Rangel son got campaign money

Farang

Lifer
Jul 7, 2003
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http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1208/16219.html

Another corrupt, long-term Congress member. It seems the system is designed to end this way--districts which are so concentrated with one party, re-electing their representatives with 94% of the vote every two years, will inevitably be the most radical districts in the country. Is there any way to stop the extreme conservatives and the extreme liberals from controlling Congress, alternating every few years? Why can't moderate districts hold power in Congress?

Harlem controls Ways and Means while San Francisco controls the House. The Republicans weren't any better with the whackos they got to run the Senate in their run.
 

fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
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In general, gerrymandering makes incumbents less secure, not more secure... so it's not really the fault of the system that districts are polarized.

In some ways moderate districts DO hold power, the views of the median house/senate member are nearly always the best represented in Congress in terms of what legislation passes. As for why the moderates don't control both parties, it's because there aren't actually very many moderate districts at this point.
 

Farang

Lifer
Jul 7, 2003
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Originally posted by: eskimospy
In general, gerrymandering makes incumbents less secure, not more secure... so it's not really the fault of the system that districts are polarized.

From the dictionary: Gerrymandering is "to divide (an area) into political units to give special advantages to one group"

How could you say it makes them less secure in general? Isn't the reason gerrymandering exists that it makes them more secure?

In some ways moderate districts DO hold power, the views of the median house/senate member are nearly always the best represented in Congress in terms of what legislation passes.

Depends on the issue, but I think you're underestimating Congressional leadership's power to get things to a vote or deny legislation a vote at all.

As for why the moderates don't control both parties, it's because there aren't actually very many moderate districts at this point.

I think the purple district-by-district national election map you'll see every four years would say differently. Most districts have a healthy amount of liberals and conservatives, many willing to change sides multiple times during their lifetimes (at least in terms of how they vote).
 

fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
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Originally posted by: Farang
Originally posted by: eskimospy
In general, gerrymandering makes incumbents less secure, not more secure... so it's not really the fault of the system that districts are polarized.

From the dictionary: Gerrymandering is "to divide (an area) into political units to give special advantages to one group"

How could you say it makes them less secure in general? Isn't the reason gerrymandering exists that it makes them more secure?

In some ways moderate districts DO hold power, the views of the median house/senate member are nearly always the best represented in Congress in terms of what legislation passes.

Depends on the issue, but I think you're underestimating Congressional leadership's power to get things to a vote or deny legislation a vote at all.

As for why the moderates don't control both parties, it's because there aren't actually very many moderate districts at this point.

I think the purple district-by-district national election map you'll see every four years would say differently. Most districts have a healthy amount of liberals and conservatives, many willing to change sides multiple times during their lifetimes (at least in terms of how they vote).

Because the point of gerrymandering isn't to make individual congressmen secure, it's to give your party the maximum number of seats from the available area. An effective gerrymander makes it so that if you have 10 congressional districts, you make it so that even if the vote on the whole is split 50-50, the goal is to make it so you win 9 out of those 10 districts 51%-49% and then lose the 10th district 99%-1% or whatever. In effect you've given yourself 4 extra seats, and 90% of the representation while only really having 50% of the vote. Because of the benefit of winning lots of tight districts as opposed to a few safe ones, gerrymandering in a general sense tends to actually weaken incumbency. The reason why incumbents still get re-elected so much has more to do with lots of other things like fundraising, name recognition, party organization, etc.

As for the overall polarization of districts though, it most certainly is a problem. (just not one created by the parties, it appears to be a sociological one) The number of moderate districts has been rapidly declining over the last 40 years, and the trend appears likely to continue. They are in the decided minority now. Generally political scientists like to look at presidential election results as they involve the best samples and best information for voters, and the number of landslide districts (where either Obama or McCain won by more than 20 points) are almost an outright majority of all congressional districts nationwide according to Slate. So really, most districts DON'T have a healthy mix.

I personally have always thought of a landslide as being something less than 20 points, so heavily polarized districts are probably around the 60-70% area at this point... and they will likely continue to go up. So, I guess your fundamental point about super polarized districts electing more radical members of Congress is true, I just disagree on why. In my opinion it's more a case of 'we have met the enemy and he is us'.
 

