There Really Are Two Americas: Republistan and Democravia

Today, whites with no Latino background make up 74 percent of Republistan. That contrasts both with Democratic districts (50 percent non-Latino white) and America as a whole (63 percent non-Latino white). In all, the Republican House represents about 124 million non-Latino white people—51 million more than the country represented by Democratic House members. At the same time, the country House Republicans represent is only 11.7 percent Latino, 8.6 percent African American and 3 percent Asian American, meaning only about 20 million Latinos, 14.5 million African Americans, and 5 million Asian Americans live in their country. By contrast, Democravia is 23 percent Latino, 16.5 percent black, and 7 percent Asian American, meaning it has 33 million Latinos, 24 million African Americans, and 10 million Asian Americans. In all, despite being a country with 23 million fewer total people, Democravia has a whopping 27 million more people of color than Republistan.

These figures tell us a lot about the politics of race. For instance, in terms of political support inside of Republistan, these figures suggest House GOP leaders risk relatively little when they work to gut the Voting Rights Act, tacitly endorse punitive measures against Muslims and immigrants, and bash the federal government for civil-rights enforcement actions that protect people of color. The data from Democravia also suggest that House Democrats have a strong incentive to take positions in support of civil rights.

Immigration is a similar story. Public-opinion surveys show that people of color tend to be among the strongest supporters of immigration reform. Not surprisingly, those reforms are being championed by House Democrats, who represent a country in which almost 48 percent of residents are people of color and almost 26 percent of residents are foreign born. Also unsurprising is that in an America that is almost 35 percent non-white and almost 15 percent foreign born, polls show immigration reform is popular. But the country of 168 million people that House Republicans represent is only 24 percent non-white and 10 percent foreign-born. So Republicans represent a country where blocking immigration reform can be good politics.

None of this to imply that all white people support GOP positions on race issues, nor is it to insinuate that all people of color support Democratic positions on those issues. It is only to suggest that in Republistan the people of color and immigrants who tend to oppose House Republicans' civil rights and immigration policies have comparatively little voting power. Similarly, the numbers suggest that in Democravia, the people of color and immigrants who tend to support Democratic positions on those issues have comparatively more political power.

Despite the cliché that demography is destiny, there are plenty of other factors that sculpt the parties' legislative positions. Money, for instance, plays a big role in deciding elections and, thus, influencing legislators' positions. Who actually turns out to vote in elections—as opposed to who merely lives in a district—also affects the political calculations of members of Congress. And party ideology plays a role.

But in a gerrymandered House that lets the parties answer only to their own countries and nobody else, overall demographics are certainly one major factor in legislative outcomes. That's especially the case at times like the present when the acutely large demographic divides between the two countries are germane to the biggest legislative questions of the day.

* * *

Full data:

METHODOLOGY: This table is gleaned from data from the Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey. The House Republican and House Democratic columns represent the aggregate averages from the parties' districts in the 113th Congress. The Senate Republican and Senate Democratic columns are the aggregate averages from the states the parties represent in the 113th Congress (states with senators from both parties were counted for both parties). Other than the population and median/mean income figures, the numbers in this chart are average percentages from America’s 435 congressional districts.

Presented by

David Sirota & Zaid Jilani

David Sirota is a nationally syndicated columnist based in in Denver. Zaid Jilani is a writer based in Syracuse, New York. He has previously worked for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, United Republic, and ThinkProgress.

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