Political Animal


November 12, 2012 4:49 PM No House GOP Mandate, Either

By Ed Kilgore

To hear John Boehner, Republican spinners and big elements of the MSM the last few days, the election ratified the 2010-2012 status quo, meaning that the Speaker and other GOP leaders had no reason to be any more reasonable now than they did on November 5. Boehner’s distant predecessor Newt Gingrich went further, suggesting that the Speaker claim a “split mandate,” with House GOPers enjoying as much legitimacy as the president in their post-election wishes.

There’s only one problem with that planted axiom: House Republicans only won a majority of seats because of gerrymandering. WaPo’s Aaron Blake reports:

Democratic House candidates appear to have won more of the popular vote than their Republican counterparts on Tuesday, despite what looks as though it will be a 35-seat GOP majority.
According to numbers compiled by the Post’s great Dan Keating, Democrats have won roughly 48.8 percent of the House vote, compared to 48.47 percent for Republicans.
Despite losing the popular vote, Republicans are set to have their second-biggest House majority in 60 years and their third-biggest since the Great Depression.
The numbers seem to back up what we’ve been talking about on this blog for a while: Redistricting drew such a GOP-friendly map that, in a neutral environment, Republicans have an inherent advantage.

There are some qualifiers about this take, including the practice of some states of not bothering to report the actual vote in House districts with unopposed candidates, and some quirky results from the “top-two runoff” states of California and Louisiana, where you had congressional “general elections” between two candidates from the same party.

But still, the idea—which was implicit in a lot of “centrist” Election Night coverage—of wise independent American voters deliberately choosing a GOP House to counter the Democratic White House and Senate, forcing the two parties to the table to ratify a Grand Deficit Reduction Bargain, is largely a chimera. You can make a credible argument that would be good for the country, but that is not what “the country” decided. Democrats won the national popular vote narrowly but unambiguously. Republicans are legitimately claiming the spoils of their success in redistricting, but a “split mandate” is an entirely irrational way to interpret the results.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • beejeez on November 12, 2012 4:59 PM:

    Hell, I'd take it if the House vote is considered a "split mandate." Republicans treat it as if it's a mandate for their platform.

  • c u n d gulag on November 12, 2012 5:04 PM:

    Well, they have to cling to something.

    The changing demographics are an anchor, so they have to try to walk that walk, and strut that strut, while they still can.

    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    The dying Conservative movement, they strutted, and now they fret, because their hour upon the stage is almost over.
    And every one of their politicians, pundits, and spokespeople, is an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signify, increasingly, nothing.

    And that describes Mitt, and Boehner, and McConnell, better than anything I could ever think up.

  • golack on November 12, 2012 5:05 PM:

    Don't worry, I'm sure the gerrymandering and voter suppression done in the NOrthern States will be used to undermine section 5 of the civil rights act.

  • Don K on November 12, 2012 5:20 PM:

    As an example of gerrymandering in action, in MI the vote split was 50.9 D/45.6 R, but the seat split was 5D/9R. By my analysis based on historic voting patterns, the Dems would have to get 54-55% of the statewide vote to have a shot at a 7/7 split. I'm sure the results would be similar in OH, PA, FL, and TX. Okay, among the large states the Dems had IL as a partial offset. CA was a non-partisan commission, and NY had split control of the legislature.

    Hell of a way to run a democracy.

  • Matt on November 12, 2012 5:25 PM:

    What the hell is a "split mandate?" Did the Tigers and the Giants split the World Series? I mean, San Francisco won it in four games, but they each won their respective league's pennant, so... call it a tie?

    I can remember when Gingrich was good at this shit. This is just sad.

  • Peter C on November 12, 2012 5:26 PM:

    "Republicans are legitimately claiming the spoils of their success in redistricting"

    Not all the spoils are legitimate. The Texas map, for instance, was struck-down by the courts, but their ruling was too late to affect the 2012 election. There is little to suggest that the Republicans even tried to draw a legal map.

  • T2 on November 12, 2012 5:36 PM:

    "entirely irrational" - welcome to the GOP. A Clown Show if there ever was one.

  • David Carlton on November 12, 2012 6:04 PM:

    Ah, but practically the incoming Republican Congress can legitimately claim a "mandate" simply because they're the ones who got elected. Why should, say, Diane Black from TN-6 be willing to deal because Democrats got more votes nationwide? She won big in her district, and Obama lost big in her district. A "mandate" is only credible if Obama can use it for real political leverage; but these people feel that their voters put them there to oppose everything Obama, root and branch. And, further, if they don't they'll get challenged from their right--as Diane Black was.

  • barkleyg on November 12, 2012 7:43 PM:

    YOU WANT A MANDATE I'll give you a mandate.

    I can't remember where I heard this, and haven't been able to confirm it. Not a good start. LOL Someone, please verify or refute this astounding statement.

    I heard that not ONE Democratic seat in Congress, where the incumbent was a Democrat and ran, changed hands this election.

    There were some Dem on Dem House seat races because of redistricting, but the Democrats didn't lose any seats they already had and the incumbent ran.

    Democratic INCUMBENTS not losing one Congressional race sounds like the Ultimate Mandate, except of course sweeping all Repugs out of Congress, which aint happening!

  • Renai on November 12, 2012 10:02 PM:

    So Boehner and the House still won't be doing any work.

    You get what you vote for.

    Just a thought: If Obama grants all those new churlish state petitions for secession, won't their applicable representation in the US government be rescinded?