Sunday, August 2, 2015

Republicans Win Rural -- and the House


Daily Yonder This map shows the election results in the 125 most rural House districts. To see a larger version of this map, click on it.

Republicans won the U.S. House Tuesday largely by winning districts with high proportions of rural voters.

Two-thirds of the 60 House seats switching from Democrat to Republican in this election were in the congressional districts with the most rural voters.

Before the election almost half (61) of the 125 most rural districts were held by Democrats. By the end of the day Tuesday, the number of rural Democrats had been cut to just 22. Just 18 percent of the most rural House districts are now represented by Democrats

The map above tells the story. It shows the 125 House districts where more than 33 percent of voters live in rural communities. (The average for all 435 House districts is 21 percent rural.)

Blue districts on the map were Democratic before Tuesday’s election and Democratic at day’s end. There are 22 rural Democrats who survived the 2010 election to serve another term. Light red districts are Republican districts that didn’t change with the election. There are 64 solidly Republican districts out of the most rural 125 districts.

The dark red rural districts began the day with Democratic representatives but ended the evening with freshly-elected Republican members of Congress.

There are 39 rural districts that switched from Democratic representation to Republican. These account for 65 percent of the 60 seats Republicans captured from Democrats on Tuesday.

How many Republican rural districts flipped Democratic? Not one.

Stories about Tuesday’s election refer to the strong Republican rural vote. But they tend to mix up Southern and rural.

“In a bloodbath of a night for Democrats, the most gruesome returns came in from rural America,” write Politico’s Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin. “They lost the overwhelming number of gubernatorial and Senate races in the South, Midwest and interior West. Even more striking, House Democrats lost seats in every one of the 11 states of the old Confederacy.” 

But look at the map. Most of the seats lost by the Democrats were well north of the Mason-Dixon Line, many in the Upper Midwest and New England.

Yes, Democrats lost three of their seats in rural Tennessee. But they also lost three in rural New York.

Democrats lost two rural seats in both Arkansas and Virginia. But they also lost two seats each in rural Michigan, rural Pennsylvania and rural Ohio.

charles bass Bob Hammerstrom, Nashua Telegraph Republican Charles Bass won in New Hampshire's 2nd district. He had been unseated four years ago by a Democrat.

And before Tuesday, both of New Hampshire’s representatives were Democrats. Now they will be Republicans. Will liberals now ask, “What’s the matter with New Hampshire?” 

Tuesday’s vote will have consequences in federal rural policy. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association issued a press release Wednesday claiming credit for helping to defeat four rural Democrats. The NCBA spent money to defeat the Democrats after they refused to oppose rules proposed by the Obama Agriculture Department that would regulate livestock markets.  

The four are Reps. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), and John Boccieri (D-Ohio). 

“Rural America spoke up and gave the boot to candidates putting big government before innovative cattlemen who manage to feed a growing population, stimulate the economy and create jobs without government handouts,” said NCBA President Steve Foglesong. “I hope the election results serve as a clue to the Obama Administration that it needs to pull this proposed rule. We do not need big government telling us how to market our cattle.”

NCBA is being opportunistic, however. There seems to be no relationship between opposition to the livestock rules and defeat on Tuesday.

vicky hartzler KMBC Kansas City Republican Vicky Hartzler defeated longtime U.S. Congressman Ike Skelton in Missouri. Skelton, a Democrat, had represented Missouri's 4th District since 1976. Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missourian who was chair of the powerful Armed Services Committee, voted against the Obama health care law AND supported NCBA on the livestock regulations. He lost, too.

Republicans won by running against Washington, D.C., and the federal government. Skelton’s opponent, Tea Party-backed Vicky Hartzler, repeated that the Democrat voted 95 percent of the time with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and that was enough to topple a politician who was first elected in 1976.

Scott Tipton, a Republican businessman supported by the Tea Party, beat Democrat John Salazar in western Colorado. Salazar is the older brother of Ken Salazar, Obama’s Secretary of Interior, and is what one reporter described as a “cowboy of Colorado” type. He was supported editorially by many of the papers in the region and had a reputation for being willing “to sit down with both his supporters and his opponents in the district and explain his point of view.” 

Cowboy garb and a willingness to compromise, however, did little good in this election. Salazar voted for the health care bill and the stimulus plan, saying both were needed in his district, which has some of the highest poverty rates in Colorado. Tipton used both votes against him.

Seniority did little good for Democrats either. Minnesota’s Jim Oberstar had served 18 terms and was chair of the House Transportation Committee. He lost. Rep. Chet Edwards  of Texas had served 20 years in the House. He lost. 

The split between rural and urban voters has been growing since the 1970s. Throughout that time, however, moderate Democrats have been able to hang on and represent close to half of the districts in rural America. Those numbers were cut by two-thirds Tuesday and there is very little left of the Democratic Party in the nation’s most rural congressional districts.


The Election

Obama may have not been on any ballot in any state, but a lot of us voted against him by voting against others. I hope he got the message!

Too short-sighted an analysis

Many of the districts that flipped had been Rep before. Many were traditionally Rep for a long time. Some turned in 2006 and a number of them in 2008 with the Dem sweep. A better analysis might be one that compares these districts over a ten year period.  

I believe that Congress will remain in gridlock and the economy will continue to get worse. This creates an interesting situation for the new Rep majority. They are now at risk for the 2012 movement to "throw the bums out."

The real culprit is the archaic two party system. The only choice offered to voters is to vote for or vote against, no subtlety, no coalitions or compromise. I often find my self a vote-againster, not by choice but by the lack of choice. 

A discussion of electoral reform, looking at systems used by other countries, more fair ballot access in all states, and changing the financing of elections are the only way to cure the whipsawing, chaotic elections we have now. We just watched over a billion dollars wasted to elect people who now plan to tell us there is no money. 

Election Results

Don't know if anyone will agree with me or not, but I believe the results of this election gives all parties a chance to finally stop the bickering, name-calling, blame game and work together. All parties; Rep. Dem. and Tea-Party hold a stake in our future now.

I'm looking for less time spent on who did what wrong and more time spent on getting it fixed.

The American Dream is still out there. I haven't forgotten the low job data, house foreclosure numbers, etc. but we are still a land of plenty and many hold abundant wealth. I can't help but wonder how many jobs can be created-roads and bridges rebuilt, national parks spruced up, etc. with an amount like $41.5 million spent by one politician to get elected. This extravagant spending on elections by all parties may lead people to think we are not hurting, at least not all of us-political candidates for sure. I used to think the southern West Virginia coalfields, counties like Mingo, McDowell, Logan, was the only place you could buy votes but with staggering amounts spent on this campaign, I could be wrong.

I'm thankful for those leaders whose mind and hearts are in the right place-jobs, health care for all, caring for the elderly, education, etc. regardless of party affiliation.

I hope we use these election results to move forward-upward and onward.

Betty Dotson-Lewis

Missing variable

From west central Texas, as a brass-collar Democrat, I assure you that this analysis has omitted one very central variable: pure, unadulterated racism.  The comment by mo ky fellow speaks to this directly. As I see it, this is the chest-pounding victory dance of well-to-do white people who are bound and determined to hold on to the levers of power. All those scary black radicals are just a shadow of all those scary Mexicans.  Several of my erstwhile fellow citizens who are openly honest will state their racism overtly.  Others merely nod when they speak.