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Gerrymander Or Die!

With all the good election news, the fact that the Republicans will take over the House, puts at damper on it. Pragmatically it means that Democrats will not be able to pass any meaningful bills for the next two years, starting in January. People can fantasize about “working together,” “finding common ground,” but does anyone really think that what is an even further to the Right group of House Republicans than before, is going to work with Democrats on anything good? I certainly do not.

And the primary goal of these people will be to damage President Biden first, and then the entire Democratic Party. They will take as their template the endless Benghazi hearings, which Kevin McCarthy admitted were only to damage Hillary Clinton’s popularity ratings. You can be sure that whichever MAGA fanatic gets to chair the House Judiciary Committee, will create nonstop hearings on all sorts of their enemies. They have no constraints and boundaries, and they will go after everybody, And Fox and CNN will cover all of it.

Now, this will all be sound and fury; it will be inane, and disgraceful, and appalling. But that’s what they will do, because they can’t do anything else. They can’t get any bills through, the Senate won’t take them up. They could certainly threaten not to raise the debt ceiling, but with a House margin of no more than 221-214, they are unlikely to be able to do it.

Some might try to make the best of this, by saying that it will be entertaining to watch Republicans fight each other, but I am not of that opinion. It will keep us from having the opportunity to to do great things, such as perhaps getting a Voting Rights Bill through; maybe even limiting the terms of Supreme Court Justices, or adding seats to the Court. We cannot do any of that, since we need control of both the House and Senate to pass meaningful bills. Things certainly could have been much worse, and we are glad that they are not. But losing the House is still a big disappointment.

That brings me to the most crucial reason, in fact the “outcome determinative” reason, why Democrats lost the House. It is gerrymandering. Yes, there were some mistakes made by the DCCC, and in certain states’ leadership. But the fact is that had it not been for Republicans’ nonstop gerrymandering of districts in every single state where they have the power to do it, Democrats would have won enough seats to keep control. How many more? I would say 15-20, but statistical experts could be more precise about it.

The thing which absolutely infuriates me, is that Democrats have essentially let the Republicans do this to them, by virtually giving up the right to gerrymander in states where they have the power to do so. This has gone on for twenty years or so. Democrats used to gerrymander, and I was glad that they did, since Republicans did. But then Democrats began to cede this power to redistrict, and leave it to nonpartisan commissions to do it. That might seem noble, or a statement about how things should be done, but in the real world, it simply gives the Republicans more House seats.

This is really simple. The goal of the Democrats should be to win as many seats as possible. Not by cheating or suppressing the vote, as Republicans do. That is a scruple that the Democrats can hold on to. But giving up their right to gerrymander, is about the stupidest and self-destructive thing I have ever seen in the realm of politics.

I don’t watch Alex Wagner’s show on MSNBC, but I turned it on Tuesday night because Gretchen Whitmer was advertised as a guest. She was was impressive, as always. But Wagner, who I am sure means well, asked her if she was going to call for every state with a Democratic governor to have their districts drawn by an independent commission. I wanted to ask her if she ever took any mathematics courses. Maybe she and other people who think this way, would realize that if Republicans gerrymander their states to squeeze every possible seat out of them, no matter how ludicrous or racially biased the districts are drawn; and Democrats leave it to neutral commissions, Republicans will essentially steal crucial House seats. This should be absolutely obvious. But far too many Democrats would rather hold onto an inappropriate sense of virtue, than actually try to help the American people by doing everything legal to win and hold power.

I was trying to think of analogies. I like analogies, but it is hard to come up with one that captures this pathetic situation. What if two people played high-stakes poker, head to head, and one of the players let their opponent look at his hand, and then throw three cards away and draw three more; while the “virtuous” player could not do that and had to play the cards he was originally dealt? What if a boxer whose opponent was hitting below the belt, and after the bell, just let him do it, without retaliating?

The reason that these analogies are not sufficient, is that the poker player or boxer or golfer is choosing to let his opponent have an unfair advantage. It’s his career and his money; so that he is the one who suffers from this misplaced honor. But in politics, the Democratic Party represents the hopes and livelihoods of tens of million of people, who are the ones who suffer as the result of Democrats thinking that not gerrymandering is the “right” way to do it, even while they are handing political power to the evil fascists who inhabit the Republican Party.

There is no excuse for this, and yet it continues. Let it go on, and Republicans will gain an impregnable hold of the House, as well as state legislatures. The only way the Democrats will ever win the House, is if there is a rare wave election as in 2018. In more ordinary periods, Republicans will just win the House through gerrymandering I saw Steve Kornacki of MSNBC, going over possible changes in the makeup of the House, a week ago, and he pointed to five districts which were clearly gerrymandered for Republicans and he said that these will be five more seats for Republicans at the outset; You simply cannot give up seats like this. but collectively, Democrats do, while Republicans gerrymander even more appallingly.

