News & Politics

The Congressional Map Is Even More Rigged in Favor of Republicans Than You Realize

New research indicates Democrats may need a tidal wave to reclaim the House this fall.

Photo Credit: Alexander Lukatskiy / Shutterstock

The chatter began in earnest after Ralph Northam's blowout win in the Virginia gubernatorial race, and has only grown louder since Doug Jones' and Conor Lamb's upset victories in Alabama and Pennsylvania, respectively. This November, the political media class has determined, is going to be a wave election for the Democratic Party.

There's plenty of evidence to support their theory. Since World War II, the opposition has gained an average of 25 seats during midterms, and Donald Trump's approval rating is currently hovering around 40 percent. Yet new research suggests it might take a virtual blue tsunami for Democrats to retake the House. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the GOP could lose the popular vote by as much as 10 percentage points and still hold both chambers of Congress thanks to partisan redistricting. As Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress notes, "congressional races are so heavily rigged in favor of Republicans that the United States can barely be described as a democratic republic."

The Brennan Center may be bearish on Democrats' chances this fall, but its findings are hardly anomalous. Forty-nine Democratic senators currently represent 20 million more people than 51 of their Republican counterparts. During the final year of the Obama administration, when the GOP refused even to grant a hearing to his Supreme Court appointee, Merrick Garland, 54 Republican senators represented 25 million fewer constituents than 46 Democrats. And of course, Donald Trump currently occupies the Oval Office despite Hillary Clinton earning three million more votes.

On a state level, the numbers are even more appalling. The Brennan Center estimates that Democrats could capture 47 percent of the electorate in Alabama and still wind up with a single seat in the House; in Georgia, 54 percent of the vote could translate to just five of a possible 14.

Neither party has proven immune to this kind of outrageous gerrymandering. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Benisek v. Lamone regarding the constitutionality of Maryland's Democratically redrawn congressional map. Still, this latest report makes clear that Republicans have tilted the electoral field in their favor and dramatically so.

"The United States, in other words, is barreling toward a future where a younger, multicultural, more urbanized majority is ruled by an aging, white, rural minority," Millhiser continues. "That’s a recipe for civil unrest, or even a secession crisis."

The last time a single party won a popular vote by 11 points was in 1982, when Democrats gained a 269-seat majority in the House amidst a deep recession. As of this writing, Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, which takes a composite average of several dozen polls, has the Democrats leading by just 5.7 percent on a generic ballot in 2018.

H/T ThinkProgress

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Jacob Sugarman is the acting managing editor at Truthdig.