Political Animal


March 15, 2013 4:13 PM Honky Chateau

By Ed Kilgore

Nicely coinciding with CPAC, in which conservatives are devoting equal time to alleged “outreach” to hostile voting groups and cries for additional holy war against the president and liberals, Charlie Cook offers some fresh numbers at National Journal for the extent to which House Republicans have reduced the opportunity for “outreach” in their own districts:

Fresh 2010 census data by congressional district, compiled by The Cook Political Report’s House editor, David Wasserman, provides some numerical food for thought. Between 2000 and 2010, the non-Hispanic white share of the population fell from 69 percent to 64 percent, closely tracking the 5-point drop in the white share of the electorate measured by exit polls between 2004 and 2012. But after the post-census redistricting and the 2012 elections, the non-Hispanic white share of the average Republican House district jumped from 73 percent to 75 percent, and the average Democratic House district declined from 52 percent white to 51 percent white. In other words, while the country continues to grow more racially diverse, the average Republican district continues to get even whiter….
What do all these numbers boil down to? House Republicans have done a remarkable job of “sequestering” Democrats into the minority, but in the process they’ve also reduced their own incentive to reach out to groups their party badly needs if it wants to stay relevant beyond the Southern confines of the Capitol. Sure, Republicans have plenty of incentive to don those aprons at local Rotary and Kiwanis barbecues. But if half of politics is simply showing up, how many fewer GOP legislators have strong reasons to shake hands or kiss babies at Puerto Rican Day parades, Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorations, or Asian food festivals?

It’s pretty simple, really: if you want to succeed politically in a diverse country, you’d best get a little more diverse your own selves, and barring that, find ways to show constituents your party isn’t just some comfortable honky chateau.

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.


  • somethingblue on March 15, 2013 4:36 PM:

    "Sure, Republicans have plenty of incentive to don those aprons at local Rotary and Kiwanis barbecues."

    Is that what they're donning.

  • Josef K on March 15, 2013 4:36 PM:

    barring that, find ways to show constituents your party isnít just some comfortable honky chateau.

    Its years too late for that. Right now the only evidence of the GOP's capacity for ethnic diversity is Alan West (who might as well have come from a Dave Chappelle routine) and Marco Rubio (an established liar and walking cliche). Even Colin Powell taking over the RNC couldn't begin to salvage this one.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on March 15, 2013 4:42 PM:

    That's even worse for the GOP. In short, that's not how partisan gerrymandering is supposed to work -- Republican districts are supposed to have gotten less Republican. (That tradeoff is really the whole point of partisan gerrymandering.)

    But instead, at least w/r/t race, you're telling us they needed more whites in their districts to win them. That should mean fewer districts won overall, hence the gerrymander falls like a house of cards.

    But in fairness, it could just be a statistically insignificant glitch in the numbers. Without confidence intervals, it's pretty much just throwing numbers around to appear serious.

  • c u n d gulag on March 15, 2013 4:43 PM:

    Sorry, but don't expect me to feel sorry for these Republican rats, who've carefully painted themselves into a demographic corner with Nitro and land-mines, and now can't figure a way out.

    They did it to themselves.

    So, pardon me if the "Pity Party" they expect me to have, is more of a jublilee!

    Yea have reaped, what you have sowed...

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on March 15, 2013 4:43 PM:

    By Cook, I meant, not Kilgore or other commenters. You can only work with what the author gives you.

  • Peter C on March 15, 2013 5:07 PM:

    Gerrymandering - the 'kinder, gentler' ethnic cleansing.

    I think it's time to try a completely programmatic redistricting system that is blind to race and party. Draw districts using a computer algorhitm that doesn't have names or fields for race or affiliation, just geographical information about precincts and their citizen populations. Optimize for smooth contiguous borders and equal numbers of voters, and start over.

    I can't see how to get there, though. It would take a much different court to remove the politics from redistricting, and fundamentally, every member of congress has a vested interest in preserving their own district.

  • S.W. Anderson on March 15, 2013 8:00 PM:

    I'll see Peter C.'s excellent idea and raise it with a call for reform to abolish the Electoral College. One man or woman, one vote. The presidential candidate who wins the most votes wins the office.

    Oh, and while I'm fantasizing, let's have a constitutional amendment requiring that in the event of presidential election results so equivocal or tainted by evidence of tampering that a clear winner is impossible to determine with certainty within 14 days, a second vote will be held within 40 days. Under no circumstances will any part of the judicial branch decide the outcome of a presidential election ever again.