The Supreme Court, an arm of the Republican Party, ruled that states could essentially draw their districts any way they chose, giving free rein (it is not “free reign,” AOC and others who keep writing that), to Republicans to drastically gerrymander their districts. Democrats essentially say, “This would not be right,” so they let the neutral commissions draw theirs, the end result being that Republicans get an extra 10-20 seats. In this election, it was enough for them to take over the House. Democrats will gain a Senate seat, and did wonderfully well in Governor elections, but they will lose at least seven House seats. In 2020, they won the Presidential election, and two Senate seats, but lost about a dozen House seats. How is that? You can’t gerrymander gubernatorial or Senate seats, is how.

Democrats should wake up, and stop this incredibly self-destructive course. Get rid of the nonpartisan commissions, and start gerrymandering in the way that Republican are doing, and will do. The fascists are still not far from taking over the country, and “The People’s House” cannot be distorted by one party’s machinations to game the system, while the other party scrupulously will not use the tactic.

It was the brilliant French epigrammist La Rochefoucald who said that, “Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.” That is all that virtue gets out of the deal, in that framing. Democrats have many things to be proud of. But desperately holding on to some idea of political virtue being more desirable than winning enough elections to be able to pass important legislation, and stop the fascists from holding power, is sheer willful foolishness and weakness. Purity on the political field gets you nowhere near enough to where you need to be. Democrats essentially handed the House to the most awful group this nation has ever seen, by not being willing to play the districting game the way they do. And it simply has to stop.

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20 Responses

  1. States like California and New York are going to have to gerrymander in Democrats’ favor. There is no other way. It’s too late for states like mine, which the national Democratic Party has ignored for decades and then dismissed as irredeemable. We now have Republican state legislatures that have gerrymandered away our power. My House district, which used to be solidly Democratic, went for a Republican by about 70% this year. I live in a liberal area but we can’t elect a Democrat to the House anymore because the boundaries of the District have changed so much, it has divided the solid Democratic base, bit by bit, into other districts. It is unrecognizable now. Yes, Republicans did it but Democrats sat by passively as it happened over the years. Republicans are so good at the long game, we are not. That must change. It is time for Democratic states to help save the whole country by doing their own gerrymandering. This cannot continue to be a narrowly focused red state vs blue state problem where every few years, blue states talk about becoming their own country. That is absurd. There are large areas of most states where Democrats could be elected to the House, and once were, if not for Republican gerrymandering.

  2. I completely agree, and it is not only a tragedy for the country, but for the districts like yours where people have been totally disenfranchised, as if they do not exist, like a Twilight Zone story.

    And even now so many Democrats seem to ignore or avoid this reality. it is going to be very hard for them to dump the neutral commissions, which sometimes are not even neutral, or end up leaving it with a right-wing state court, but they are going to have to take the fire that they will get from the media, because without gerrymandering, they are almost conceding elections. Most people do not understand that the districts the Republicans draw make it impossible for a Democrat to win. It is like a player going into a casino where the wheel and the dice and the cards are rigged, and walking out disconsolately when he loses again. You can stop going into the casino, but you cannot avoid elections and what they mean for the country.

  3. It really all goes back to the 2008 election and the failure of the national party to consider state and local races seriously while in the throes of the Obama fever dream. If the party had launched a serious combined campaign that year, we would have been in a much better position in many states than we were in the post-2010 redistricting cycle. It will take (quite literally) decades to undo the damage that happened then.

    And yes, we totally can gerrymander the hell out of states where we control the legislatures…after the 2030 census., so maybe we can make some headway in a decade or so. We’re not real good when it comes to strategy and as Sun Tzu observed “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

    • Yes, if Hillary had been the nominee instead of Obama, the Democratic Party in general would have been much better off. That was the fork in the road which the Party leaders took,which has led to this. And it is frustrating that no one in the written media will say anything like that, but that was inherent in the two paths presented by the fork.

      • Agreed… and all this Pelosi praise is getting me sick… Not once did any one mention her supporting Obama over Hillary. I appreciate she has done a good job, but I do not think she is a worthy of the praise she gets, she has done almost as much harm to progressives as she has to Republicans.

        • Pelosi was good for the Democratic status quo (Obama turned out to be very status quo indeed, as many of us anticipated) but she did little to build up the Democratic Party in the House going forward. Her obvious ‘distaste’ for House progressives, especially women progressives she should have welcomed, hurt the Party overall and alienated progressive voters. There is a point in which long held leadership becomes stifling. I think we reached that point a while back. I’m glad to see Hoyer and Clyburn stepping aside as well.

