One hundred seventy-five million years ago, Earth had one super continent – Pangaea. Enormous tectonic forces broke this landmass into the continents of our time.
A new supercontinent has been formed in American politics. Trumpangaea: A continent that has elected Donald Trump contrary to the expectations of political insiders, commentators, and pollsters.
Hillary Clinton secured more popular votes than Donald Trump, and for the fifth time, the presidency was won by the loser of the popular vote. Clinton lost the Electoral College because her voters are “inefficiently distributed.” State-level election maps fail to convey the concentration of Clinton’s votes. This inefficient distribution becomes apparent when vote data is shown at the county level. The counties carried by Clinton, when mapped alone, take on the appearance of an archipelago: The Clintopelago.
With the first session of the 114th Congress in the books several observations occur to me: (1) I’ve now worked in or around Congress for over 9% of its history – that seems like a lot to me; and (2) Congress has changed a lot in 20 years.
Over time Republicans have become less willing to cosponsor legislation and Republicans are much more alike in their willingness to cosponsor bills than Democrats. Democrats show more variety in their willingness to cosponsor bills, and on average do so more often than Republicans. Democrats have recently shown less willingness to cosponsor bills (as weighted by the number of bills outstanding) and this tendency has varied congress to congress. Since the 104th Congress Republicans have demonstrated a decreasing tendency to cosponsor bills when weighted by the number of bills outstanding.
In short: If your job is to get congressmen to support a legislative initiative—and to prove their support in an official way prior to a vote—then your job has become much harder in the last 20 years.
After the recent Parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom, The Economist  posted a map showing election results with each of the 650 seats in the House of Commons shown as a hexagon.  The hexagons caught my attention because they reminded me of a misspent youth in role-playing games where maps based on hexagons made a regular appearance (“Nerds!”). Maps where political subdivisions of different size are given equal ink (or pixels) can reveal trends that would otherwise be obscured in urban areas.
Previously, I posted a list of those Representatives in each party that were least likely to cosponsor bills authored by a member of an opposing party. This led me to ask: Has the level of bipartisan cooperation changed over time as demonstrated by Representatives partnering with members of the opposing party to promote specific legislation?
The data arguably supports the popular belief that Congress has become more polarized since the 1980s.
I generally scoff at those who would say that we are more polarized as a nation now that at any time in our history. I think that ignores the troubled first century of our nation’s existence. Unlike the antebellum years, Representatives do not go armed to the Floor in fear of violence from their colleagues, and no one has been caned on the Floor in living memory. Click here to see more charts and data…
What can legislative cosponsorship data show us about the willingness of members to work across the aisle in Congress? How bipartisan are various Representatives?
Looking at the cosponsorship data to date in the 113th Congress, those Representatives least likely to cosponsor bills authored by Democrats also tend to be names prominently associated with Tea Party or conservative politics. Likewise, some Democrats from more conservative, rural, or Republican-leaning districts co-sponsor more Republican bills than Democratic bills.
In my lobbying practice I have represented many infrastructure and transportation clients. As a former campaign advance man I’ve dealt with the logistics of moving a candidate using cars, buses, trains, planes, and even the occasional watercraft. Transportation has received short shrift in Congress and on the campaign trail and this is remarkable given the key role that transportation plays in getting elected.
American presidential campaigns use their own campaign versions of Air Force One to jet from one rally to another. Campaigns for state-wide office regularly feature “bus tours” and general aviation resources to transport candidates. Railroad “whistle-stop” tours have been a part of the American political consciousness since the 1800s. Continue reading…