Despite all the current cultural and political turmoil, a lot less has changed with the election than you might think.
Nationally, after Tuesday’s election, despite Trump’s surprising win, Congressional delegations in most states in January will look pretty much almost exactly like they do now.
Similarly, in Oregon, despite the crushing defeat of Measure 97, backed by unions and Democrats, and Republican Dennis Richardson’s success in the Secretary of State race, the make-up of the next state Legislature will hardly change.
At the national level, races were competitive on Tuesday in only 40 of the 435 seats in the House, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report. Many seats were so safe for one party or the other that there was only one candidate.
Some of that may be due to skillful gerrymandering of congressional districts, but it may also be due to the increasing tendency of people of a like mind congregating in the same geographies, the birds of a feather flock together trend.
Americans may say they prefer living in diverse communities, but the Pew Research Center says people don’t practice what they preach.
“Americans are increasingly sorted into think-alike communities that reflect not only their politics but their demographics,” Pew said in a January 2016 report.
That’s certainly true of Oregon.
The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC), a state-oriented national organization that seeks to elect Republicans to state legislatures, identified the Oregon State Senate and House of Representatives as targets in the 2016 elections. You’d never know it.
A total of 16 seats out of the 30 in the State Senate were up for election in 2016. Of the 16 seats, Democrats fielded unopposed candidates in five and Republicans fielded unopposed candidates in two. In other words, voters really had no choice in almost half the seats.
Meanwhile, 4 incumbents—one Republican and three Democrats—didn’t run for re-election. Only one of those seats had competition between a Democrat and a Republican in the general election.
That meant there were only 9 Senate seats where there was competition between Republican and Democratic candidates. Incumbents won seven of those races. The other 2 seats were open races. In one case, Republican Senator Doug Whitsett decided unexpectedly to leave politics. In the other case, Democrat Senator Alan Bates died.
According to Ballotpedia, incumbents almost always win re-election in state legislative elections. Since 1972, except for one year, the win rate for incumbents hasn’t gone below 90 percent.
All 60 seats in the Oregon House were up for election in 2016. Democrats fielded candidates unopposed by Republicans in one district and Republicans fielded candidates unopposed by Democrats in five districts. So voters really had no Republican vs. Democrat choice in 20 percent of the seats.
That meant only 24 House races involved competition between Republican and Democratic candidates. Incumbents who ran won every single one of their races. In the seven districts where no incumbent ran, the winner was from the same party in every case. No revolution there.
What does all this mean? In Oregon, there will be some new faces, but the ideological split will likely remain pretty much unchanged. Maybe that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Democrats will still control both chambers of the Oregon Legislature. However, they lost their chance to pick up an extra seat in the House to secure the three-fifths majority necessary to potentially pass bills to raise taxes without Republican support.
With the defeat of Measure 97, that hobbles the Democrats’ ability to go it alone on taxation alternatives.
As Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.