This hold that the extreme Republicans in Congress believe they have is a mirage.
The power that they and the dominant party in Tallahassee think is supported by a majority of voters simply isn’t real. Carl Hiaasen’s contention that “Americans aren’t buying” what the likes of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are selling is on point. And here’s how we know it.
The Republican-dominated Legislature emerged largely from non-competitive elections. For GOP officeholders to believe they represent the majority of voters would be a mistake.
Recent redistricting efforts in Florida carved out minority-access districts that deliver 70 percent victories to minority (read: Democratic) officeholders. Keep in mind that a candidate needs only 50 percent plus one to win.
The GOP uses the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as cover for the practice of “packing” a few minority districts full of many more Democrats than are needed to win. That is, the map-drawers’ lines meander across rivers and county borders, and underneath interstates to bulge out in bizarre places.
As the lines in minority access districts protrude to include Democrats, though, they necessarily exclude them from several neighboring districts. “One for you, three for us,” is the way GOP map-drawers like to count.
Don’t take my word for it. Read a brief analysis by retired Jacksonville University Political Science Professor, Stephen Baker.
“With several current U.S. House districts drawn to support minority access standards, you have a few districts in which Democratic candidates win handily and the surrounding districts mostly favor Republican candidates. Despite the even division of party vote in Florida you now have 19 congressional districts won by Republicans and 6 by Democrats.”
Baker notes similar results for the Florida Legislature and the Jacksonville City Council. He also finds comparable outcomes across the nation, citing examples of both parties rigging the map to their advantage.
When districts are drawn to specifically include a super-majority of one party, and to intentionally exclude members of the other party, the consequence is non-competitive elections.
Since the opposite-party challenger doesn’t have a prayer in the gerrymandered general election, the office is won at the primary level. And who comes out to vote in primaries? Let’s let Baker answer that question:
“The majority of registered voters do not participate in the primaries but those who do are often the most ideologically committed partisans; the results of those elections tend to favor candidates who can appeal to the extremes in their respective parties. Thus the most conservative Republicans and most liberal Democrats tend to win these primary elections.”
Is it any wonder that polarized politics and gridlock now rule the day?
The problem in Florida is that the Democratic Party didn’t get Baker’s memo. They’ve done a terrible job of communicating to voters that the Republicans — in the Florida chambers and in Congress — do not have the voter support they believe they have.
If Florida Democrats could get their constituents to understand the chimerical nature of Republican representation, they could easily beat the GOP gubernatorial nominee. The modern-day GOP didn’t draw the state of Florida, after all. And it wasn’t a majority vote that elected Sen. Marco Rubio.