Congressional Candidate Forum

Since 2006, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Men’s Club, Sisterhood and Israel Action Committee have jointly organized candidate forums to provide the community an opportunity to discuss issues with our Congressman and his challengers during each Congressional election.

This year we welcome the four Democratic candidates and one Republican candidate vying in the primary for Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District.

  • 7:00-7:30: Dwight Evans (D) – Pennsylvania State Representative, 203rd district (Philadelphia), since 1980.
  • 7:35-8:05: Chaka Fattah (D) – Congressman, 2nd district (Philadelphia, Lower Merion, Narberth), since 1995.
  • 8:10-8:40: Brian Gordon (D) – Lower Merion Township Commissioner, 12th ward (Merion), since 2008.
  • 8:45-9:15: Dan Muroff (D) – Democratic Ward Leader, Philadelphia’s 9th ward
  • 9:20-9:50: James Jones (R) – businessman, ran for Congress in 2010

Please come and engage the candidates on the issues.

The forum is free and open to the community. Please tell us if you are interested in attending. (RSVP suggested but not required.)

Gerrymandering Dooms Dems’ Hopes in House

Democrats’ grief over this year’s election has focused on their losses in the Senate, but their losses in the House of Representatives are much worse. While the Senate could be regained by the Democrats in a couple of years, retaking the House may take a decade or more.

Democrats May Win Senate in 2016

In off-year elections, about 12% of voters are 18-29 years old, 23% are 30-44, and 64% are older. However, in Presidential elections about 18% are 18-29, 28% are 30-44, and 54% are older.

In off-year elections, about 12% of voters are 18-29 years old, 23% are 30-44, and 64% are older. However, in Presidential elections about 18% are 18-29, 28% are 30-44, and 54% are older.

Most of the senators in the third of Senate that was up for election this year were elected in the Democratic wave led by Barack Obama in 2008 as he inspired young voters to come to the polls and defeat John McCain.

However, young voters are not consistent voters. They tend to turn out in much larger number for presidential elections. In this year’s off-year election, the youth failed to come out in great numbers, so most of these swing seats slipped out of Democratic hands giving control of the Senate to the Republicans. Democrats are disappointed by this outcome, but at least for the Senate their setback might only be temporary.

The batch of Senators up for election in 2016 is dominated by the Republicans who benefited from the Republican wave of 2010, so if the Democrats can get their base to turn out to the polls again in a presidential election year they might be able to take back four or five seats and regain control of the Senate.

Gerrymandering Renders House Elections Nearly Irrelevant

All of the attention on the Senate has diverted many people’s attention from the House of Representatives. After the 2010 census, Republicans used their control of numerous state legislatures and governorships, and sophisticated redistricting technology to craft congressional districts to their liking for the 2012 presidential election.

As a result, even though Obama was reelected and more people voted for Democratic congressional candidates than for Republican candidates (59.6 million to 58.2 million), the Republicans actually won more seats than the Democrats (242 to 193), and Republican John Boehner (OH-8) replaced Democrat Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) as Speaker of the House.

Indeed, The Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s analysis of the 2012 election showed that the redistricting gave the Republicans a 7.5% head-start in the House elections. In other words, without a Democratic landslide the Republicans would be able to seize control of the House. If the Democrats need to beat the Republicans by 7.5% just to break even, then we have lost sight of the idea of majority rule.6-3-13-gerrymander[1]

This year we conducted a similar analysis of election results. If we magically sprinkled Democratic voters across the country, this year Democrats would have needed a 10% margin in order to have regained control.

In fact, the Democrats lost the popular vote by an 8% margin, but the game was rigged so efficiently by gerrymandering that even if the shoe had been on the other foot and the Democrats had won the popular vote by 8% that would not have been sufficient for them to win back control of the House.

While the Democrats have high hopes of electing Hillary Clinton or another Democrat as president and perhaps regaining a majority in the Senate, they have virtually no chance of getting control of the House of Representatives until 2022, and even that will require significant gains by the Democrats in local state politics, and popular support for reform in the arcane world of redistricting.

