Democrats Poor Performance in the 2016 Elections Essay

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In the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the Democrats experienced significant losses in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in addition to losing the presidency.  While the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote, Donald Trump won the electoral college votes to clinch the presidency.  The Republicans not only won the presidency but also won the Senate and the House of Representatives.  In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, the performance of the Democratic Party has been the subject of scrutiny among political analysts and experts in political matters.  The media has remained puzzled with the outcome of the elections because they were so wrong in their predictions.  One of the issues that has received considerable scrutiny by the media is why Democrats failed to capture more seats in the U.S. House and why they lost control of the Senate.  This paper focuses on examining the reasons Democrats lost control of both the Senate and House of Representatives unlike predicted by some political analysts and the media.

Composition of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives

The United States House of Representatives comprises 435 voting members and 6 non-voting members.  In the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections, the Republicans captured more seats in the House i.e. 238 seats while the Democrats captured 193 seats. Republicans captured more than the required 218 seats to control the house, which is led by Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican. Based on political analyses and expert opinions, Democrats had a relatively difficult task in capturing majority seats in the House because of the events that took place since 2014 (Scott par, 22).  Since the midterms in 2014, Democrats were left in the minority and needed to capture more seats in order to regain control of the House of Representatives.  The minority status of the Democrats in the House implied that capturing more seats would be an uphill task that required suitable strategies and strong performance in the elections.  Following the midterms in 2014, the Democrats needed to win an additional 30 seats to capture the majority of the House, which was controlled by the Republicans prior to the 2016 elections.  

On the other hand, the U.S. Senate comprises of 100 seats in which Republicans won 52 seats while Democrats won 46 seats.  A party must have at least 51 seats in order to have control of the Senate, which was achieved by Republicans in the 2016 U.S. elections (Scott par, 6).  Prior to the 2016 elections, there were suggestions or predictions that Democrats would win two Republican seats for the Senate i.e. Illinois and Wisconsin, which were seemingly leaning towards them.  However, the Democrats failed to capture these seats as Republicans won in Wisconsin and other states like Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, which were regarded as too close to call before the elections.

Reasons for Democrats’ Loss of the Senate and the House

Contrary to predictions by the media and some political scientists and analysts prior to the 2016 American elections, the Democrats path towards controlling the Senate and the House was a difficult task than thought.  The difficult task was attributable to the fact that both houses have been recently controlled by Republicans who made it difficult for President Obama and Democrats to pass some legislation.  Democrats’ ability to control the Senate and the House was not only dependent on their performance in their strongholds but was also dependent on performance in states that were regarded too close to call before the elections.  By the end of the elections, the Democratic Party performed poorly in some of its strongholds and swing states, which contributed to loss of control of both houses due to the following factors.

Geography and Distribution of Voters

One of the major reasons for Democrats loss of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 2016 elections is geography and distribution of voters.  Geography and distribution of voters basically relate to how voters are spread across several regions in the United States.  In this regard, it refers to how voters are spread across Republican and Democratic strongholds as well as swing states.  Congressional and legislative elections in the United States take place under a single-member districts system in which only a single candidate wins the election.  Based on this system, there is a systematic advantage of one House representative from every district across different states.  The single-member districts system implies that a state is broken up into smaller segments in order to develop a redistricting plan (Wolf par, 2).  While the concept behind this system is to ensure that every district has a representative, voters from Republican and Democratic parties are not equally spread throughout a state.

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Consequently, parties have different distributions of voters across states, which contributes to disparities in the congressional and legislative elections.  

Geography played a part in Dems loss of the Senate and the House by being biased against Democrats.  Following the outcomes of the 2010 census, Republicans successfully obtained 55% of congressional districts while Democrats achieved the same with only 10 percent.  The mapping process enabled Republicans to have a control of the majority of congressional districts that are crucial in congressional and legislative elections.  In addition, Republicans have also maintained significant advantages in congressional and legislative redistricting across the country because of the inefficient geographic spread of Democratic voters (Wolf par, 18).  This further demonstrates that the geographic distribution of voters across districts in the United States is skewed in favor of Republicans and played a role in the party’s ability to capture more seats in the 2016 elections.    

