According to a recent Pew analysis, only one out of every seven Congressional Districts was competitive in 2011.
Much of this lack of competitiveness is due to gerrymandering, of course–a matter I’ve discussed in previous posts. But much of it is due to the demography of 21st Century America and a phenomenon of voluntary “sorting.” Americans choose to live in places where they are culturally comfortable. Some choose rural areas, and others of us gravitate to what has been dubbed the “Urban Archipelago“–a reference to political maps showing chains of “blue” urban islands in states that are otherwise rural and red. Urban dwellers tend to be more diverse, more socially progressive, less hostile to government and more willing to “live and let live.” These days, that is a description of people who vote Democratic.
There are also roughly twice as many Americans living in cites as there are in rural areas.
If we really had “one person, one vote,” the policy preferences of the vast majority of Americans who occupy urban areas would be reflected in Congress. But of course, we don’t–and as a result, the 19th Century attitudes of farmers and small-town denizens continually trump the needs and desires of 21st Century citizens.
It would take a swing of 17 seats to wrest control of the House from the “Party of No.” In a sane world, where votes reflected the wishes of the majority, a shift that small would be likely.
In our broken system, it will take a miracle.