The Importance of Local Elections

While the Democrats clearly won the presidential and senatorial elections, many Republicans point to their continued control of the House of Representatives as a sign that their message still resonates with the majority of Americans.  That sounds logical and therefore merits a deeper look.  How is it that a majority of Americans want Democratic Senators, but at the same time want Republican Representatives?  The answer is, “they don’t”.  The popular vote in both the House and Senate went majority Democrat.

To explain this apparent contradiction, let’s look at my own state of Pennsylvania.  We have 18 Congressional House seats.  Following the outcome of last week’s election, 13 of those seats are held by Republicans and only 5 are held by Democrats.  On the surface, it looks like Pennsylvanians really love their Republican House members!  But in fact, 2,702,901 Pennsylvanians voted to send Democrats to the House, and 2,627,031 voted for Republican candidates— a majority Democratic vote.  So how then does it happen that almost 3/4 of our US House seats from PA are Republicans?  The answer is gerrymandering or creative redistricting.  By packing Democratic voters into pockets where the Democrat will win by huge margins, the rest of the state’s Democrats are diminished in influence.  This is what it looks like:

You have to give credit to the Republicans for being able to draw the district boundaries in a very favorable way.  But consider this, we are stuck with these districts until the next census in 2020.  You may ask how Republicans were put in charge of drawing up the new districts after the 2010 census.  The answer is simple.  2010 was the election where Democratic voters stayed home.  The Democratic Party did a lousy job of informing its members of the importance of that election.  They did a lousy job of turning out the vote.  And the Republicans were incensed over Obamacare.  And as a result PA ended up with a Republican state legislature.  This didn’t just happen in Pennsylvania.  It happened across America.  Those state legislatures drew up the new Congressional boundaries in their favor and that created the lopsided Republican majority in the U.S. House that will likely stay with us for next 4 House elections.  The impact will be tremendous when we consider upcoming budget battles and other critical legislation.  We can’t blame Republicans for our failures.  We must do better.

It’s natural for a person to conclude that his vote for state representative only affects what happens in his state.  How untrue!  By sending Republicans to our state legislature in 2010 we allowed them to draw the Congressional map.  A very painful error on our part.  Will we learn the lesson that our state elections impact national legislation?  If so, we must start preparing now for the 2020 election.  We must be building the base of candidates and voters now.  It starts with your local municipal and county elections— getting candidates into the system so that they are either ready for the 2020 run for state office or are already holding an incumbent seat.  We let the Republicans beat us in the 2000 redistricting and the 2010 redistricting.  We must not let it happen again.