“The most important influence on how members of Congress vote is not their constituents, but their party.”
— John Sides debunking in the Washington Post the oft-repeated refrain that gerrymandering is what is wrong with American politics today. Sides is an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University.
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22 comments
MrObvious
MrObvious

John Sides might be true about the nature of politicians, but it's not something to live by. Look what this got GOP; they were so convinced that they were safe after winning in 2010 mostly because peoples feeling of angst over the economy. But this election was a reminder to people who put party over people. It's not a very good thing.

jmac
jmac

John Sides cannot walk in Nate Silver's shoes.  I know which one I'd bet on.  

jmac
jmac

John Sides needs to walk in Boehner's shoes.   He needs to turn on C-Span.  He needs to watch more elections.  He's off base.  

bobcn
bobcn

False dichotomy.  Both gerrymandering AND the influence of the party are problems with the extremist, uncompromising modern gop. 

AdamWill
AdamWill

I really don't understand how he supports his argument... If districts weren't gerrymandered, then the elections would be more competetive.  Perhaps he is suggesting that whoever wins that election will vote based on their party, and will not vote in a more partisan manner if they've won a bigger percentage of the vote... but it means they are more likely to get a successful challenger from the middle, rather than from the extreme.  Gerrymandered districts afford security to extreme views.  It's really hard to swallow that reduced competitiveness doesn't affecting voting patterns.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> John Sides debunking...

Not really. Sides is answering a different question, 'do pols generally vote along party lines?'

He's not really delving into the effects of gerrymandering itself (which Sam Wang does an interesting job here) on Dem vs. Repub voting behavior or, what I feel is more important to this discussion - Repub vs. Repub behavior*.

(*the idea being that, with less competitive districts, GOP pols have more to fear from a challenge from their right than they do from a Dem candidate from the center or left - thus driving an increased polarization in their voting)

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

And here I thought the most important influence on how members vote is what the corporations who donate money to their campaigns want -- which means those corporations *are* their constituents.

Sue_N
Sue_N

How in the world is this an either/or proposition? Gerrymandering relieves them of the obligation of listening to their constituents by making their seats a sure thing, thus allowing them to serve the party, which will reward them by making sure they keep their seats so they can serve the party...

See how that works?

gysgt213
gysgt213

Is there some reason why there is no link?

By the way if you read what the professor wrote.  Its not a very convincing debunking.

roknsteve
roknsteve

Wow! A gol durn perfesser just now figgered it out!  How much does he get paid to study what everybody already knows? 

AlistairCookie
AlistairCookie

It seems like it's a positive feedback loop problem.  Gerrymandering makes their constituency narrow and unnatural, which (as Ty says) lets them vote party first.  In turn, for being a good little foot soldier, the districts get entrenched (or even stranger) and the cycle continues.  It's the same problem that shows itself when, despite Democrats totaling some 5M more votes than Reps in the House, the Reps have a majority.  When districts get drawn by partisan committees/legislatures, democracy loses.  

I'd love to see it done via computer programs.  Each district must have a population of X, and follow natural geological borders, followed by main infrastructure arteries.  Do a QC check to make sure no lines run through structures, or divide a region in a strange way, and voila.  Districts, accomplished--no politics required.

TyPollard
TyPollard

Yeah, sure. 

Never fearing losing safe, gerrymandered seats LETS them vote Party before constituents.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

 “The most important influence on how members of Congress vote is not their constituents, but their party.”

— John Sides debunking in the Washington Post the oft-repeated refrain that gerrymandering is what is wrong with American politics today. Sides is an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University.

Yes, and they're given the opportunity to vote thanks to gerrymandering.  Can I be a Political Science professor at George Washington University?  It doesn't sounds so hard.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@sacredh 

Even if gerrymandering was less important than party, is there any reason to think that it isn't an attack on democracy?

sacredh
sacredh

The link is "Washington Post" in the quote.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@TyPollard @sacredh 

Because the Political Science professor said so.

I don't know who should be more ashamed of this bass-ackwards quote: TIME or the Washington Post.

sacredh
sacredh

Democratic congress candidate took 1 million more votes than their republican counter-parts. Gerrymandering plays a significant role in determining who controls the house. That's the main reason I was so disappointed in the 2010 elections. I wanted us to bone the republicans. I am a partisan hack.

gysgt213
gysgt213

@sacredh Thanks had to do a mouse over to see that it was active.

anon76
anon76

@DonQuixotic

Definitely WaPo.  Time can at least pretend that they were quoting it ironically.