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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Should Dems Play Redistricting Hardball?

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding most of DeLay’s redistricting scam, WaPo‘s Charles Babington assesses the Democrats’ opportunity and willingness to pursue a more aggressive redistricting strategy of their own. Babington’s article, “Democrats Not Eager to Emulate Texas’s Redistricting,” says that the list of states where a stronger Dem reapportionment strategy is feasable is “remarkably short”:

Several states assign the redistricting task to commissions, shielding the process from partisan control. Some states, such as Texas, are controlled by Republicans. Many others have divided government, in which neither party controls both the governorship and the two legislative chambers, making blatantly partisan redistricting impossible. Finally, some Democratic-controlled states have already carved out all the Democratic-leaning House districts they can, leaving no room for gains.
The result, redistricting experts say, yields perhaps four states where Democrats conceivably could try a mid-decade gerrymander comparable to that of Texas’s: Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico and Louisiana. In each one, however, such a move seems unlikely because of factors that include racial politics, Democratic cautiousness and even a hurricane’s impact.

However, the balance of power in the states could change significantly in November if the Dems pick up a few key state legislatures and governorships, opening up fresh redistricting opportunities. (For a map depicting which states have both of their state legislatures controlled by the Dems or GOP, click here.) More disturbing is that the Democratic will to play redistricting hardball may not be there, according to Babington. He quotes DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel describing the response to his efforts to get some pro-Democratic redistricting in the states: “I couldn’t get enough fellow Democrats to see the benefits of that.” Babington cites similar reluctance on the part of Democratic leaders in other states.
The SCOTUS decision serves notice that the rules of redistricting have changed. We can be sure only that the Republicans will not hesitate to ruthlessly exploit every possible chance to tweak reapportionment maps in their favor in the years ahead, and their Texas pick-ups could be replicated in several other states. If Democrats don’t respond with equal fervor, securing and retaining a stable majority of congress is unlikely.
For a comprehesive guide to the redistricting methods of the 50 states, click here, and then select states in the left-hand column.

3 comments on “Should Dems Play Redistricting Hardball?

  1. Walter Ballin on

    I agree with Dwight Stewart and PrahaPartizan. However, I also believe that the Democrats must do what Jerome Armstrong calls for in his article “Replacing the Battleground Mentality with the Mapchanger Attitude in the Democratic Party,” and in the book he co-authored “Crashing the Gate.” The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is not targeting enough of what are wrongfully assumed to be “safe Republican” districts. We need to register more Democrats in these districts, and I think that nominating a Presidential candiate like Mark Warner will help the Democrats obtain a Congressional majority and also majorities in state legislatures across the nation. A national ticket that is liberal enough, but that also appeals to southern and other voters from ‘red’ states will help. I understand that in Canada, and I think in many European nations, districts are drawan by non-partisan civil service officers. I think that’s how the process should be done in the U.S. If the Democrats follow the steps mentioned above, we can gain control of the federal government again, as well as most state governments.

  2. Dwight Stewart on

    Look: it’s simple – Democrats must play as down and dirty as the GOP. I live in Texas, and I can assure you (AS a life-long Democrat) that I’m sick & tired of the Democratic Party rolling over for these Republican thugs. Many of us are SO disgusted by this “patty cake” attitude, that we are considering: 1) voting Green 2) NOT voting ever again 3) LEAVING the country.

  3. PrahaPartizan on

    The Democrats must show they are willing to play hardball with regard to redistricting, if only to prevent getting rolled again in the future. This situation differs not one whit from that confronting two nuclear powers engaged in mutual assured destruction deterrence.
    The defense analysis of that situation dictated that any player must follow a tit-for-tat game play, as terrible as that might sound. The Democrats must redistrict to regain those five lost seats in however many states as it may be necessary to accomplish. They shouldn’t escalate by going for more, but they must show that the Republicans cannot gain an advantage by following this benighted policy.
    Not responding only guarantees that the Democrats will get squeezed again and again. Further, what better way to show that you’ve got the stern stuff necessary to defend the nation than to follow nuclear deterrence doctrine against your political opponent?


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