I’ve been following recent U.S. politics with some interest. There are many things I do not understand, but which nobody seems to be certain about – there are at least a dozen theories about why the Republicans act as they do, for instance. But there are two things that I don’t understand in the news coverage that I think may be simply obvious to U.S. residents. So, perhaps you people can help me with them.
I have read many times that there is a majority in the House in favour of a clean CR. So why don’t they vote on a clean CR and just pass it? Some of the articles I have read suggest that it is Boehner’s choice whether or not the House can vote on a law, but I can hardly believe that that is the case – it would mean that a single man has complete veto power over all laws. (And an even stronger veto than the president.)
There’s a lot of talk about how redistricting in 2010 has ensured that (1) Republicans have more seats in the House even though they got less total votes than democrats, and (2) Republicans don’t have to worry about being re-elected, because they’re all in safe Republican districts, and can therefore be ideologically extreme. But it seems to me that those two claims are contradictory. The whole point of gerrymandering in a first-past-the-post system is that you try to minimise your margins of victory and maximise those of your opponents, so that you win more districts than you normally would. So for Republicans, it is ideal if a perfectly balanced state is divided into eight +5% Republican districts, and two +80% Democratic districts: they could win 8 of 10 districts, while only getting half the state’s vote. But that means that when you are redistricting, you are facing a trade-off: you can get more districts, but only by narrowing your margins of victory. So if Republican redistricting has been successful in getting them to win more seats, than surely that must mean that the average democrat is running in a more ideologically extreme district than the average Republican, and that rather than all Republicans being in deeply red districts, most of them should be in ever-so-slightly-red districts, thus pushing them towards moderate positions. Right? What we should be seeing are very liberal Democrats and moderately conservative Republicans, I’d say. At least, I do not understand how redistricting can both explain the fact that Republicans won the House and the fact that they are ideologically extreme, but I do see both these explanations used all of the time.