Given the scale of recent gerrymandering, it’s a long shotby Fabrizio Tonello / September 2, 2016 / Leave a comment
The Democrats are optimistic. Looking at Hillary Clinton’s steady lead in the polls over Donald Trump, they are feeling confident of winning the White House in November. The US president is not directly elected—instead, votes are consolidated in each state, something that modifies or even subverts the popular vote (as happened in 2000, when Al Gore received 543,895 more votes than George W Bush but still lost). In 2016, this mechanism is supposed to favour Clinton because of her strength in swing states like Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
So, the question is: “Will Democrats transform a presidential success into new majorities in the Senate and the House?” This is by no means a curiosity: a President Clinton in a Congress controlled by Republicans will accomplish nothing. Far from being the most powerful individual in the world, the American president must negotiate every trivial move (except, as commander-in-chief, bombing Syria or Yemen) with often rebellious senators and representatives.
The GOP currently holds a majority in both chambers of the US legislature, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Democrats’ optimism comes from the fact that in recent years American voters have tended to choose a straight ticket, voting for all the candidates of the same party, from President to Senator, Representative, Governor and even school superintendent or dog-catcher. And the Democrats do have a chance of taking the Senate, as more Republicans than Democrats are among the 34 senators up for re-election in November.
But straight-ticket voting is a phenomenon of the last 20 years. Democrats controlled the House of Representatives for 46 years between 1949 and 1995, while Republicans occupied the White House with Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush. For example, in 1980, Ronald Reagan obtained 43.9m votes, crushing Democrat Jimmy Carter, but Republican candidates in the House gathered only 37m ballots. People were attached to “their” representative and voted to re-elect him or her, no matter whom they chose as President.
Since 1992, elections became much more polarized. Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama won the presidency in 1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012 and in every one of…