Thanks to Nathan L. Gonzales of Inside Elelections and David Hawkings for this fine piece explaining the five key issues about why Congress is broken.
After 30 years of covering Congress, David Hawkings has a good idea of how Capitol Hill works — or more important, how it doesn’t — and he laid out five key reasons why Congress is broken. But whether it’s money, maps, media, mingling or masochism, there are no easy solutions. Nor are they entirely the responsibility of the politicians to address.
The redistricting process, including how congressional districts are drawn and the lack of competitive seats, gets a lot of blame for the dysfunction in Congress.
It’s absolutely true that gerrymandering is a factor in our electoral process. But there’s no guarantee that redistricting reform will achieve the desired goals.
For example, California has a citizen redistricting commission and a top-two primary system, both designed to push elected officials to the moderate middle. Yet there’s scant evidence that members of the Golden State’s congressional delegation are any more moderate than before those measures. And it’s not clear whether the commission created more competitive districts, or if Donald Trump’s polarizing presidency gets the credit for more seats being in play than past cycles.
In the case of Arizona, an independent redistricting commission drew the lines after the 2010 census, yet four of its five GOP members align with the House Freedom Caucus, two of its four Democrats are part of the House Progressive Caucus, and just a third of all seats are considered competitive this cycle.
One of the reasons why a disproportionate majority of House members and senators represent territory that is almost certain to elect someone from their own political party, as Hawkings noted, is because a disproportionate majority of Americans live in politically homogeneous communities.
For example, Trump carried 76 percent of the counties with a Cracker Barrel restaurant (a staple of smaller-town communities) compared to just 22 percent of counties that have a Whole Foods, according to my friend Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report. One way to diversify congressional districts is for people to choose to live near people that don’t look, act and vote like they do.
More competitive House districts would theoretically be better for the political handicapping business, so I’m not necessarily against these measures. But it would create more vulnerable incumbents. And more electoral accountability could also mean more members spending more time on their re-elections, including more time raising money.
Continue reading to find out more about the problems of money, media, mingling and masochism.