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What We're Reading: Commission on Political Reform, April 24

BPC’s Commission on Political Reform highlights news articles, videos and other relevant works which provide coverage on the partisan political divide and those that promote specific electoral and congressional reforms to help Americans achieve shared national goals. We circulate these articles to provide a broad view of bipartisanship, reforms and reactions. The views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent the views of the commission, its co-chairs, commissioners, or BPC.

Compiled by Abbey Brandon, Eric Larson and Dylan Keller, Communications Intern

Bipartisan Breezes Waft Through Congress

By Janet Hook, The Wall Street Journal

Lawmakers in Congress, long locked in stalemate and saddled with a “do-nothing” label, are now working across party lines on major legislation including immigration, guns and other perennially stalled issues.

A big bipartisan majority in the Senate voted Thursday to open the first wide-ranging gun-control debate in years. Bipartisan proposals to overhaul immigration laws are being hatched in the Senate and House. President Barack Obama has been wining and dining Republicans in search of partners for a budget deal. The House and Senate Budget Committee chairmen are preparing to negotiate for the first time in years. Read the full article here.

The Republican Advantage

By Charlie Cook, National Journal

The “Incredible Shrinking Swing Seat” really does keep shrinking. In August 1997, The Cook Political Report introduced the Partisan Voter Index, an attempt to uniformly measure the competitiveness of all 435 congressional districts by comparing each district’s performance in the two most recent presidential elections with that of the nation as a whole. With the tireless help of Clark Bensen at Polidata, we have updated the PVI six times: after redistricting in 2002 and 2012, and after the presidential elections of 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

By now, the trend lines are clear. In 1998, we found 164 swing seats—districts within 5 points of the national partisan average, with scores between R+5 and D+5 (a score of R+5 means the district’s vote for the Republican presidential nominees was 5 percentage points above the national average). The data 15 years ago showed just 148 solidly Republican districts and 123 solidly Democratic seats. Today, only 90 swing seats remain—a 45 percent decline—while the number of solidly Republican districts has risen to 186 and the count of solidly Democratic districts is up to 159. Read the full article here.

Americans love government – as long as it’s their own

By Aaron Blake, The Washington Post

Congress and the federal government continue to struggle with historically low approval ratings, as Americans grow tired of gridlock in Washington and hold both major parties in low regard.

But when it comes to government in general, Americans are actually pretty darn happy.

A significant majority of Americans continue to view their state and local governments in a positive light, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center. The poll shows 57 percent approve of their state government, while 63 percent like their local government. That contrasts starkly with the 28 percent who view the federal government favorably — a new low for those numbers in Pew polls. Read the full article here.

Polarization Is Not Just in Washington

By Gerald F. Seib, The Wall Street Journal

Much ink has been spilled, including in this space, bemoaning the polarization and divisiveness of Washington these days.

Too little time has been devoted to an uncomfortable underlying reality: It exists in large part because the political system is reflecting polarization in the country beyond the capital. In other words, it isn’t just the politicians; it’s us.

These divides can be seen particularly in the House of Representatives, the branch of the government closest to the grass-roots, which helps explain why it has become such a deeply partisan place. Read the full article here.

You can’t understand what’s happened to the Senate without these two graphs

By Dylan Matthews, The Washington Post

The Senate has always disproportionately represented small states, but the bias hasn’t always been extreme. One good proxy for the disproportionateness of the Senate is the ratio of population between the largest state in the Union and the smallest state. I went back through every Census from 1790 and 2010 and found that ratio. In 1790, Virginia, the largest state, was 12.65 times the size of Delaware, the smallest. In 2010, however, California, the largest state, was fully 66 times the size of Wyoming, the smallest. The Senate is now about five times less proportionate than it was at the country’s founding. Read the full article here.

2013-04-24 00:00:00

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