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Jewish World Review Nov. 13, 2002 / 8 Kislev, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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The House of Extremes | Having lost badly in the midterm elections, one would expect the Democrats to hone their appeal to middle America and go after the votes of moderates that they lost in a bid to regain the majority. Instead, the House Democrats seem intent on suicide by choosing Nancy Pelosi - a leftist - as their leader. How could they make a mistake like that?

Their obtuseness in making this bad decision underscores a basic political fact: Most House Democrats have a lifetime tenure secure as any U.S. Supreme Court judge. In the aftermath of the 2001 redistricting, most House members are, in reality, no longer elected officials but civil-service employees.

In 2002, 91 percent of the incumbent Democrats who were re-elected won with more than 55 percent of the vote; 64 percent were either unopposed or won with more than two-thirds of the vote. These guys have job security that a civil servant might envy.

The beleaguered survivors of the GOP rout are not hardy souls who live by their wits in swing districts. They are fat and lazy incumbents who have more to fear from viruses and bacteria than they do from Republicans. Immune from electoral vicissitudes, they can go as far to the left as they like without ever having to face the broad centrist middle of American politics.

In state after state, the political parties got together with their computers and concocted deals whereby most Democrats and most Republicans were allotted safe seats.

Since most state governments are divided, with at least one house of the state legislature in opposition control, the two parties carved up the map between them to eliminate any chance that the bulk of their members would be defeated. The result is that most Republican districts are ultra-conservative and most Democratic ones are ultra-liberal. The swing voters are all dumped together in 40-50 districts, only about 10 percent of the total.

We in New York City are long accustomed to urban seats that return Democrats each election cycle irrespective of national trends. But now the rest of America has likewise been carved up in a grand and cynical deal between the political parties to deprive voters of a real choice on Election Day.

The by-product of this bipartisan deal is that the House of Representatives can become more polarized. The only incentive for thinking about mainstream America - the desire to win control of the chamber - is, itself, diminished by the generous sharing of perks and power within the House which has come to be part of the grand two-party deal that runs Washington.

Ever since the 40-year Democratic control of the House of Representatives was ended in 1994, both parties understand that one day's majority party might be tomorrow's minority. As a result, staffing perks, good-sized offices and other plums of power are more fairly distributed. So House Democrats need not trouble themselves to represent national opinion.

The Senate, where turnover is far more common proportionately, cannot enjoy the same civil-service mentality that dominates the House. State lines are not subject to partisan negotiation, so reapportionment cannot dull the Senate's electoral process as it has in the House.

How odd! The framers of our Constitution expected the House to be subject to the ebbs and flows of public opinion, while the Senate, secure in six-year terms, would be more immune from these fluctuations. But these esteemed gentlemen never met today's deal makers. Now the Senate is the only legislative body we have that is really elected.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris