washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “If Democrats Win Back the House, They Will Have John Roberts to Thank,”New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall writes: “If Democrats take back control of the House in 2024 after having lost it in 2022, analysts may well look back to a Supreme Court decision announced last week, Allen v. Milligan, as crucial to the party’s victory. This is because the Milligan decision will quite possibly result in the replacement of as many as five majority white Republican districts with majority-minority Democratic districts, and that’s for starters….The court’s ruling in Milligan specifically requires Alabama to create a second House district in order to provide an opportunity for a Black candidate to win. The decision is an unexpected affirmation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a development that immediately scrambled calculations being made about key House races across the nation….David Wasserman, the senior House analyst for the Cook Political Report, announced on Twitter that “in the wake of the SCOTUS Alabama decision, we’re shifting five House ratings in Democrats’ direction. It’s very likely two formerly Solid R seats will end up in Solid D.”….Milligan, Wasserman continued, “could reverberate across the Deep South leading to the creation of new Black-majority, strongly Democratic seats in multiple states.”….While more districts in other states could be added, depending on the outcome of further litigation, the Cook Report changed the “solid R” ratings of two Alabama and two Louisiana districts to “tossup” and the tossup rating of a Democratic-held seat in North Carolina, to “Lean D.”…If Democrats can gain five seats, it will critically affect the balance of power in Washington.”

Edsall also quotes Harvard Law professor Nicholas Stephanopolis, who says: “First, it means that Section 2 remains fully operative as a bulwark against racial vote dilution; second, it signals to conservative lower courts that they need to rule in favor of plaintiffs on facts like those in Milligan; third, it takes off the table arguments that Section 2 must be narrowly construed to avoid constitutional problems; and fourth, if Section 2 is constitutional, so should be other laws targeting racial disparities….It’s near-certain that Alabama will have a new Black opportunity (and Democratic) district by 2024, and this is also likely in Georgia and Louisiana. There may now be successful Section 2 claims in Texas, too. Milligan further complicates the looming Republican partisan gerrymander in North Carolina. And Milligan weakens Florida’s defense for eliminating a Black opportunity district around Jacksonville, which hinges on race-conscious districting being unconstitutional. Put it all together and at least 2-3, and quite possibly more, congressional districts are likely to change hands because of Milligan.”

Edsall quotes another Harvard professor, Lawrence H. Tribe, who cautioned in an email to Edsall, “First, nobody should believe the hype that this June’s Milligan decision has definitively rescued the Voting Rights Act from the dustbin to which the Roberts Court has been busy relegating it ever since Shelby County v. Holder cut the preclearance heart out of the Act a decade ago on constitutional grounds” Edsall explains, “In practice, Tribe argued, Milligan “left the preclearance provision of Section 5 a dead letter and kept in place the crippling interpretation of Section 2 set forth in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.” But, Tribe continued, “Allen v. Milligan remains highly significant as an essential reminder that the court doesn’t exist in an isolation booth, unaffected by public reactions to its decisions that venture too far from the mainstream of legal and social thought.”….Roberts and Kavanaugh, in Tribe’s view, chose not to press the case against race-based redistricting in part because of “the controversy unleashed by the court in its shattering abortion ruling in Dobbs last June, coupled with other unrestrained shocks to the system delivered by the court in the landmark cases involving guns and climate change, and aggravated by the ethical stench swirling about the court as a result of improprieties.”….These developments, Tribe continued, “almost certainly had an impact, however subconscious, on the chief justice and on Justice Kavanaugh, who has increasingly sought to distance himself from the hard right.”….”Tribe warned that respite will be brief:

In a court that seems poised in the Harvard University and North Carolina University cases to interpret the Equal Protection Clause as a demand that government be blind to race, there remains a distinct danger that Section 2 will eventually be held flatly unconstitutional, a possibility that the Milligan ruling did not permanently foreclose and that several Justices pointedly underscored.

Even a cynic, Tribe wrote, “would have to concede that the court, and the country, dodged a deadly bullet in Milligan, something I view as worth celebrating. But that the gun remains loaded remains a cause for deep concern.”

If you are wondering how Trump’s legal meltdown is playing out with voters, Domenico Montanaro explains at nor.org: “There is a strange political divergence taking place that’s made possible by American information echo chambers….Republicans, whose main source of information comes from conservative media, are saying they believe Trump. But the opposite is true for the rest of the country, including the group of voters who largely decide elections – independents who only lean toward one party or the other….Swing voters view Trump as toxic, and Republican strategists and pollsters say he’s a main reason why the party has underperformed in the last three election cycles.That electability message hasn’t filtered down to the rest of the party though….”There’s this phenomenon that happens every time Trump is impeached or indicted, and I call it the ‘rally-round-Trump effect,’ where voters sort of share his grievance,” GOP pollster Sarah Longwell told NPR’s Morning Editionon Monday….Longwell is no Trump fan. But she hosts focus groups of Republican voters and is clear-eyed about Trump’s hold on the party. She told Morning Editionthat only two of the 50 voters she’s talked to over several months said another indictment would make them deviate from Trump. Nineteen said it would endear them more to him….In the limited polling since the indictment came out, that has been born out. A CBS/YouGov poll found that double the number of likely Republican primary voters said an indictment would change their view for the better (14%) than for the worse (7%). (Sixty-one percent said it wouldn’t change their view of him.)….The CBS poll found 80% of Republicans said Trump should still be able to be president even if he’s convicted….A minority of Republicans also said they believed it was a national security risk if Trump kept nuclear or military documents, but 80% of everyone else said it was serious. That just so clearly shows the fork in this political road….An ABC/Ipsos poll showed that the percentage of people saying this indictment is serious went up from 52% to 61%, as compared to the charges in New York stemming from hush-money payments Trump made to allegedly cover up affairs he was having….More than 6 in 10 independents said they think the charges were serious compared to slightly more than half after the New York indictment in April. And there was some movement among Republicans, too — 38% described these charges as serious compared to just 21% in April….But, importantly, there was no statistical change in how many thought Trump should or should not be charged. It’s nearly identical after the New York charges — half say he should be charged, a third or slightly more say he should not. And half also think the charges are politically motivated with independents split, which signals a big messaging fight ahead….”The question is, is how many more indictments are going to come,” Longwell asked, “and is it going to be a case where, because of all of Trump’s legal troubles, he’s the only person who ever gets talked about?”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    Race based districting is a double edged sword for Democrats. And also part of the problem of polarization via the creation of uncompetitive districts.

    The caselaw regarding when it is permissible to create race based districts is actually really sad. It basically says these districts are permitted/required in places where (white) voters vote as a group.

    Splitting is problematic, but so is packing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.