Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Seven Percent Thing?

This is the first I've heard of this 7 percent thing. Is anyone else familiar with it and could you please explain it in more detail? I believe the Krugman referred to in this article is Paul Krugman, but I don't have a NYT's pay for your Op-Eds account.

From the Daily Howler

THE SEVEN-PERCENT CONVOLUTION: Hurrah! We think it’s a very important point, and Krugman discussed it again last Friday. We don’t know who’s going to win next month’s House elections. But in his column, Krugman explained a “G.O.P structural advantage” in the way our House elections now work:

KRUGMAN (10/13/06): Unless the Bush administration is keeping Osama bin Laden in a freezer somewhere, a majority of Americans will vote Democratic this year. If Congressional seats were allocated in proportion to popular votes, a Democratic House would be a done deal. But they aren't, and the way our electoral system works, combined with the way ethnic groups are distributed, still gives the Republicans some hope of holding on.

The key point is that African-Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are highly concentrated in a few districts. This means that in close elections many Democratic votes are, as political analysts say, wasted—they simply add to huge majorities in a small number of districts, while the more widely spread Republican vote allows the G.O.P. to win by narrower margins in a larger number of districts.

Because of concentrations of Democratic voters, many Democratic votes are “wasted” in congressional races. Krugman goes on to rework the math for this fall’s elections. According to Krugman, Dems could win the popular vote by a healthy margin, and still not take back the House:

KRUGMAN: My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that because of this ''geographic gerrymander,'' even a substantial turnaround in total Congressional votes...would leave the House narrowly in Republican hands. It looks as if the Democrats need as much as a seven-point lead in the overall vote to take control.

Dems will need to win by at least seven points! For the record, that’s what Mort Kondracke said last week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/11/06). In April, Krugman estimated that Dems might need to win by 8-10 points to take control of the House (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/24/06).

To state the obvious, that’s a remarkable state of affairs. And here’s an equally remarkable fact—we Democrats never discuss it! We never discuss the fact that we need to win by at least seven points if we just want to break even! Is there a way to redistrict in various states which would reduce this “structural disadvantage?” Who knows? We’re Democrats! We don’t seem to care! To all appearances, our leaders are perfectly happy to keep finishing second, as we have told you before.

This seven-point “GOP structural advantage” is important for two basic reasons. First, it keeps Democrats from gaining control of the House. Let us ask you a simple question. Can you imagine the modern Republican Party sitting still for a built-in, seven-point disadvantage? For ourselves, we find that quite hard to picture. But then, as has been clear for a good long time, the GOP’s leadership cares who wins. The Dem leadership doesn’t much seem to.

But there’s a second reason why this is important. Let’s say the following happens next month: Let’s say Dems out-poll Reps by seven or eight points—but Republicans retain a narrow margin in the House (perhaps one seat). Democrats will be ridiculed all over the press—and no one will mention the fact that we won a significant margin of votes. Our party is too lazy to fight for a real chance to win—and too stupid to care about optics.

Go ahead—ask yourself if you can picture Karl Rove accepting a seven-point built-in disadvantage. For ourselves, we can’t picture that. But then, Karl Rove tries to win.

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