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To many people, including myself, the most infuriating thing about the GOP is that they don’t try to win elections. I mean, sometimes it even seems that they are actively trying not to win elections. You can have the best candidates, with the best platforms, but it comes to nothing if they aren’t elected.
The Dems understand this, so they take the exact opposite approach and do anything they can to win elections. (Normally one would include examples here, but I don’t think it’s necessary for this audience.) Winning elections requires expensive resources, of course, but it also requires strategy, which is free.
As an engineer, I’m intrigued by the problem of how to efficiently flip congressional districts. I needed a subject for a little programming project, so I grabbed a source of 2018 election data, wrote a program that parsed it, patched up a few issues the data, and ran some metrics on it. (Some boring details here.)
This will take the form of a series of posts as an exploratory conversation with that data.
So … currently, there are 235 Democrat congressional districts and 200 Republican congressional districts.
Wikipedia has an excellent summary of the 2018 election data here.
The first question I have is, how many congressional campaigns were uncontested?
I first thought you could search through the Wikipedia page for instances of the word “unopposed.” But that’s not actually good enough. There are a significant number of cases where a Democrat ran against a Green Party candidate with no Republican in sight. I guess that’s technically not unopposed. But I’m more interested in cases where the candidate ran unopposed by a major party.
So with the data, I am now able to answer questions like that.
There are 38 congressional districts where the Democrat ran unopposed by a Republican in 2018. They are:
CA-5 CA-6 CA-13 CA-20 CA-27 CA-34 CA-40 CA-44
FL-10 FL-14 FL-20 FL-21 FL-24
MA-1 MA-4 MA-7 MA-8
NY-5 NY-6 NY-7 NY-8 NY-16 NY-17
TX-9 TX-20 TX-28 TX-30
On the other side, there are 4 congressional districts where the Republican ran unopposed by a Democrat:
I’m also interested in the case where the candidate ran “effectively unopposed,” meaning that one of the major candidates was so nonfunctional that they ended up receiving less than, say, 20% of the vote.
Here are the 22 districts where the Democrat ran “effectively unopposed”:
CA-12 CA-29 CA-37
IL-1 IL-2 IL-4 IL-7
NY-9 NY-10 NY-12 NY-13 NY-14 NY-15
And the flip side, here are the two districts where the Republican ran “effectively unopposed”:
Now, the standard Republican response is that those districts are all heavily Democratic and any resources spent there are wasted. Yeah, yeah, I got that. But that’s also an easy excuse to not do anything.
You know the phrase, “The future belongs to those who show up?” Well, the data shows that the Republican Party is not showing up. And they are not showing up an order of magnitude (that is, a factor of 10) more than the Dems. 38 vs. 4 for unopposed, 22 vs. 2 for effectively unopposed. Together, 60 vs. 6.
This is a serious problem.
Barack Obama basically became president by running unopposed. In 1996, he won his state senate seat when his people had his main competition disqualified. In 1998, he ran for reelection unopposed. And ran unopposed again in 2002. Obama famously won his US Senate seat in 2004 when Republican Jack Ryan withdrew after some divorce papers were mysteriously unsealed. And, as he ran for president, John McCain suspended his campaign for a while. So running unopposed is a proven political strategy.
More to come. Next, I’ll explore applying a cost metric to flipping a congressional district.
Now that I can run arbitrary calculations on the data, I want to encourage suggestions.