Why We Are Stuck With the Sequester

A month ago, it was clear that voters would blame Republicans if Congress went ahead with the for the so-called “Sequester”—some $85 billion in automatic government-wide spending cuts.

I thought this meant that Republicans would be forced to back down, call off the Sequester, and accept the fact that if we want to reduce the deficit, we’ll need to raise some taxes while also cutting spending.

I was wrong. The sequester took effect March 1 and Republicans aren’t budging.

The public does, in fact, blame the GOP for the budget stalemate that has led to the sequester:  a recent CNN poll shows that shows that only 38 percent say they have a “favorable view ”of the Republican Party, versus 54 percent who view it unfavorably.

                                  Why Republicans Aren’t Worried

Yet House Republicans are not terribly concerned about what voters think. This is because, back in 2010, they succeeded in re-drawing election district lines in many swing states in a way that creates “safe districts” for Republicans—districts where they have a solid majority. They feel untouchable.  At the same time the new boundaries pack as many Democrats as possible into as few districts is possible.

This is a major reason why Democrats didn’t win a  House majority in 2012, even as their congressional candidates drew about 1.4 million more votes than Republicans nationwide, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. And, Bloomberg notes, the redistricting “will hinder the Democrats from regaining control of the chamber in 2014.”

District lines are re-drawn once a decade, right after the U.S. census is taken. The last census took place in 2010, and that year Democrats saw massive losses at the polls. As a result, the GOP controlled state government in key states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. This gave Republicans the power to draw congressional district lines. They seized that chance, aggressively “gerrymandering” so as to protect Republican incumbents while isolating Democrats. The fact Democrats are concentrated in urban areas made their task easier. Nevertheless, creative cartography led to some crazy designs. For instance, Bloomberg points out, “Michigan’s 14th congressional district looks like a jagged letter ’S’ lying on its side.”

 

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