Cartoon courtesy of Mike Stanfill.dyzm21gxkwi4jj0imdnu[1]

Heard At The Electoral College

Florida Democratic electors sign election-results certificates in the Florida Senate chambersMembers of the electoral college met today in all fifty state capitals and the District of Columbia to officially cast their votes for President and Vice-President of the United State. Here are some highlights from Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona.

“What! No write-in votes for me?” — State Senator Daylin Leach (D-PA).

“I will quote loosely Vice-President Biden: ‘This is a…. uh… big deal.'” — State Party Chairman Rod Smith (D-FL)

AZ GOP Chairman Tom Morrissey and John Rhodes, sign Electoral College papers casting their vote for Mitt Romney. Both men said they have doubts about President Obama's birth certificate and his right to serveArizona Public Radio reports that the state’s electors cast their ballots for Romney — but not before three of them said questions remain about whether Barack Obama was born in this country. “I’m not satisfied with what I’ve seen. I think for somebody in the president’s position to not have produced a document that looks more legitimate, I have a problem with that.” — State Party Chairman Tom Morrissey (R-AZ)

According to the Los Angeles Times:

More than five weeks after election day, almost all the presidential votes have been counted. Here’s what the near-final tally reveals: The election really wasn’t close.”

In the weeks since the election, as states have completed their counts, Obama’s margin has grown steadily. From just over 2 percentage points, it now stands at nearly 4. Rather than worry about the Bush-Kerry precedent, White House aides now brag that Obama seems all but certain to achieve a mark hit by only five others in U.S. history – winning the presidency twice with 51% or more of the popular vote

November Election Post-Mortum

Gerrymandering a majority in the House

As we discussed earlier redistricting has given Republicans a 7.5% head-start in the Congressional elections, Hendrick Hertzberg agrees and notes how rare such an advantage is:

“For one party to win a majority of House seats with a minority of votes is a relatively rare occurrence. It has now happened five times in the past hundred years. In 1914 and 1942, the Democrats were the beneficiaries. In 1952, 1996, and this year, it was the Republicans’ turn to get lucky, and their luck is likely to hold for many election cycles to come. Gerrymandering routinely gets blamed for such mismatches, but that’s only part of the story. Far more important than redistricting is just plain districting: because so many Democrats are city folk, large numbers of Democratic votes pile up redundantly in overwhelmingly one-sided districts.”

Redistricting should be done with eye towards creating a map that accurately reflects the partisan makeup of that state. (Compare the map above with the one by Mark Newman after the jump.)

Former GOP leaders admit voter suppression – not voter fraud was their motivation behind voter id laws.
It’s Worth The Wait

Former Florida Republican party officials tell the Palm Beach Post that a new election law that “contributed to long voter lines and caused some to abandon voting altogether was intentionally designed by Florida GOP staff and consultants to inhibit Democratic voters.”

“Republican leaders said in proposing the law that it was meant to save money and fight voter fraud. But a former GOP chairman and former Gov. Charlie Crist, both of whom have been ousted from the party, now say that fraud concerns were advanced only as subterfuge for the law’s main purpose: GOP victory.”

As the bar chart above shows, Democrats and minorities were more likely to have to wait a long time in order to exercise their right to vote. Limiting voting hours, voting locations and voting machines in urban districts is part and parcel of the Republican strategy to discourage Democratic voters. As The Atlantic reports, “No one in America should have to wait 7 hours to vote. What’s happening at polling stations in Ohio and Florida isn’t some fluke of nature or breakdown in equipment. It’s all part of a partisan design…. Phil Hirschkorn, the last “early voter” in line for Saturday’s truncated early voting in Palm Beach County finally got to cast a ballot at 2:30 a.m Sunday morning, which means that voter waited in line for more than seven hours.”

