Thursday, November 24, 2016

Why the Democrats won't win the House in 2018

The result of the presidential election may have taken some people by surprise, but the fact that Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives was completely predictable.
Republicans would have retained the House almost regardless of who voters supported for president, barring an improbable landslide. As we argue in our book “Gerrymandering in America,” the Republicans will win the House again in 2018 and 2020.
Gerrymandering is the partisan manipulation of the boundaries of state congressional districts. It’s possible because state governments control the process that shapes congressional districts – essentially determining whose vote is counted with whose. Even given the same vote count, moving district lines can change who wins an election.
States get to reconfigure the districts every 10 years following the census. A few states, such as California, allow an independent commission to do this, but most leave the task to the state legislature. When one party controls both houses of the state legislature and the governorship, it is easier to draw the congressional districts in such a way that their party keeps winning congressional elections – and holds onto power.
In 2004, the Supreme Court signaled in Vieth v. Jubelirer that it would not intervene in partisan gerrymandering cases. As a result, state governments do not have to fear judicial reprimand, and are free to push partisan gerrymandering to the limit.
However, on Nov. 21, 2016, a federal district court ruled in Whitford v. Gill that the districts for the Wisconsin State Assembly had been created by unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. This ruling effectively challenges the Supreme Court’s position in Vieth v. Jublirer. It is likely the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Some skeptics argue that gerrymandering isn’t as powerful as some would suggest. Others accept that the district boundaries benefit the Republicans, but argue that this is not because of intentional gerrymandering, but because Democratic support is concentrated in urban areas.
Let’s consider the evidence for these claims.

Does gerrymandering matter?

We took the results from the 2012 elections and projected how many seats the Democrats would get in the House at different levels of national vote share. The vote share for each Democratic House candidate tends to rise and fall with the national vote share, but this is certainly not the whole story. For this reason we ran thousands of simulations to take account of district-level factors like candidate quality and local issues.
We determined that Democrats would need to win between 54 and 55 percent of the popular vote nationally to have a chance of retaking the House. That is to say, they would need a landslide greater than 2008, when Barack Obama was first elected.
We also calculated the degree of partisan bias in the post-2010 House districts for all 50 states.
Our analysis shows that in 32 states, there is no significant bias in favor of either party. However, in the 18 states where there is a partisan bias, this is often extreme. For example, Democrats received more votes than the Republicans in Pennsylvania in 2012, but Republicans won 13 of that state’s seats while the Democrats won just five.
In 15 of the 18 states where there is significant partisan bias, one party controlled the entire districting process. Only one of these states, Maryland, is controlled by Democrats – the rest are controlled by Republicans.

It’s politics, not geography

Many people have argued that even if the congressional districts favor the Republicans, it’s not because of intentional gerrymandering. For example, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight argues “much or most of the Republican advantage in the House results from geography rather than deliberate attempts to gerrymander districts.” Skeptics say it is the inevitable consequence of Democrats being concentrated in urban areas. However, our research shows this explanation does not add up.
There are elements of truth in the “urban concentration” theory. Democratic concentration in urban areas does make it easier to draw districting plans that disadvantage the Democrats. This usually involves Republicans drawing districts where Democrats win by overwhelming margins and use up all their support in the state. This allows Republicans to win the remaining districts by smaller, but still comfortable margins.
However, disadvantaging Democrats is not inevitable, even where there are large urban populations. Our analysis shows that states with the largest democratic urban concentrations – California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey – are precisely where the districting plans are not biased against Democrats.

Virginia’s congressional districts following the 2010 United States Census. The National Map

Thanks to publicly available computer districting software, we can see that it is possible to draw unbiased, or only modestly biased districts in every state. Political scientists Micah Altman and Michael P. MacDonald have demonstrated that members of the public can draw roughly unbiased districts in Ohio, Virginia and Florida. Stephen Wolf has drawn districts for all states using publicly available software. He also found that it is generally possible to draw unbiased districts.
Some analysts argue that the increase in partisan bias is a result of majority-minority districts. Our analysis shows that while the number of majority-minority districts have increased, most are in states such as California where the districts are not biased against Democrats. In fact, the alternative, unbiased districting plans provided by Altman and MacDonald and Wolf maintain the current number of majority-minority districts.
If a state government could have drawn unbiased districts, but chose to draw to biased districts instead, then it has engaged in deliberate gerrymandering. It cannot claim that it did not realize what it was doing – modern districting software has allowed enough people to see the partisan consequences.
Partisan gerrymandering means that the Republicans will almost certainly control the House until 2022, the first election after the post-2020 redistricting. As a result, it is likely that we will have unified government until 2020, led by a president that did not win the popular vote. Normally we would expect the House to provide a check on the power of the president, or at least provide the voters with the opportunity to apply the brakes in 2018. As a result of gerrymandering, however, this likely won’t happen.
The Conversation
Anthony McGann, Professor of Government and Public Policy, Strathclyde University; Alex Keena, Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond; Charles Anthony Smith, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Irvine, and Michael Latner, Professor of Political Science, California Polytechnic State University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

