Whatever happened to the swing districts

In an article titled As Swing Districts Dwindle, Can a Divided House Stand?(Dec. 27, 2012) Nate Silver describes the loss of swing districts, which he links to the continuing gridlock:

In 1992, there were 103 members of the House of Representatives elected from what might be called swing districts: those in which the margin in the presidential race was within five percentage points of the national result. But based on an analysis of this year’s presidential returns, I estimate that there are only 35 such Congressional districts remaining, barely a third of the total 20 years ago.

Swing districts have fallen to political redistricting for party advantage, as Silver points out. In the case of our Ninth District voters, the GOP has been successful in a kind of emotional gerrymandering, dividing people along religious and economic lines using fear of decline in coal on the economic front and supposed “Christian family values” on the social front.

In the 2012 election, Democratic challenger Anthony Flaccavento ran against Morgan Griffith, the Tea Party Republican who unseated Rick Boucher, and lost to Griffith on the same issues: coal, abortion, and same-sex marriage. GOP voters are not informed on these issues,they are emotionally committed to their position. At the polls, GOP partisans held up photos of the Billy Graham “vote your Christian values” ad. At the location where I was handing out sample ballots marked for Democrats, many Republican voters exited the restricted area proclaiming their votes for Romney, Allen, and/or Griffith, and they were greeted with high-fives and “Praise the Lord!” from the folks who were handing out literature and sample ballots for Republicans.

Still, it is up to the voters. It would be impossible for a district with so many seniors, students, low-income people, and people who go to RAM clinics for health care to vote Republican if people were motivated by information instead of emotion. Yet for several years, our Ninth District has bought the lie that the EPA is holding back coal, channeled their anger against federal government, and voted for people who do not offer any solutions. They voted their anger at the EPA and turned down information on coal depletion in the region, the incursions of cheap natural gas into the market, and the need for something to replace the coal economy for our grandchildren.

Voters can’t seem to understand that we should elect very smart people of good conscience and intent who know what the problems are, people who will look for and find solutions. The electorate continuously nominates and votes for people who are uninformed or duplicitous enough to make absolute promises not to harm the local sacred cow, or perhaps worse, the person who “seems” the most Christian.

Our legislature is currently over 90% professed Christian, and yet they want to cut necessary social aid programs in the service of rich corporate barons. They want to lower wages, and make sure that nobody eats unless they work for whatever pay the employer offers them. It escapes me how this makes sense to Christians, and in fact several religious leaders have pointed out the disconnect.

In the Ninth District Virginia in 2012, Anthony Flaccavento — who actually is a Christian — was telling people about complexity and the real problems facing the district, and proposing reasibabke new solutions that are sustainable. They voted for Morgan Griffith, who was saying Coal is king, no new taxes, don’t raise the minimum wage for restaurant workers because it will cost jobs, and Christian family values will save us from abortion and gay marriage. In doing so, the majority of voters in the Ninth District voted against their own best interests and against the best interests of their neighbors and their cities, towns, and counties.

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