Based on the 2010 census, the geographic distribution of the American electorate provided Republicans with House representative advantages over the Democrats in the lead to the 2016 U.S. elections.  Republicans distributed their own voters nearly perfectly among 10 districts through surgical precision.  In this process, the Republicans ensured that none of these districts would be vulnerable or heavily leaning to the right, which would essentially make Republican votes irrelevant (Wolf par, 10).  Republicans also crowded as many Democrats as possible into just three districts through making in-roads in Durham, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro.  Apart from taking part in these districts, Republicans also made in roads in rural northeast that comprises African-American voters who have traditionally elected Democrats.  Additionally, Republicans separated Democrats between two seats with their other strongholds when they could not crowd them into liberal cities like Wilmington and Asheville.  

Through the surgical precision in geographical distribution of voters, Republicans effectively positioned themselves to win more seats in the House than Democrats.  The Republican Party not only captured seats in the rural areas but also did so in the urban settings that were considered Democratic strongholds.  Republicans captured more seats in rural areas because the geographical distribution of voters, which is not carried out equally, resulted in rural areas having more seats (which translated to more representatives in the House).  On the contrary, Democrats only controlled smaller regions in urban settings that had far less districts and voters in comparison to the rural settings.  While Democrats won the popular vote in most of these regions, they did not have a huge number of districts.  Therefore, the significantly less number of Democratic districts affected their party’s performance in the congressional elections and made Republicans to have more seats in the House.

Presidential Coattail Effect

Given the controversies that surrounded the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in the 2016 elections, Republicans won more seats in the Senate and the House because of the presidential coattail effect.  The American political environment during these elections was largely characterized by increased political polarization through which the electorate analyzed the candidates and issues from a partisan approach.  The geographic distribution of voters across the various states in the country provided a premise for partisan polarization, which in turn benefitted Republican candidates more than Democrats benefitted from Hillary Clinton (Wolf par, 21).  The partisan polarization significantly lessened the likelihood of split ticket voting and influenced the outcomes of Congressional and legislative elections throughout the country.

According to Yokley, Republicans rode on Trump’s coattails to retain their majority on the Senate and the House while Democrats were unsuccessful (par, 1).  These efforts were successful for Republican candidates because the U.S. Senate races in the 2016 elections also served as presidential battleground states unlike in previous elections.  Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to tie Republican candidates to their presidential nominee, Donald Trump who had been criticized for several things a few weeks to the elections including his comments about women.  These efforts were adopted to help propel Democratic candidates to win their respective Congressional elections because Donald Trump was increasingly a controversial figure.  At the same time, Democrats maintained close ties to….....

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Works Cited

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Evich, Helena B. "Revenge of the Rural Voter." Online posting. POLITICO. POLITICO LLC, 13 Nov. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017. <>.

Kane, Paul. "Senate Democrats Lost by Doing Nothing to Separate Themselves from Hillary Clinton." Online posting. The Washington Post. WP Company, 23 Nov. 2016. Web. 08 May 2017. <>.

Leonhardt, David. "The Democrats' Real Turnout Problem." Online posting. The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 08 May 2017. <>.

Martin, Jonathan, and Alexander Burns. "As Donald Trump Incites Feuds, Other G.O.P. Candidates Flee His Shadow." Online posting. The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Aug. 2016. Web. 08 May 2017. <>.

Scott, Patrick. "Who Won the US Senate and House of Representatives? Did the Democrats or Republicans Win?" The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 02 Nov. 2016. Web. 08 May 2017. <>.

Wasserman, David. "How Demographics Will Shape The 2016 Election." Online posting. FiveThirtyEight. FiveThirtyEight, 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 08 May 2017. <>.

Wolf, Stephen. "These Three Maps Show Just How Effectively Gerrymandering Can Swing Election Outcomes." Daily Kos. Kos Media, LLC, 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 08 May 2017. <>.

Yokley, Eli. "Senate GOP Rides Trump's Coattails to Victory." Morning Consult. Morning Consult, 09 Nov. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017. <>.

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