This is a consequence of President Obama’s driving minority turnout to unparalleled levels: African-American and Latino voters are often clustered in minority-majority congressional districts, thanks to the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act. Add these districts to the “gentry liberal” ones in and around major cities, and the result is that Obama overwhelmingly carried a minority of congressional districts, while Mitt Romney narrowly won a majority of districts (at least 225, with 4 still to be determined).

At first blush, this might seem to be a trivial point, but what kind of influence does President Obama have in a district that voted 55-45 percent for Mitt Romney? What sort of political rebuke can he possibly deliver to a recalcitrant Republican from a district such as that, especially in light of the fact that no incumbent party has ever gained a significant number of House seats in a president’s second midterm? Put simply, most House Republicans need not fear that defying the president will result in their defeat in 2014…

After taking tough votes on taxes and spending, what appetite will today’s members have for votes on gun control or immigration? What’s more, dealing with tough issues can generate bad blood between leaders, which further impedes negotiations. Already, we see such divisions developing—between Boehner and Reid, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and Reid, Boehner and Obama—and the 113th Congress has only just begun.