100 years of the 'gender gap' in American politics

Men and women did not vote the same way in 2016.
In fact, the Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton contest yielded the largest gender gap – the difference between women’s and men’s voting behavior – in U.S. history. Clinton won women by 12 points and lost men by the same amount – a 24-point gap. The gap is growing. Twenty points separated the sexes in 2012.
Women’s support was expected to help Clinton shatter “the highest glass ceiling” to become the nation’s first female president.
Seeing themselves as heirs to the suffrage movement, Clinton supporters even made pilgrimages to Susan B. Anthony’s grave to place their “I Voted” stickers on the suffrage leader’s tombstone.
But despite garnering the most popular votes, Clinton lost in the Electoral College.
The fact that 53 percent of white women cast their ballots for Trump threatens to obscure the importance of gender to U.S. politics.
What’s needed is a broader – and longer – lens.
So let’s start at the beginning. How did the gender gap become so important to American politics?

Women’s clubs and woman suffrage

Suffragists march on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural in March 1913. AP Photo

My current research convinced me that the gender gap has its roots in women’s political activity in the Progressive era, which began around 1880 and ran until about 1920.
During these decades of massive immigration, rapid industrialization and tremendous poverty, many Americans hoped to use the political process to address social problems in the nation’s growing cities.
Women didn’t yet have the right to vote, but they joined the Progressive movement by organizing clubs devoted to civic reform. The women’s club movement provided millions of American women with an alternative route into the political process.
One animating issue for club women was revitalizing the campaign for female suffrage. Launched in 1848, the movement for women’s voting rights had achieved only a handful of victories, all in the West, since the Civil War.
Women sought the vote for many reasons, but in turn-of-the-century America, many suffragists argued that women were ideal voters because they weren’t corrupted by party politics. Instead, they argued, women were more interested in sound policies.

Women’s political culture

As political outsiders, women brought a new perspective to Progressive politics. While not all women shared the same beliefs, many female activists participated in a distinctive “women’s political culture.”
Using their traditional domestic role to justify their unconventional political activity, many suffrage supporters argued that as “social housekeepers,” women would use the vote to “clean up” both “dirty” politics and equally dirty city streets.
In addition, many “social justice feminists” saw themselves as advocates for the nation’s disadvantaged and dispossessed, including women, children, workers, immigrants and African-Americans.
As a result, women made unique contributions to urban reform. For instance, in Chicago, male politicians established “red light” districts. By contrast, women activists defended the rights of accused prostitutes.

The Woman’s City Club of Chicago

The Woman’s City Club of Chicago, while not the first or the only such organization in America, was especially important in terms of the history of women’s political activism.
The club was founded in 1910 to combat the city’s legendary political corruption. According to club member Louise de Koven Bowen, the organization began when a businessman told the club’s first president: “I wish you women would form some kind of a club to fight our civic evils; we men have tried it and failed, perhaps you women can do something.”
By waging a successful campaign giving Illinois women the right to vote in both national and local elections and encouraging women to use their votes to promote reform, the club made women a force to reckon with in electoral politics well before the adoption of the federal woman suffrage amendment in 1920.

‘Good government’ and the gender gap

In 1913, Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi River to grant voting rights to female citizens.
Prior to the citywide elections of 1914, Chicago women’s first significant voting opportunity, the Woman’s City Club sponsored a massive voter registration and citizen education campaign. In addition, six women, including four club members, ran for local office.
Women voters went to the polls in high numbers, disproving skeptics’ claims that women would not exercise the right to vote. Moreover, female voters consistently voted for “good government,” creating one of the nation’s first “gender gaps.”
When the votes were counted, however, women were disappointed by the results. None of the female candidates garnered enough votes to gain office, leaving male politicians to continue business as usual. Undaunted by this setback, women activists launched a new campaign to reform Chicago politics.

