It used to be that having 50 competitive races in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives was low, but that number has now fallen into the low teens, noted Colleen Shogun, associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University.
Under the current system, incumbents are likely to face a real challenge only from within their own party, according to Shogun, and most likely by someone with an even more extreme political view than their own.
“What you get are not only incumbents who sit on their seats but more liberal Democrats and more conservative Republicans because where these races are won and lost is at the primaries. And who comes out for the primaries? The hard-core partisans,” Shogun said during an interview last week with Times editors and reporters.
What are some of the prospects for change? Not good, says Professors Shogun and Rozell:
Mark Rozell, a fellow professor of public policy at GMU, suggested that states adopt a more independent process of redrawing the districts every 10 years following the census. But he and Shogun acknowledged change is not likely to happen when there is no incentive for politicians to do it.
“You’d have to have a suicidal politician,” Shogun said. “Anyone who pushes for this risks alienating their own party, and they may get what they ask for with a bad reallocation.”
What advice does Shogun offer for the Democrats?
Shogun said that, for Democrats to be competitive in future presidential races, the party is either going to have to turn its back on its liberal heritage in a ploy to reach out to Southern voters or shift its focus to the Midwest and Southwest where wins in states like Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada can overcome losses in Florida and Ohio.
You don’t need to be Carnac the Magnificent to know which strategy will look appealing to the Democrats in three years. Or sooner.