In the primary election in 2012, only 8 percent of the voting eligible Democratic party voted and 9 percent of the voting eligible Republican party voted.
“I want you to absorb that for a minute,” said Robert Rhodes, a political science professor at Edinboro University. Rhodes held a lecture Thursday Oct. 1, titled “Beyond Polarization: Cleavages and Cross Party Support in the Future of American Politics.”
Another statistic Rhodes presented was 43 percent of the voting eligible population identifying as independents. Consequently, most independents cannot vote in a primary election because they have not registered with a party, and, are thus, not helping the party in any way.
Rhodes spoke about gerrymandering — voting boundaries in a state as to favor one party or the other — in order to explain how congressional seats were chosen in the 2012 congressional election in Pennsylvania.
In the 2012 congressional race, 51 percent of the vote went to Democrats in Pennsylvania, but the gerrymander allowed the Republicans to win the majority.
Rhodes presented the audience a map of the gerrymander boundaries in Pennsylvania. Almost every district is heavily congested with a Republican majority.
The 2012 election resulted in a congressional delegation of 13 Republicans and five Democrats, even though the Democratic Party had a slight majority of the vote.
“The people have literally no power to choose their congressional representation. The only person with any power is the dude drawing the map,” said Daylin Leach in an article for “Daily Kos” in 2014.
Leach came to this conclusion by re-creating the Congressional gerrymandering map to be “obscenely Democratic” like the map now is “obscenely Republican.” In his illustration, the delegation was reversed to 13 Democrats and five Republicans.
Leach realized his sketch of the map is unreasonable, although he feels the same way about the current map, but that the larger point is he was able to flip eight seats by simply re-creating a gerrymandering map opposite the one in place currently.
“The most pernicious consequence of gerrymandering is the literal death of our ability to govern ourselves,” Leach said in the same article. “Pennsylvania is arguably the most aggressively gerrymandered state in the nation. This is not a new thing.”
Both Leach and Rhodes identified that if a congress person is in a district like this, they cannot lose to the opposite party, they literally have no need to do any campaigning for themselves and can still win by a large majority.
Additionally, according to Rhodes, they don’t have the incentive to appear reasonable to the other party. However, in a split district, it would be imperative for a person running for election to seem practical, appeal to the center and develop legislation appealing to that center.
Barack Obama has been able to win consecutive presidential elections due to the fact Democrats are able to win large population states like Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio and New York, and their electoral college, which propels them to victory.
The president, however, has little persuasion in congress when the majority is not his party.
The overarching problem presented by Rhodes and Leach is the ideology of government, in a democracy, is to spark debate, negotiation and, ultimately, result in a compromise between the two parties when passing legislation.
As Leach said in his article, with the gerrymandering set up as it is in Pennsylvania, it is virtually impossible for that to happen. This will be unless the districts were to be reconstructed in an equal manner, so that in each election both the Democrats and Republicans have an equal chance at obtaining the majority.
Michael McLaughlin is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.