It looks as though divided government might be inescapable for the foreseeable future. There are more Americans likely to vote Democrat, and it will be a challenge for a Republican to win the presidency. Meanwhile, Republicans look set to hold onto the House for the next several cycles due to their broader geographic distribution.
Jim Geraghty laid out a plan for untying the knot over the weekend, one that will make Democrats livid: Republicans in the state legislatures in several swing states could change how their states' votes are divvied up in the Electoral College, using their authority under the Constitution. The result would be that Republican candidates, not Democrats, would be the odds-on favorite in any presidential race.
Most states allocate all their votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the most ballots statewide, but they're not required to do things that way. The statewide winner gets only two votes in Maine and Nebraska, while each remaining vote is awarded for winning a congressional district within the state. Since Republicans are more spread out across the country, this system would benefit Republicans if it were used in every state. Even implementing it in a few swing states where Democratic candidates could otherwise hope to win all the votes would destroy their chances of winning a majority in the Electoral College.
For example, in the winner-take-all system that most states use now, a Democratic candidate could hope to win all of the votes that Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin have in Electoral College. As Geraghty writes, if Republicans who control the state governments in those states switched to the model that Maine and Nebraska use, neither party's presidential nominee could expect to win much more than half of the electoral votes from each of those states. With little hope of winning those votes, a Democrat would have little chance of winning the presidency.
This isn't a new idea. As Matthew Yglesias notes, this idea has been proposed and rejected by Republican elected officials already in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Perhaps the proposal just seemed too slimy, even though it's constitutional. Perhaps those Republican politicians remembered why so many states adopted the winner-takes-all system in the first place, about 200 years ago: when a state's electors vote as a bloc, they're much more influential.
Take a state like Ohio, where the congressional districts aren't all that competitive. With luck, a candidate campaigning hard in Ohio might win a couple of additional votes in the Electoral College under Geraghty's proposal, but it wouldn't be worth the time or the money. Ohio voters and their concerns would simply be left out of the presidential election. (They would also be excluded if the legislature simply appointed a slate of Republican electors to cast votes for the party's nominee, without even holding an election, which is another constitutional option. In that case, even if a majority of voters preferred the Democratic nominee, all the state's electoral votes would go to the Republican.)
In short, any changes would require Republican governors to sacrifice their state's interests in order to advance the national party's chosen candidate, whoever that might turn out to be. Given all the dissent and bitter differences of opinion among the G.O.P. rank and file, that sacrifice is probably not one that state leaders will be eager to make.
What's in Wonkbook: 1) Loretta Lynch named for attorney general 2) Opinions: Republicans, immigration, the Berlin Wall 3) Supreme Court takes challenge to Obamacare 4) Window-shopping for health insurance begins 5) The jobs report, GM's recall, rogue drones at football games, and more
Number of the day: 17,230. That's how many kids under 6 have gotten sick from eating those little laundry detergent capsules, according to a new study. A small percentage were hospitalized, and at least one child was killed. Paul Ziobro in The Wall Street Journal.
Chart of the day:
Even after a solid jobs report, wages remain depressed. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
1. Top story: Loretta Lynch nominated for attorney general
Lynch is an uncontroversial pick. As the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, she's accustomed to bringing cases against elected officials, cops, terrorists and white-collar criminals. She chaired a commission that advised Attorney General Holder on matters of policy, and she's been confirmed by the Senate twice already. Sari Horwitz and Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.
She's stayed out of the public eye throughout her career. Even those who have worked with her closely know little about her. Her best-known case was probably the trial of a group of police officers who beat and sodomized a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, 20 years ago. Stephanie Clifford in The New York Times.
Republicans call for her to take a stand on immigration. Several G.O.P. senators want to know whether Lynch believes that Obama's plan to delay deportations through executive action is legal. Susan Crabtree in The Washington Examiner.
2. Top opinions: Republicans, immigration, food, Ebola, and the Berlin Wall
MANN & ORNSTEIN: Which Republican Party won the midterms? The coming internecine warfare between G.O.P. factions will be just as important as their disputes with Obama. McConnell and Boehner have a difficult task ahead of them, made more difficult by the fact that now Republicans have real power and will want to use it. The Washington Post.
DOUTHAT: Here's rooting for a Rand Paul-Marco Rubio Super Bowl. The two senators best embody the opposed tendencies in the Republican Party. One supports using government to create opportunity and social mobility, while the other is a pure libertarian. Both have good ideas, and a contest between the two of them for the G.O.P. nomination in 2016 could be genuinely worth paying attention to. The New York Times.
BARRO: Republicans are only sometimes the party of Uber. Most regulations on business are enforced at the state level and below, often by Republican politicians concerned about protecting local business interests. "In practice, it's not clear Republicans are any more pro-market than Democrats when it comes to business regulation." The New York Times.