Obama Victory Margin Grows

As the votes keep coming in, David Wasserman notes President Obama’s national lead over Mitt Romney is now 50.9% to 47.4%.

First Read: “That’s a bigger (and more decisive) margin that Bush’s victory over John Kerry in 2004 (which was Bush 50.7% and Kerry 48.2%). What’s more, the president’s lead has grown to close to 3 points in Ohio, 4 points in Virginia and 6 points in Colorado. One doesn’t win Colorado by six points without winning swing voters; there isn’t a big-enough Democratic base to make that argument.”

Markos Moulitsas notes that President Obama could have lost every state he won by less than 5.4 percentage points — Florida, Ohio, and Virginia — and he still would’ve won the electoral vote 272 to 266.

Cartogram by Mark Newman
Presidential election results 1960-2012. Each county is colored according the vote in that county. Increasing shades of red mean more Republican, increasing shares of blue mean more Democrat, so purple is evenly balanced. Shades of green are used to indicate support for third party or independent candidates.

Here is a 3-d version for the 2012 election. The height of each county shows the number of votes cast.

Why Not Replace Texas With Puerto Rico And Make Everyone Happy?

Last week on election day, Puerto Ricans were asked their preference for the future of their island, currently an unincorporated territory of the United States. A large majority 809,000 voted for statehood, while 73,000 voted for independence and 441,000 voted for sovereign free association. Becoming a state would require approval by Congress. However, Republicans can be expected to oppose statehood of heavily Democratics Puerto Rico, just as they opposed attributed Congressional representation to Washington DC.

However, while Puerto Ricans are eager to strengthen their ties with the United States, some conservatives living in Red States are so disappointed with the election results that have petitioned the White House to allow their states to secede from the union.

According to Dana Milbank,

The White House, in one of those astro-turf efforts that make people feel warm about small-d democracy, launched a “We the People” program on its Web site last year, allowing Americans to petition their government for a redress of grievances. Any petition that receives 25,000 or more signatures within 30 days is promised a response (though not necessarily a favorable one) from the Obama administration.

And so a large number of patriotic Americans, mostly from states won by Mitt Romney last week, have petitioned the White House to let them secede. They should be careful about what they wish for. It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish “to withdraw from the United States and create [their] own NEW government” (the petitions emphasize “new” by capitalizing it).

Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.

Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out:

  • Louisiana (more than 28,000 signatures at midday Tuesday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes;
  • Alabama (more than 20,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in;
  • South Carolina (13,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and
  • Missouri (16,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.

The first such petition (94,864 signatures so far) was for Texas:

Peacefully grant the State of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.

This is not a new idea. Texas Governor Rick Perry proposed it three years ago. (See this video for the eager response by Keith Oberman.)

Hardin County Republican treasurer Peter Morrison writes “”Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government? Let each go her own way.”

Meanwhile Doc Jess of DemConWatch writes:

For one reason, and one reason alone, I was in favour of Rick’s idea back then, and still am now. That’s the redistribution of their 38 Electoral College votes. And to a lesser extent the movement of that fence from the Mexican border to the Texas abutments with New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Of course, there are great benefits to the remainder of America if Texas goes: there are 52 Fortune 500 companies in Texas. While the oil industry might stay in this new country, it’s likely that AT&T, Dell, Whole Foods, Sysco, Kimberly-Clark, Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, and a host of others, will be looking for new places for their headquarters. Not to mention the 7 Air Force bases, 4 Army bases, and 3 Navy bases. Plus the economies that depend on them.

It will be tough for Texas when 37% of their income disappears. Not just from those companies and bases mentioned, but from the Federal receipts the state receives.

“Who Loves Ya Baby?”