          • Agreed about Hoyer, and Clyburn. However, Jeffries is just another Corporate Democrat. We will hear a lot about how historic his leadership position will be, but it will likely rival Obama’s in blandness.

          • I agree about Jeffries. I would have preferred someone else. We will see what happens in 2024 when perhaps a more progressive Congress is elected, especially if younger voters demand real societal change.

          • No argument, just a question. If older voters are parents to younger voters why on earth are they not in favor of real societal change? I guess they must want to progress all the way to full Serfdom, for themselves and their children

        • Which is weird because she was very much considered to be a progressive when she first entered the House.

          Still, she blocked the worst excesses of the Trump era through sheer grit and skill. She definitely deserves praise for that.

      • Yeah, that’s why I basically dropped out of county/state party leadership in 2008. It was a nasty campaign and it was obvious the fix was in from the beginning. The caucuses were a nightmare.

  4. jmac, certainly no definitive answer but a couple of possibilities about two types of parents. The first type of parents are ‘quite comfortable’ with $ociety as it is, thank you, and see no reason for change. Furthermore, they have set Biff and Muffy up very well to succeed (what a grand meritocracy we have here!). The second type of parents are struggling to survive and always have been. They are sick and tired (literally) and see no hope for change. They have been disappointed in the past (Obama, Trump, Carter, insert President here). ‘Serfdom’ is all they know. They cannot envision different lives for themselves or their children: “All I could see from where I stood / Was three long mountains and a wood.”

  5. I have not been too impressed with Jeffries when I have seen him, but it Nancy picked him, maybe he has some qualities I have not seen. I fully agree on how disappointing and damaging it was that in 2008 she went with Obama instead of Hillary, who is not only better on the issues and would have been a better President, but who cared much more about the Democratic Party. Obama did virtually nothing for the Party, which is why we lost all those seats in his regime, so many that we went from 56 Senators or so, to where he couldn’t even get his Supreme Court nominee a hearing. And yet so many commentators, including Lawrence O’Donnell, insist on seeing him as a great President, and all his former campaign people get to opine on television.

    Pelosi was a great Speaker, she combined liberalism and intelligence with an amazing ability to win votes. I doubt that Jeffries is close to her in that ability, but maybe he will be sufficient, he had better be. i like Clark and Aguilar pretty well, but Speaker is the crucial position in the House. Minority Leader is important, too, as we try to figure out a way to win the House back, but again, that starts with people in Blue states being political and pragmatic, rather than thinking that if they virtuously hand the districting to neutral commissions, they are somehow going to counter the states which take 52% of the vote. and turn it in to 80% of the seats. “it’s simple arithmetic,’ as the wonderful actress Jean Gillie said in the strange but great film noir, “Decoy.”

    • I know you’re going to disagree with me, but I think AOC has real leadership potential. Not now, but certainly in a few years.

      • Agreed, and the fact that Nancy did not try to give her guidance (at least to my knowledge) is another strike against Pelosi in my book.

        • Well, the DCCC trying to sabotage her campaign when she first ran (as they do to all progressive candidates) probably didn’t endear the establishment to AOC’s heart, either.

  6. Check RD’s last post for the usual Friday night links.

  7. I sometimes go back to the posts linked under a post.

    I stumbled across this comment of mine from 2020 (IIRC).

    (“SC” means “Supreme Court”. The boldface parts did not transmit as boldface; I think I re-bolded them correctly.)

    Pack the courts, especially the SC.

    Then, equalize the representation between citizens by adding more House districts. Most of these would be located in urban, mostly-Democratic zones. This would also add “blue” votes to the Electoral College.

    Add new states such as DC and Puerto Rico; the Senators from those states would likely be Democrats.

    Also, pass laws restoring the Voting Rights Act, and ending gerrymandering and voter suppression.

    All that is why the SC must be packed first, so the equalization and voting rights laws will not be declared unconstitutional.

    As for the media: Never forget, the Russopublican Treason Party’s consistent policy of absurdly low taxes on affluent-or-richer people and institutions serves as an implicit bribe to every affluent-or-richer person in the USA, including the ones who own or work for media organs, to support the RTP (fka GOP).

    You don’t need to “work the refs” if you’ve BOUGHT the refs.

    One of the bitter lessons of the 1980s and later is: The Watergate coverage was a fluke. The media is largely conservative, pro-plutocratic, white supremacist, and male supremacist; the “respectable” media outlets merely know how to be subtle about all that.

  8. Good luck to UCLA in their game against USC tonight!

    • Thank you. Unfortunately, we found another way to lose a big game. We need a new coach, but will not get one. We played hard, but we have a coach who does not care to recruit, so we are terrible on defense. USC will get better and better with their coach, and all the talent they can now buy with the NIL rules.I will be surprised if we beat them once in the next twenty years, unless we somehow get a really good and proven ooach.

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