Moderates Fleeing House, Setting Stage for More Washington Gridlock

The political scene in the United States is set to get even more fraught. Moderate members of the U.S. House of Representatives are leaving office at twice the rate of their more partisan peers this year, a new analysis found. 

It will likely deepen the Washington gridlock during President Joe Biden’s next two years in office.

The number of incumbent House members retiring or who lost a party nomination contest is at a three-decade high after a once-a-decade redistricting process that eliminated more than a dozen of the country’s dwindling number of competitive districts.

All 50 states have now finished nominating who will be officially running in the upcoming midterm elections. Thirteen of the 50 most centrist members did not seek reelection or lost their primary. That means about 25 percent. 

It ensures a quarter of centrists will leave the office at the end of the year. 

By comparison, only one-eighth of other incumbents will not appear on the Nov. 8 midterm election ballot, with the majority running in politically safe districts.

The candidates who take their place won’t be known until after the midterm election. But, Republicans are favored to win a majority in the House. In many cases, their potential successors show signs of being further from the middle.

One driving factor is gerrymandering, which is when lawmakers in states controlled by a single party manipulate redistricting to create politically safe House districts. 

Another factor centrists are leaving is because of former President Donald Trump. Trump actively, and aggressively, worked to push out any Republican from office who voted to impeach him following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The new analysis shows that the share of moderates heading for the door this year is unusually high. 

For elections held between 2012 and 2020, only about one in eight moderate incumbents opted not to seek reelection or lost their primaries.

The result could accelerate a decades-long trend that has seen the House grow increasingly polarized, lengthening the odds of bipartisan efforts to address thorny challenges such as shoring up Social Security and Medicare, the welfare programs for seniors that face severe fiscal challenges.

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