Three months ago to the date, I published the blog piece below. It has only become more relevant as the events of the federal shutdown showdown have unfolded. Run, don’t walk, folks to take our government back …
Unfortunately, what we appear to be reaping at the federal level — in the process, giving rise to a Congress that is on track to be the least productive in history — are the fruits of congressional redistricting. As the New York Times pointed out last year, “since redistricting gives many members of Congress less competitive, more politically homogeneous districts, it is often cited as one of the factors exacerbating political polarization.”
A quick look at the chart that accompanied the NYT article tells the redistricting tale: in states where Republicans were in charge of the redistricting process, they won an outsized number of seats relative to their total vote share. The same was true for Democrats in states where they controlled the redistricting process. The rub, however, is this: Republicans controlled the redistricting process in four times as many states as Democrats did. Meh? Check out the graph, and read on, please.
From NYT – 12.14.12: Parties Redraw the House Vote
The moral of the chart is pretty straightforward: when states are redistricted by commissions (presumably bi-partisan ones), R’s and D’s are elected in a manner and number that’s pretty close to the percentage of votes each party receives. Not so for partisan redistricting processes. An additional factor (and subject of a future post) is the impact of the Supreme Court’s most recent voting rights decision.
The chart’s cautionary tale for Republicans, who controlled a much larger proportion of the redistricting in 2012, is ”when the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.” While R’s were able to draw a goodly number of safe districts, and thereby strengthen their goal of holding onto the majority in the House for several election cycles, the results seem decidedly mixed where R. incumbents are concerned, and disastrous where the prospects for a productive Congress that works toward bi-partisan ends are concerned. In the Georgia senate race I mentioned previously, the R. field is being pulled to the right, which in a state with a rising minority population, could open the door for a moderate D. challenger. Worse yet, if you’re perceived to be an endangered species known as a moderate Republican, is the fact that groups like the Club for Growth are already targeting for defeat next year, R’s in safe districts who they don’t consider to be conservative enough. See who they’ve pinned a bull’s eye on here. Here’s the thing: I have my own increasingly short list of moderate R’s on the House side, and the ones listed on the website as being targeted, AREN’T ON IT. Norm Ornstein called one of the folks on the list “very conservative.” So what we’re looking at is folks being singled out and subjected to some ideological litmus test for trying to carrying out the work of “we, the people,” by being willing to “compromise to get something done.”
And we thought we knew something about the unbearable unendingness of gridlock. Fasten your seatbelts folks … and run, do not walk, toward any sane people or institutions working on redistricting reform.