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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Houses

Michael Barone compares the 80th and 114th Congresses:
Bipartisanship was possible on contemporary issues because the party divisions reflected the distant past. The Democratic Party, which 85 years earlier had been skeptical about waging the Civil War, carried Southern seats 117-11. The Republican Party, which had backed the war, carried Northern seats 235-72.
The divisions in the 114th House, in contrast, reflect contemporary divisions. The House Republican Conference is tilted toward the South, but not as heavily as Democrats were in 1947. Of its 247 members, 114 are from Southern states, and its largest state delegations are from Texas (25) and Florida (217). Republicans' margin in Southern seats is 114-38. Most Southern Democrats are from black- or Hispanic-majority districts or those with a Northern cultural flavor (South Florida, Northern Virginia, Austin).
But Democrats lead in Northern seats by only 150-133. Northern Republicans come mainly from suburbs and exurbs, not small towns as in 1947. They tend to represent growing areas rather than those that are losing steam.
The House Democratic Caucus is heavily coastal. The largest state delegation by far is from California, with 39 seats -- one-fifth of the total. This helps to account for Nancy Pelosi's strength in her caucus, though she lost a key committee fight last month. Almost half of the Democratic gain in seats from 1946 to 2014 came in the three West Coast states, with most of the rest along the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Maryland.
As was apparent on the Cromnibus vote, when 67 Republicans bucked their leadership and 57 Democrats differed from Pelosi, neither conference nor caucus is monolithic. But these differences are more about tactics than goals.
The House Democratic Caucus almost unanimously supports big government policies and cultural liberalism. The more diverse (on ideas and increasingly in race, ethnicity and gender) House Republican Conference favors reining in big government but lacks clear consensus on how to do it.