The Women’s Municipal Platform

In 1916, the Woman’s City Club sponsored a mass meeting in downtown Chicago to protest the “spoils system” in city government and to promote progressive social policies. Women activists adopted a “Women’s Municipal Platform” dedicated “to the promotion of the welfare of all the citizens and to the securing of equality of opportunity to all the children of all of the people.” Club leaders demanded reforms related to public schools, health and safety, city parks and playgrounds, and the criminal justice system.
Chicago’s female activists displayed a keen awareness of their distinctiveness as politically active women. According to the preamble to the platform, “women citizens” were ideal voters because they prioritized the common good over party politics.
Club women also understood their importance as pioneering female voters. The club president observed: “The attention of suffragists and anti-suffragists throughout the United States is now directed to the women of Illinois in order to determine how fully they are using their newly acquired franchise and with what results.”
In fall of 1916, Chicago women turned out in impressive numbers to vote for political change.
As Progressive Party politician Charles Merriam put it in the Woman’s City Club Bulletin, “What finer tribute could be paid to the intelligence of woman’s vote!”

The ‘women’s vote’ today

A hundred years later, Clinton’s defeat in the presidential election of 2016 indicates that despite important gains in the U.S. Senate, women in some ways remain political outsiders – but outsiders who continue to play a special role in the nation’s politics.
Like Chicago club women a century before, American women activists are responding to defeat by planning a mass protest. As journalist Jill Filipovic remarks, “We fix this with more feminism, not less.”
The gender gap may not have gained Clinton the presidency, but it is just as salient today as it was a century ago.
The Conversation
Anya Jabour, Regents Professor of History, The University of Montana
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Election rage shows why America needs a new social contract to ensure the economy works for all

The recent U.S. election exposed two major intersecting fault lines in America that, if left unchecked, could soon produce an era of social and economic upheaval unlike any in our history.
First, it revealed deep divisions across racial, ethnic and gender lines that led to a surge in hate crimes last year, particularly against Muslims. Addressing this will require a sustained effort to heal these growing divisions and will be very difficult to resolve without strong leadership and a renewed willingness to listen to each other’s concerns.
Second, it gave voice to the deep-seated frustrations and anger of those who feel left behind by economic forces and fear their children will experience a lower standard of living than they did.
The key to resolving this fault line – and the focus of this article – lies in mobilizing all sectors of society to work together to create good-quality jobs and get wages rising again for all. In short, America needs to build a new social contract based on mutual respect and attuned to the needs of today’s workforce and economy.
What do I mean by that? A social contract is what ties together the main stakeholders of an economy, its workers, business leaders, educators and government, and ensures each group meets it obligations to each other while also pursuing its own goals. Workers, for example, want good wages and careers and have an obligation to work productively and contribute to the success of their enterprise. Employers have to balance the expectations of investors, employees and customers.
Unfortunately, America’s social contract broke down in the 1980s when the gap between wage growth and productivity growth first started to appear, creating the conditions that spawned the frustrations we saw on the campaign trail this year. With the election of Donald Trump and a Republican majority in Congress, we should suffer no illusions that the process of building a new one will be led from Washington.
But as history teaches us, most social and economic shifts that improve lives don’t actually begin with a national policy anyway.

Thousands of spectators cheer as over a quarter million marchers show support for the National Recovery Administration (NRA) in a parade on Fifth Ave. in New York City on Sept. 13, 1933. AP Photo

‘Laboratories for democracy’

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously called states our “laboratories for democracy,” places where innovations and social movements are born and tested for their ability to address emerging tensions and show how to turn them into national policies.
That was how America’s last social contract, which grew out of the New Deal, began. The policies that composed it didn’t start with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signature legislation establishing unemployment insurance, social security, disability pay, collective bargaining and minimum wages.
Rather, workers themselves laid the groundwork in the first few decades of the 20th century, when Sidney Hillman, then the leader of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, organized immigrants and developed the basic principles of collective bargaining.
States like Wisconsin, Massachusetts and New York, pressed by labor activists, enacted unemployment insurance, minimum wages and overtime protections. John R. Commons, who taught at the University of Wisconsin, has been called the intellectual father of the New Deal because he and his students helped shape and study these state-level innovations. They then went to Washington to help President Roosevelt write them into the laws that helped end the Great Depression and laid the foundation for an expanding middle class.
Changes like this rarely if ever begin in the corridors of power. They begin with just a few people, such as Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt, who led the suffragettes movement to get women the right to vote.
Unfortunately, the social contract broke down in the 1980s amid deregulation, attacks on unions, growing globalization and a deep recession that decimated Rust Belt manufacturing industries. The failure to replace it is a root cause, I would argue, of the wage stagnation, anger and political divisions the election brought to the fore.