Farang

Lifer
Jul 7, 2003
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I accept your point on gerrymandering. But I guess my main point still applies, in that these radical (94%) districts end up with longer term house members and end up controlling the legislature. So gerrymandering is still the cause of the problem but in a different way than I originally suggested, in that way yes I think we agree on the basic point and now I do agree with what you brought up as to why this problem exists.

I'd like to see the statistics you brought up in the second paragraph though, just from following local politics on the west coast it seems we do have districts that will sway one way or the other but they rarely go beyond a 60-40 split.
 

fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
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I don't have access to the exact data, but I would say that the big sort blog at Slate, written by the guy that wrote a really interesting book on the subject, is a pretty good resource. (although I disagree with some of what he says)

Funny thing is that I live on the west coast too, and my town is a perfect example of polarization. My district (California's 53rd) has a partisan ID of roughly +10 to +15 Democratic depending on the year. The district right next to it, the 52nd, has a Republican party ID advantage of roughly +10 to +15. That's a big party ID gap. Moreover, according to Wiki, all of these districts voted for Bush or Kerry by margins approaching 25 points.
 

Double Trouble

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
9,272
103
106
Originally posted by: eskimospy
Originally posted by: Farang
Originally posted by: eskimospy
In general, gerrymandering makes incumbents less secure, not more secure... so it's not really the fault of the system that districts are polarized.

From the dictionary: Gerrymandering is "to divide (an area) into political units to give special advantages to one group"

How could you say it makes them less secure in general? Isn't the reason gerrymandering exists that it makes them more secure?

In some ways moderate districts DO hold power, the views of the median house/senate member are nearly always the best represented in Congress in terms of what legislation passes.

Depends on the issue, but I think you're underestimating Congressional leadership's power to get things to a vote or deny legislation a vote at all.

As for why the moderates don't control both parties, it's because there aren't actually very many moderate districts at this point.

I think the purple district-by-district national election map you'll see every four years would say differently. Most districts have a healthy amount of liberals and conservatives, many willing to change sides multiple times during their lifetimes (at least in terms of how they vote).

Because the point of gerrymandering isn't to make individual congressmen secure, it's to give your party the maximum number of seats from the available area. An effective gerrymander makes it so that if you have 10 congressional districts, you make it so that even if the vote on the whole is split 50-50, the goal is to make it so you win 9 out of those 10 districts 51%-49% and then lose the 10th district 99%-1% or whatever. In effect you've given yourself 4 extra seats, and 90% of the representation while only really having 50% of the vote. Because of the benefit of winning lots of tight districts as opposed to a few safe ones, gerrymandering in a general sense tends to actually weaken incumbency. The reason why incumbents still get re-elected so much has more to do with lots of other things like fundraising, name recognition, party organization, etc.

As for the overall polarization of districts though, it most certainly is a problem. (just not one created by the parties, it appears to be a sociological one) The number of moderate districts has been rapidly declining over the last 40 years, and the trend appears likely to continue. They are in the decided minority now. Generally political scientists like to look at presidential election results as they involve the best samples and best information for voters, and the number of landslide districts (where either Obama or McCain won by more than 20 points) are almost an outright majority of all congressional districts nationwide according to Slate. So really, most districts DON'T have a healthy mix.

I personally have always thought of a landslide as being something less than 20 points, so heavily polarized districts are probably around the 60-70% area at this point... and they will likely continue to go up. So, I guess your fundamental point about super polarized districts electing more radical members of Congress is true, I just disagree on why. In my opinion it's more a case of 'we have met the enemy and he is us'.

Definitely. I think the tendency of people to seek out others who share their opinion has found perfect enabling mechanisms in technology such as the internet and the fragmentation of media (tv and radio stations dedicated to serving a very specific audience). That just further drives polarization. To the point where people are driven to irrational dislike of the "other side", regardless of what their viewpoint might be.
 

blinky8225

Senior member
Nov 23, 2004
564
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0
Maybe get rid of the seniority system? Those in radical districts always get re-elected; thus, with more time in Congress, they will hold more powerful positions.
 

fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
83,892
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Originally posted by: blinky8225
Maybe get rid of the seniority system? Those in radical districts always get re-elected; thus, with more time in Congress, they will hold more powerful positions.

And replace it with what? I've seen no indication that seniority in Congress has any connection to how radical the ideology of the member is.