As the partisans clear the rubble, the results of the 2018 midterm elections should deeply disturb all Americans who care about representative democracy no matter their politics.
That’s because despite the Democrats’ approximately seven-point win of the percentage of votes cast, Democrats look likely to win only 37 seats. This is a mockery of the notion held by John Adams and the founding fathers that Congress should be an “exact portrait, a miniature” of the people as a whole.
Contrast that to the Tea Party wave of 2010, when a seven-point win by Republicans gave them 63 seats. Democrats may have the satisfaction of a majority, but it is by modern standards a razor-thin one. It’s also a majority that may be hard to hold in 2020 if the highly unusual wave dynamics of 2018 don’t repeat themselves.
This unrepresentative outcome has to do in large part with aggressive gerrymandering in a handful of key states like North Carolina, Ohio and Michigan. In North Carolina, Democrats won half the congressional vote but less than a quarter of seats. In fact, not a single congressional seat in North Carolina changed parties in 2016 and 2018. The results are equally stark for Ohio, where the two major parties regularly split the vote nearly 50-50, but Republicans have maintained a lopsided 12 to 4 advantage in the Ohio congressional delegation since 2012.
Never have maps been more gerrymandered. But also never have there been so many massive wave elections to test the strength of gerrymanders. So far in the four elections of the decade, gerrymanders are undefeated, producing with rare exception, exactly the results they were designed to do…..