Some instructive comments from Paul Waldman’s Plum Line post, “Republicans have rigged the system for years. Democrats are finally fighting back“:
One of the most important differences between the two parties today is that Republicans never stop asking how they can change the rules to benefit themselves. Democrats, on the other hand, are almost always on the defensive, trying to stop what Republicans are doing (with mixed success), but often getting bowled over by Republicans who have thought more about how to go about rigging the system and have more resources at their disposal.
The recent history of these efforts starts a little under a decade ago, when Republicans realized that if they could win victories in the 2010 elections, they’d control redistricting after the census. Democrats weren’t paying nearly enough attention to state elections, and in that 2010 wave, the GOP took control of multiple state legislatures. With their control of redistricting, they redrew maps across the country, and as a result, in the 2012 House elections, Democratic candidates won over a million more votes than Republican candidates, but Republicans controlled the chamber by a 33-seat margin (you can read more about that here).
Yes, Democrats have gerrrymandered on occasion, as well, notes Waldman, “but they haven’t waged the kind of organized and sustained assault on institutions that Republicans have.” He quotes Carolyn Fiddler, a state politics expert at Daily Kos, who adds that “Democratic donors are definitely stepping up and investing in state-level politics this cycle in ways I’ve never seen.”
Waldman cites the work of “new groups on the left such as Indivisible and Run For Something that are channeling so much activist energy are putting a large portion of their attention on state and local elections.” Further,
And in a few places, Democrats have actually gone on the offensive, passing automatic voter registration that would render some Republican vote suppression efforts moot. Voters in Florida will have a ballot measure in November to end the state’s felon disenfranchisement law, which leaves 1.5 million Floridians who have served their time without the right to vote.
However, Waldman concludes that “it’s still the case that Republicans are on the offensive while Democrats mostly play defense, trying to stop Republicans from rigging the system.”
The Republicans haven’t paid much of a price for their voter suppression, stonewalling in congress and gerrymandering projects, despite all that has been said about it in the media. It appears that they correctly calculated that voters who would be disgusted by their obstruction of democracy are already against them, while the small percentage who are swing voters don’t seem to care much about it.
Deciding the allocation of resources to be invested in defensive and offensive strategy is always a tough call. But it’s encouraging that Democrats are now investing more resources into the latter, a needed first step to becomming a more pro-active party.