Whites continue a decades long trend toward the Republican party. The GOP’s advantage among white voters went from 4.1 during Clinton’s term to 9.5 during Obama’s tenure so far. From Gallup:
Interestingly there hasn’t been a similar trend among all non-whites. Democrats’ advantage with this groups has remained mostly unchanged over the decade but what has kept Democrats competitive is a noticeable increase in the number of non-white voters.
This racial divide wouldn’t be as big a political problem if we had a well designed political system that properly reflects the whole electorate, but our system for electing Congress currently has a huge bias towards white voters.
Where it is most evident is in the Senate where each state gets two senators regardless of population. In 13 of the 14 states which have less 2 million people white non-Hispanics are overrepresented and often dramatically so. The sole exception is Hawaii. These 13 states contain just 4.6 percent of the population but choose 25 percent of the Senators.
Unfortunately, completely fixing this would require a change to the Constitution, some mass relocations, or a redrawing of states. One relatively easy thing that would at least provide some relief would be finally making D.C. a state. It has a racially diverse population that is larger than Wyoming or Vermont.
The problem is most glaring in the Senate but also significant in the House, in part because of single member districts and the rules governing them. Geographically minorities tend to be put in districts which result in a lot of “wasted” votes and many more districts with only a few minority voters. This is a part of the reason why Republicans now have a huge built in advantage in the House.
This is a problem that can actually be improved significantly by Congress simply passing a law requiring some form of proportional representation in House elections.
A recipe for gridlock
Until the problems with our biased and horribly designed congressional election system are address this movement by white voters toward the Republican party is likely going to feed more gridlock and dysfunction. The past year of dysfunction in Washington was primarily caused by Republicans winning control of the House, even though Democrats got actually more votes. We could potentially face over a decade of divided government even with a majority of the electorate voting against it.