The House of Representatives is not just divided between the red and the blue. It also fractures along lines of white, black, and brown.
Four-fifths of the House Republicans in the new Congress represent districts in which the white share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, according to a new National Journal analysis. In a near-mirror image, almost two-thirds of House Democrats represent districts in which the minority share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, the analysis found.
For each party, these stark patterns bring opportunities and challenges. The GOP's strength in these preponderantly white districts helped sustain its House majority in a year when overwhelming minority support powered President Obama to a comfortable reelection. But the party's disproportionate reliance on whites also means that few House Republicans have much experience in courting nonwhite voters — or much electoral incentive to do so.
That dynamic will likely make it tougher for the party to formulate an agenda, on issues from immigration to health care, that attracts more of the minority support it will almost certainly need to reclaim the White House in 2016 or beyond. "If we are going to become a national governing party again, the first thing we need to do is accept the reality of America as it is today, and these reapportioned districts work against that completely," says veteran GOP strategist John Weaver. "While I don't want to lose House seats, I would much rather be entrusted with governing the country than having a permanent House majority that is out of touch with the rest of the country."