to run on and win. Threatening to blow up the economy to stop President Obama from getting health insurance to tens of millions of people, he seems to feel, just isn’t good enough.
What if the thing Republicans spent years demonizing turns out to be a lifesaver for tens of millions of Americans?
It’s already happened for former Republican congressional staffer Clint Murphy.
The cancer survivor was recently denied health insurance because of his sleep apnea. That was too much. After years of fighting the Democratic agenda, he went on Facebook and told his conservative friends what he thought about their never-ending effort to destroy Obamacare: “When you say you’re against it, you’re saying that you don’t want people like me to have health insurance.”
To many, this kind of experience suggests that self-interest is the only way to convince Republicans that all Americans need health insurance. But self-interest when it comes to health insurance isn’t to be dismissed lightly.
“Health insurance isn’t like other forms of insurance,” writes Bloomberg‘s Ezra Klein. “It’s not protection against the unlikely; it’s insulation against the inevitable. Most people never use their fire insurance. Almost everyone uses their health insurance. Eventually.”
The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman keeps saying that the Republicans’ biggest fear is going to come true: Obamacare will work.
This may be wishful thinking but keep in mind that 26 million Americans will be getting tax credits to help them buy insurance. Many of them have no idea that this assistance is coming. Millions more will get completely subsidized Medicaid and millions more will find out that they could be getting Medicaid if the Republicans in their state would just take the coverage their residents will be paying for.
There’s no doubt that there will be hurdles (and roadblocks put up by Republicans). The right is going to blame every splinter in every tongue depressor on Obamacare. But there are literally tens of millions of opportunities for Americans to be better off because of this law. If just a fraction of the Americans who can benefit do, gratitude for the Democrats who passed it or anger at the Republicans who have spent years trying to repeal the law with no replacement to offer could be enough to change the electorate in ways we cannot fathom today.