Except for (potentially) the inside track to the presidency, the Dems can’t claim much from 2020.
Cementing their House majority for years to come? Not only did that not happen, the Democrats will likely have lost seats once everything shakes out. Taking the Senate? Any chance of a 50-50 split will rest on winning two Senate runoffs in Georgia, one of which involves peddling the unctuous Jon Ossoff to an electorate not energized enough by the presidential race to vote him into the Senate on Tuesday.
However, it isn’t just that the Dems failed to expand the map. They won’t be redrawing it, either — and that’s something that could doom the party for the next decade.
It’s been roughly 84 hours since polls began closing in Eastern United States, and through all those hours of breathless cable news coverage, there’s been almost nothing heard about the fate of state legislatures.
State legislatures aren’t sexy. You can’t keep viewers’ attention by putting some interchangeable suit in front of a giant touchscreen and giving them five minutes to click on various state assembly districts and talk about expected vote totals.
There was a reason Democrats were targeting flips in states they saw as becoming purple: This is a census year, and that means reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. That also means redistricting, a process over which state legislatures exercise some degree of control.
Flipping those legislatures would have taken a massive win, however — one that didn’t come. The only flips came in both houses of New Hampshire’s legislature. Unfortunately for Dems, it was Republicans who flipped them.
“Our electoral targets in this election were in difficult states that remain gerrymandered from a decade ago,” Patrick Rodenbush, communications director for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, told The New York Times.
“It was always going to take a ‘blue wave’ for us to get deeper into the map in states like Texas and North Carolina, and that didn’t happen for Democrats.”
Along with Texas and North Carolina, Democrats were targeting Arizona, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania. They got nothing.
That means in 30 states, Republicans will have some level of control over what the boundaries for House seats will be.
John King might be a bit more entranced with his “magic wall” than with the implications of this, but under the radar, liberals aren’t happy.
Take Stephen Wolf at Daily Kos, who said that the state-level elections were “an unmitigated catastrophe for Democrats — and democracy — heading into the coming redistricting cycle.
“Before the 2020 elections, Republicans would have been able to draw three to four times as many congressional districts as Democrats. But instead of leveling the playing field, Tuesday saw the GOP’s edge expand to potentially four or five times as many districts as Democrats,” he wrote in the Thursday piece.
Disregarding the intellectual construct that redistricting is only “democracy” if Democrats do it, Wolf has the implications of this pretty down pat.
And then you have the paranoid fulmination, where Wolf said “the future of redistricting is highly contingent upon the Supreme Court’s new far-right majority, which could both further undermine the Voting Rights Act and strip away checks on GOP state legislatures. We also don’t know to what degree Trump has corrupted the accuracy of the census in a way that could disproportionately hurt Democrats.”
Well, this is the Daily Kos, where “far right” is pretty much anything that skews starboard of Mitt Romney. The census, meanwhile, is far from corrupted — Wolf was likely referring to a Supreme Court decision that effectively allowed a halt to the count less than three weeks earlier than its Oct. 31 deadline. It sounds so much better when you use scary terms, though.
Wolf’s fears are two-fold. First, Republicans could gerrymander seats to their liking. Second, establishment white Dems could gerrymander districts (or, in some cases, put off redistricting) so that other establishment white Democrats could keep their seats.
Notice it’s always gerrymandering when the GOP or staid white liberal types do it. If Wolf were to draw seats, no doubt, the result would be as purely nonpartisan as the driven snow.
Whatever the case, Wolf said that the results were “a disaster for a decade.” How true this is depends on what amount of control state legislatures decide to exercise over the process. Keep in mind that in many of these states, independent commissions draw the boundaries and they’re only redrawn if the statehouse rejects them.
“The redistricting process is often overrated as a long-term means of securing power. Were it really that big, Democrats could never have won their House majority in 2018, and Republicans would have had little chance in 2010 or 1994,” the editorial board of the conservative Washington Examiner wrote in a piece published Friday.
“But redistricting is not insignificant, especially when it precedes a new president’s first midterm election.
“If Biden is declared the winner, Democrats will be thrilled, of course. But they will still face an uphill battle in moving their agenda, especially its more radical parts, because they failed to mobilize and win at the local level.”
They concurred, too, that the “failure will echo through the next decade. Democrats, given greater power at the state level, could have erected massive obstacles to Republicans’ goal of staging a post-Trump comeback. Instead, they now look forward to a second dismal decade of living under maps they did not themselves draw.”
Nice “blue wave,” guys.
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