President Roosevelt signed the Farm Relief-Inflationary Bill, which gave him extraordinary powers over monetary inflation as part of the New Deal, on May 12, 1933. AP Photo

Workers at the forefront

With the election in the rear-view mirror, it is now time to begin the long process of building a new social contract that fits today’s economy, workforce and society, one that gives a genuine voice to the frustrated and channels their anger into action.
The good news is we are already well on our way, with many grassroots innovations across society that, if accelerated and expanded, could identify and shape its key features. The workforce itself is leading the way, with the help of labor organizations, community coalitions and what we might call “worker-centered entrepreneurs.”
Consider the Fight for 15, referring to efforts to secure a US$15 minimum wage. Its first visible victory was achieved in 2015 in Seattle. The strong public support there sent shock waves around the country, leading another 18 states to increase their minimum wages, including four in last week’s election.
These developments also pressured traditionally low-wage companies like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and the Gap to increase entry-level pay above the required federal or state minimums. IKEA has gone a step further in committing to pay a “living wage” (as calculated by a MIT research tool) in all its U.S. locations.
Other new advocacy groups like are using information campaigns and social media and other technology-aided apps to induce companies like Starbucks to reform scheduling practices to provide more advance notice and certainty over work schedules.
Unions and worker centers around the country are battling wage theft (failure to pay minimum wages or overtime), expanding training programs to more women, minorities and immigrants and supporting efforts to promote “common sense” economic strategies that provide good entry-level jobs, wages and career ladders.
Finally, a number of entrepreneurial ventures are emerging around the country such as the Workers’ Lab, an incubator that supports start-up nonprofits that are specifically designed to build new sources of bargaining power for worker and contractors. For example, Uber drivers in New York City and Seattle are beginning to organize into unions and guilds to gain a voice in the terms governing their compensation.
Out of these and still yet-to-be-invented strategies may emerge a techno-savvy, grassroots labor movement for the next generation.

Activist like this one helped convince four more states to increase their minimum wages this year. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

How business can help

Business leaders, for their part, are beginning to get the message that the era of prioritizing shareholders over all else needs to end. None other than JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, one of Wall Street’s most respected titans, said last summer that he would raise his employees’ wages because doing so is a good long-term investment.
He and his peers should use the same logic when they advise clients. By emphasizing long-term investing, they could help end the short-termism that has held back corporations from investing in workforce training and research and development – so essential to job creation.
Wall Street could also help lead the way and perhaps in concert with labor by creating infrastructure funds to help rebuild our roads and bridges, generating a good rate of return for their investors and the economy. Leaders from many groups – including President-elect Trump – recognize the need and value of repairing the nation’s infrastructure. This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of bipartisanship, public-private partnerships and business-labor cooperation.
Some main street business leaders are already doing their part by competing on the basis of high-productivity, high-wage strategies that research shows achieve both strong profits and create and sustain good jobs for American workers.

Jamie Dimon said he gave his workers a raise because he believes doing so is a smart investment. Photo by Paul Morigi/Invision for JPMorgan Chase & Co./AP Images

The role of education

In today’s knowledge-based economy, education leaders need to be counted as among the key stakeholders critical to building and sustaining a new social contract.
They and some philanthropic leaders active in funding education innovations are embracing what evidence tells us: There is nothing more important to educational attainment than a good teacher. And in states as diverse as Massachusetts, New Jersey and Illinois, teacher unions and education leaders are working together to expand learning time, support teacher development and encourage online courses aimed at helping workers refresh their skills in a world of fast-paced change. These efforts should be extended across the country.
If knowledge is power, then these educational innovations will equip today’s and tomorrow’s workforce with the tools they need to meet the challenges they are bound to experience over the course of their careers.

Seeds of a new social contract

So these are some of the seeds I see growing into a new social contract that restores hope among the marginalized.
What’s needed next is to bring these different stakeholders together to learn about what works and how to inform national policymakers so that successes can be spread.
We are doing just that in an effort to make MIT a place where leaders of these innovations come together to share experiences, stimulate research needed to document their successes, failures and lessons, and figure out ways to diffuse those that work to broader settings.
We started a “Good Companies-Good Jobs Initiative” with the Hitachi Foundation and are supporting efforts to improve relations and better manage and resolve workplace conflicts, such as through meetings, workshops and online courses. Our aim, as we expand these efforts, is to serve as a catalyst for further innovation to show our leaders what a new social contract might look like.
More than anything else, we all should continue to encourage local activism, protest and innovation. If history is a guide, that’s what it will take to eventually get leaders in Washington to listen and do their part to address these problems.
The Conversation
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.