Balkinization  

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The View From Massachusetts

Mark Graber

One of the more stunning outcomes of the midterm election is how noncompetitive the Republican Party was in New England Congressional elections. Assuming Connecticut-2 holds up, New England will send 21 Democrats and only 1 Republican (Christopher Shays) to Congress next year. The results in Massachusetts were particularly startling. Republicans competed in only three of the ten Congressional districts in Massachusetts. The best they did was 30% of the vote. And only 1 non-Republican incumbent in New England beat that total. Indeed, a quick down and dirty analysis suggests that Republicans would only be entitled to 4-5 seats in New England on a proportional voting scheme (maybe 6 because they would actually be on the ballot in uncontested districts).

The good news is that this suggests not only will New England congressional delegations be solidly blue for years to come, but they are likely to be a fairly liberal shade of blue. In non-competitive districts, the real election is in the primary and the primary electorate in the numerous non-competitive New England districts (and increasing number of non-competitive districts in the East) is likely to push candidates to the left.

The good news, however, may also be bad news. The increase in safe Democratic northern seats, some voting evidence suggests, corresponds to an increase in safe Republican southern seats. The same phenomenon that pushes Democrats to the left in New England is likely to keep Republicans fairly far right in the South. No doubt gerrymandering exacerbates this problem, but as the 2006 Massachusetts congressional election suggests, the real problem is that each party is increasingly establishing sectional hegemony, a hegemony which threatens to send more and more extreme representatives to Congress.

Sandy Levinson is quite fond of pointing to democratic weaknesses in the constitution, practices that thwart majorities. This may be a consociational weakness, a set of institutions that make compromise more difficult. A constitution in which every member of the national legislature is elected in a local election, when the polity is polarized sectionally, is likely to generate governing officials who tend to be more extreme on the left and the right than the average citizen. One of the arguments of Part II in the sacred Dred Scott text (now less than $16.00 at Amazon--if the present pricing trends continue, they will soon be paying you to take the book off their hands!), is that the Civil War happened in 1860 (rather than later), largely because of constitutional institutions that fostered sectional extremism. For all the talk of moderation by the talking heads last night, the New England election returns suggest that we may have less rather than more centrist candidates in the near future, particularly in the House of Representatives.

Comments:

"Centrist" candidates don't help much when one comes to a fork in the road. What would have been a centrist position on slavery? Better regulation, or some modification of the 3/5 rule to 4/5 in exchange for a limitation on the number of days a slave could be whipped?

We've filled the Petri dish and can choose cooperation or competition, community or authoritarianism. [And I'm not saying the Ds and Rs really fit those profiles.]

This country is too big. We will not be able to sustain ourselves with declining resources - particularly energy. Need to manage that gracefully. The days of the Republic are coming to an end, as they did with the Soviet Union and for the same reasons - diseconomies of scale.
 

One of the most significant contributors to this blowout victory was the decision by Howard Dean to pursue a 50 state strategy. The Dems fielded more House candidates than they have at any time in the last 50 years or so (about 425). That paid off big when some Repub candidates imploded.

I expect the Repubs will eventually adopt a similar strategy, as opposed to Rove's "feed raw meat to the base" approach. This should move both parties towards the center. Such a strategy would have even greater impact if we could solve the gerrymandering problem.
 

If they start paying out to take the book, I will be very annoyed. I not only paid much more than $16 for it, but I had the book store RESERVE the only copy they had so it would be there when I walked across Hillsboro Village to get it. As an aside, don't think I don't know that you weren't out here and had lunch with a certain Vanderbilt ConLaw Professor. My spy (see: breadwinner) in his ConLaw II class caught him making a vague reference to your book when he was teaching Roe v. Wade.
 

One of the more stunning outcomes of the midterm election is how noncompetitive the Republican Party was in New England Congressional elections. Assuming Connecticut-2 holds up, New England will send 21 Democrats and only 1 Republican (Christopher Shays) to Congress next year.

Say what? Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (Maine) both retained their seats in the Senate.
 

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