The Political Realignment on Full Display

Vice President Joe Biden, left, holds the presidential election electoral college vote certificate representing the state of Ohio, home of House Speaker John Boehner, Republican, won by President Obama.Jason Reed/Reuters Vice President Joe Biden, left, holds the presidential election electoral college vote certificate representing the state of Ohio, home of House Speaker John Boehner, Republican, won by President Obama.

The House Republicans’ vote on the fiscal cliff deal, in which a solid majority of party members went against their speaker, reflects the conservative and Southern drift of recent decades.

“On the fiscal deal, his own majority leader and whip deserted him, as did seven current committee chairmen and almost two-thirds of his caucus,” as I write in my latest Letter From Washington.

But the regional realignment, visible in where the votes came from and where they didn’t, portends much more dangerous territory — and consequences — in the votes to come.

Lawmakers are braced for a tougher battle in the next two months over the debt ceiling and across-the-board spending cuts that neither side likes… The White House believes Republican leaders privately realize that holding the nation’s full faith and credit hostage to cutting popular programs is a loser. Congressional Republicans dismiss Mr. Obama’s lines in the sand, saying that he invariably backs down and that any economic fallout ultimately hurts his presidency.

What the vote last week tells us about the votes to come: The deal passed the House, 256 to 173, with most Democrats in favor. It was brought to the floor with the support of Speaker John Boehner yet the Republican rank and file voted 151 to 77 against it.

More than half the votes against the Boehner-backed measure came from representatives from the 11 Southern states of the old Confederacy. These states were once solidly Democratic. Now Republicans command big majorities in each of these House delegations. These members voted 78 to 12 against the debt package.

Conversely, representatives from large non-Southern states stuck with the speaker. Republican members from California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois voted 30 to 12 for the fiscal package.

The clout of these big-state Republican delegations has declined sharply as the Southern influence in the party increases. A little more than 30 years ago, when President Ronald Reagan took office, the California House delegation was almost evenly divided; today, the Democrats hold a 39-to-14 advantage. The small margin in New York the Democrats had then has widened to 21 to 6. There are no Republican House members from any of the six New England states in the new Congress.

It’s the opposite situation in the South. In 1981, 19 of the 24 Texas House members were Democrats; today, the Republicans hold a 24-to-12 advantage. The same trend is apparent in Florida, where Democrats dominated 11 to 4, and Republicans now have a 17-to-10 advantage.

Article source: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/the-political-realignment-on-full-display/?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

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