Yesterday, BPC Democracy Project Director John Fortier moderated a discussion titled, “The Vanishing Moderate Democrat”, a continuation of BPC’s Election Series that most recently examined the diminishing number of moderate Republicans in Congress.
Fortier opened by giving a brief preview of an upcoming BPC report on redistricting analyzing the number of competitive congressional districts created in the most recent round of redistricting, as well as the number created in past cycles. Over time, the number of competitive districts has decreased dramatically, as well as the number of “misaligned districts”, or those in which the representative is from a party different than the district’s preference in presidential elections. For example, in 1993, there were 93 House Democrats representing Republican districts. In January 2011, that number was just 9 and is likely to shrink further after the November election.
Former Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL), chairman of both Center Forward and Wexler & Walker after spending 18-years representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District, spoke of disconnects between the national political parties and supporting constituents. In order to successfully represent his district that was primarily center left in a generally right leaning state, he had to prioritize representing his district over the national party.
Former Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), currently a specialty policy advisor at Alston and Bird, LLP, agreed with Rep. Cramer that the pressure from party leadership coupled with outside resources made it difficult to connect with the voters members represent. It was in her opinion that Arkansas politics had changed from retail to wholesale politics. Regardless of a member’s ability to work and connect with their constituents at a local level, the proliferation of polarized and directed national media, social media, and the onslaught of outside groups and interests has made it more difficult for Democrats to advance local causes while staying in line with the national party.
Former Congressman Martin Frost (D-TX), now a shareholder of Polsinelli Shugart, noted that the challenges faced by members who were not in safely Democratic districts. The former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Frost echoed the difficulty of balancing the national party interests with his district’s concerns.
The event was held in partnership with Center Forward.