Gerrymandering Sucks. Democrats Still Need To Do It.
The Democratic-controlled Oregon House of Representatives was prepared to pass a new congressional map that would've given Democrats a five-to-one congressional delegation. However, Republicans boycotted the legislative session and denied Democrats a quorum. Oregon Republicans claim to really dislike partisan gerrymandering, which probably comes as a surprise to Republicans everywhere else. The Democrats' For the People Act would ban partisan gerrymandering, but congressional Republicans are blocking the bill because it promotes voting while Black.
Gerrymandering, bluntly put, is the process where politicians choose their voters rather than the reverse. It's not what you'd want to see in a functioning democracy, and the decrease of truly competitive districts results in politicians appealing more to their base because the primary is the only election they are at risk of losing.
However, while gerrymandering is anti-democratic, it's actually not in democracy's best interests for Democrats to unilaterally disarm. Elections lawyer Marc Elias pointed out a recent study that showed "in the last two decades, when Republicans controlled a state's redistricting process, they benefited from a 9.1 percentage point increase in seat share. When the Democrats had control? Zero percent."
Since 2011, partisan gerrymandering shifted 27 House seats toward the Republican Party. It's also why Democrats could win the majority of the popular vote in a state (Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina) but still only control fewer than a third of the legislative seats. That's annoying but also lethal when it comes to a GOP minority-controlled House rejecting COVID-19 mitigation methods. Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina might determine the 2024 election but we can't fully trust that the GOP legislature won't overturn the results.
Republicans could potentially regain control of the House of Representatives just by gerrymandering the fuck out of Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. Donald Trump won (for real, not just in his mind) three of those states last year, but the growing number of minorities in all four pose a challenge for Republicans.
Republican Dan Crenshaw's Texas district looks like a damn Rorschach test, but there's apparently a limit to how much even the most aggressive gerrymandering can help Republicans defy democracy.
Dan Crenshaw’s (R-TX) district is what we mean when we say gerrymandering is a problem. https://t.co/eNlJ9Kov7c— Kolleen (@Kolleen) 1621203106.0
According to Cook Political Editor Dave Wasserman, Texas Republicans might have to draw a new Democratic seat in Austin to defend their existing seats from “suburban erosion." But they'll balance that loss by transforming incumbent Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez's district from Biden plus-two to Trump plus-three. He might've just lost re-election before his opponent even declared their candidacy.
GOP Rep. Nancy Mace from South Carolina narrowly defeated Democrat Joe Cunningham, but Wasserman reports that South Carolina Republicans want to cement her re-election by "stuffing Dem precincts in the Charleston area into Rep. Jim Clyburn (D)'s Black majority" district. However, Democrats are likely to sue over such a blatantly racial gerrymander. Of course, the Supreme Court has already gutted the Voting Rights Act that supposedly prevents this from happening.
Republicans, unfortunately, aren't the only ones who racially vote-shop. This is a particularly repulsive paragraph from a recent New York Times article about redistricting in New York.
Preparing for her third successive primary challenge from the left, Representative Carolyn Maloney, the Democratic chairwoman of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, is angling to shed thousands of progressive voters from her district. Her proposal, according to Manhattan Democrats familiar with the discussions: offloading sections of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home to young and Latino voters, and potentially parts of Astoria, Queens, while keeping her political base intact on Manhattan's wealthy East Side.
Yes, prominent Democrat Carolyn Maloney wants to “offload" young and Latino voters. It makes sense for a white authoritarian death cult like the GOP to hang the "whites only" signs outside its district, but it's appalling that a Democrat from New York would do this. She can go play a Congress-member in the New York that exists in Woody Allen movies if she's not interested in representing the one that exists in reality.
The Times claims that Maloney has “reason for optimism" because she's a powerful House committee member and she was once landlord in Washington, DC, to new Governor Kathy Hochul, who'll sign off on the final maps.
Gerrymandering sucks across the board, and I still hope for the day when it's eliminated. Until that happens, Democrats should screw Republicans hard in every map they can draw.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."