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Richmond faces long tenure in minority with little power

To understand the aphorism “whistling past the graveyard,” one need only review comments made by the youngest member of the smallest freshman Democrat House of Representatives class in a century.

Not that these incoming nine, including Louisiana Second Congressional District’s state Rep. Cedric Richmond, should feel insecure. Including Richmond, five were elected from majority-black minority districts, one is an ethnic Asian from Hawai’i, and three others are whites from heavily Democrat districts. None of these districts since the last reapportionment has cast a majority of its votes for a Republican presidential candidate and only one had any long-term Republican House election success for decades (Delaware at-large, whose outgoing representative was perhaps the most liberal Republican in the House). By historical standards, none are considered “competitive” districts (where the winner receives less than 55 percent of the vote over an extended period of time).

What is humorous is the comments about what their elections mean for their party’s future. Richmond seems to think they have bright futures because in the party with so few of them and so many ahead of them wiped out in 2010, their less-contested seniority will allow them to move up rapidly. He also seems to predict this will happen soon with Democrats doing well in 2010.

This only goes to show that he is as clueless as some other, more professional cheerleaders of Democrats go such as David Bositis, long-time analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies which is the oldest black-oriented political think tank. Bositis seems to think Democrats have a good chance at regaining the House in 2012, as, he notes, “there are only 10 Democratic seats in districts that McCain won, but 55 Republicans in districts that [Democrat Pres. Barack] Obama won, and the composition of the electorate (in 2012) is going to be totally different.”

What Bositis doesn’t say or recognize, however, is that 2008 was a very deviant election in that regard, with a large number of those 55 in districts that historically had favored Republican presidential candidates, certainly in recent years. Further, as Obama continues to drop like a stone in popularity, he has no chance to win most, perhaps all of those districts and if anything will negatively impact Democrats’ chances in them. Also, in this comment Bositis contradicts his own preliminary study of the 2010 midterm electorate, in which he observed black turnout was slightly higher than in the last 2006 midterm which produced radically different results, pointing to the real dynamic at play – in 2006 and 2008, prior to the unprecedented liberal onslaught of legislation that woke up the less-informed, more apathetic non-black registered voters, Obama and Democrats were seen much less malevolently as they are now.

Even if the share of the 2012 electorate that is black matches the 2008 level of 13 percent (compared to 10 percent this year), it’s not going to be enough to offset more losses, much less bring in gains. And, as any political scientist who studies election behavior can tell you, typically the midterm election composition does not vary much compared to a general election, and conveys little or no advantage to Democrats in terms of additional voters for the latter.

Finally, this sentiment does not take into account the major redistricting advantage the GOP will have before the next congressional election cycle. It won’t be much, maybe as few as a half dozen seats, but it still impedes any Democrat takeover possibility where look like they’ll have a 243-192 disadvantage come January.

About the only thing correct in Richmond’s comments is he’s likely to be there for awhile. That has been the history of the various permutations of the Second District where a Democrat candidate for reelection has not lost since 1930, and then after serving three terms. But he’s likely to be a member of the minority party, with little power, for the foreseeable future.

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