COWEN: Immigration can save First-World economies from decline and help people in developing countries get by. Aging and declining populations in the developed world are a serious problem that doesn't receive enough attention from policymakers. One solution is immigration. Another is encouraging people to have more kids. But will countries be willing to do what's economically necessary? The New York Times.
BITTMAN et al.: The United States needs a national food policy. Because of bad food, children today are expected to live shorter lives than their parents, marking the end of a century of progress in human health. Yet no one person or agency is responsible for setting the policy to address the problem, and we don't have an agreed-upon set of principles for doing so. The Washington Post.
SUMMERS: Ebola is nothing compared to the pandemics the world could face in the future. A catastrophe on the scale of the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed 50 million people, is more likely than not this century. The good news is that we can prepare ourselves now by investing in better public health systems everywhere. The Washington Post.
MELVYN LEFFLER: The free market didn't bring down the Berlin Wall. Neither did President Reagan, since you ask. The convenient history that names the United States as the force that ended Communism ignores the contributions of individuals and civil society in Eastern Europe, and the fact that European democratic socialism was the compromise that won over ordinary people living behind the Iron Curtain. Foreign Policy.
1989 German industrial rock interlude: KMFDM's More & Faster.
3. Supreme Court will hear new challenge to Obamacare
King v. Burwell will be heard in February or March, and a decision is expected this summer. "The case concerns tax subsidies that currently help millions of people afford health insurance under the law. According to the challengers, those subsidies are being provided unlawfully in three dozen states that have decided not to run the marketplaces, known as exchanges, for insurance coverage." Adam Liptak in The New York Times.
If the challengers win, about 11.3 million people will probably drop their health insurance. They would lose access to the subsidies that make insurance affordable for them and their families. Jason Millman in The Washington Post.
FELDMAN: How will Chief Justice Roberts rule? Will he maintain the centrist, restrained attitude he adopted when he cast the deciding vote in favor of Obamacare? Or will his conservative colleagues persuade him? Bloomberg.
ADLER: The case was inevitable given the simple language of the law. Opponents observed as early as 2010 that the law limited subsidies to those states that were running their own exchanges. The Washington Post. (From January 2014)
ABBE GLUCK: Being true to the text of the law means rejecting the challenge. Textualism requires reading the entire law and looking at each sentence in context, not focusing on a single word or a single line. SCOTUSblog.
BEUTLER: The Supreme Court has appointed itself as a death panel. If the court upholds the challenge, people who depend on medication to live will no longer be able to afford it, and they will die for want of health insurance. The New Republic.
4. Window-shopping opens for Obamacare
The doors aren't open yet, but consumers can peek in at what's available and how much it is likely to cost. The new features are designed to make shopping for insurance like shopping on Amazon. Consumers are confused about what they need to do to enroll again, according to surveys, so it's important that using the site be intuitive in order for the markets to succeed. Alex Wayne in Bloomberg.
This is it -- Round Two for Obamacare. "This is when people are going to start poking around Healthcare.gov, getting a sense of what is available, what it costs, and whether they want to buy it." Sarah Kliff at Vox.
Officials are 'scrambling' to be ready in case anything goes wrong on the big day. Publicly, administration officials are optimistic that the Web site will function much more smoothly than it did last year, but they're preparing in case it doesn't. "They have been making contingency plans in case the information technology or other aspects prove less sturdy than the administration predicts. And some preparations are coming down to the wire." Amy Goldstein in The Washington Post.
British history interlude: "4. Arguably, The Earl's need to juggle his duties as head of navy and his sex life led him to invent the sandwich." -- @HeerJeet
5. In case you missed it
Friday's jobs report was very strong. The top-line number, 214,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls, is encouraging and it's probably an underestimate of the total number of the economy added last month. Justin Wolfers in The New York Times.
People are flying drones over stadiums during games, and the FAA is not pleased. Rogue drones equipped with cameras are a safety concern at sporting events and a violation of airspace restrictions. " The problem has become most common at football games, with at least a half-dozen drone sightings reported at major college and NFL contests since August." Craig Whitlock in The Washington Post.
General Motors didn't tell regulators about a safety problem for two months. The automaker placed an "urgent order" for 500,000 new ignition switches without telling federal regulators. A problem with the switches has been blamed for at least 30 deaths. Jeff Bennett in The Wall Street Journal.
Valerie Jarrett is the president's longest-serving and most influential aide -- and has long been the target of critics. She's the subject of all kinds of paranoid speculation, and she's also the person who can reveal the most about President Obama's thoughts. "A decade after his ascent, there is still a basic unknowability about him, a puzzling gap between his talents and the public’s enthusiasm for his years in office. No wonder Jarrett inspires such fevered theorizing. She is the closest we have to a human decoder ring—the only person who can solve the mystery of why this president has left so many feeling so unfulfilled." Noam Scheiber in The New Republic.