You can be sure that over the ensuing weeks, months and years, leading up to the 2016 Presidential Elections, the GOP political pundits and strategist will be agonizing over the root causes of what went so terribly wrong with their presidential campaign. I can save them a lot of time and effort by citing a tag line from a TV show from the early 1970’s.
[Read more…]

Boehner’s House “Mandate”: Gerrymandering a Democratic majority

Last week, Americans voted not just for President but also for their Representatives and Senators. Results were mixed. In the Presidential election, Obama edged out Romney in both the Electoral College (332 to 206) and in the popular vote (51% to 48%). In the Senate, Democrats overcame all odds and not only held onto but actually expanded their majority. However, in the House of Representatives, Democrats only picked up 4-8 seats out of the 25 seats they needed to retake control of the House. (Four seats remain undecided: AZ-2, CA-7, CA-52 and LA-2.)

Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-2) took solace in keeping the House. “We’ll have as much of a mandate as he [President Obama] will to not raise taxes.”

How is that the same electorate shows up at the polls and hands victories to the GOP in the House and to Obama and the Democrats in the Senate?

In fact, Boehner is wrong. There was no mandate for the Republicans to keep control of the House. In fact, a majority of Americans voted for a Democrat to represent them in the House of Representatives. According to Dan Keating at the Washington Post:

  • Democratic candidates for the House got 54,301,095 votes (48.8%) while
  • Republican candidates for the House got 53,822,442 votes (48.5%).

But if that is the case, why did more Republicans get elected than Democrats?

According to Ezra Klein,  

What saved Boehner’s majority wasn’t the will of the people but the power of redistricting. As my colleague Dylan Matthews showed, Republicans used their control over the redistricting process to great effect, packing Democrats into tighter and tighter districts and managing to restructure races so even a slight loss for Republicans in the popular vote still meant a healthy majority in the House.


In most states where Republicans controlled redistricting, the Democrats’ share of House seats was far beneath their share of the presidential vote. (Dylan Matthews)

That’s a neat trick, but it’s not a popular mandate, or anything near to it – and Boehner knows it. That’s why his first move after the election was to announce, in a vague-but-important statement, that he was open to some kind of compromise on taxes.

For example, here in Pennsylvania, the Republicans control the Governor’s mansion, the State House and the State Senate, and they used their control to gerrymander the state so that while the Democrats got a majority of the votes (53%) they only took 5 out of 18 seats (28%). They do so by packing Democratic super-majorities into a few districts. Brady won PA-1 with 85.0% of the vote, and Fattah won PA-2 with 89.4%. These huge margins represent wasted votes that potentially could have elected additional Democrats had the districts been drawn differently.

More after the jump.
The situation is not symmetrical in the few states controlled by the Democrats.

This isn’t as true for Democratic-controlled redistricting, and not just because Democrats ran redistricting in only six states. Democrats are just worse at gerrymandering when they get the chance. While Democrats outperformed their presidential vote in House races in Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, they underperformed in Arkansas and West Virginia.

This suggests that it’s going to be tough for Democrats to make big gains in the House until 2022, when the districts are drawn again following the Census. And for that to happen, they’d have to do quite well in the 2020 state legislature elections.

 

The First and Latest Republican Nominees’s Home State Tsuris

In our article The State of the Home States, we pointed out that if Romney had won the election, he certainly would have had to do so without his homestate of Massachusetts and that James K Polk was the only President to have been elected without carrying his homestate. Polk, lost his home state (North Carolina) by 4.78% (3,945 votes) and his state of residence (Tennessee) by 0.1% (123 votes).

In fact Romney’s defeat in his home state was greater than Polk’s. According to Smart Politics,

With just 37.5% of the vote to his name, Romney barely moved the needle on John McCain’s performance in the state in 2008. The Arizona U.S. Senator won 36.0% of the vote in Massachusetts four years ago — losing by 25.8% to Obama.

The only presidential candidate to suffer a larger home state loss than Romney was the first-ever Republican nominee, John Frémont of California in 1856.

Frémont only captured 18.78% of the vote (20,704 votes) while James Buchanan carried the State of California and its 4 electoral votes. In the next election, the Republican party fared better; its nominee Abraham Lincoln carried his home state and won the election of 1860.

Video Romney highlights after the jump.