A fiction

Novelist Scott Turow thinks that America is “evenly divided” politically. He makes his case in today’s Washington Post in a piece entitled “A Dominant GOP? How So?”
The short, and I think compelling, answer is that Republicans control the White House, both Houses of Congress, and a majority of the Governor’s mansions. Turow nonetheless argues that President Bush’s small margin of victory (at least for an incumbent), coupled with his skill as a candidate, demonstrates that the parties are evenly matched. However, Turow’s claim that Bush’s margin overstates the Republican position overlooks the fact that Bush’s candidacy was hampered by a difficult and controversial war and by Bush’s indifferent to poor performances in the debates. And, most importantly, it overlooks the Republican performance in the House races where, for sixth consecutive time, Republicans outpolled Democrats (and Republican candidates collectively outperformed Bush). In reality, Bush’s margin probably understates the Republicans’ popularity.
Turow thinks that a more “nuanced” analysis of the House races is needed. But all he offers is the argument that Republicans picked up House seats only because of the Texas redistricting. Here, Turow overlooks two obvious points. First, even discounting the five seat pick-up he attributes to this redistricting, the Republicans still won a comfortable majority in the House. Indeed, the redistricting presumably had no effect on the nationwide vote in House races which, once again, clearly favored the Republicans. Second, the redistricting merely corrected past Democratic gerrymandering and created congressional districts that confirmed the Republicans’ majority status in Texas. Turow’s claim that the redistricting constitutes some sort of unfair fluke, havng nothing to do with the census, is laughable unless Turow thinks that Texas is still a Democratic state. Turow effectively concedes the point when he attributes the redistricting to “the Republicans gaining control of the Texas legislature.” How does he imagine that happened?
It is certainly possible to overstate the extent to which the Republican party is dominant. We are not 50-50 nation, but neither is the split 55-45. Yet anyone who denies the ascendancy of the Republican party at this juncture is presenting a fictitious view of the political landscape.


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