News comes out of the Supreme Court that they will take up a case that could—indirectly or directly—address gerrymandering of districts.
Democrats are celebrating because a recent study showed that a computer-simulated redistricting—without partisan bias—showed that Democrats could have won the House of Representatives in 2012 and 2016.
Of course, reading the actual study shows there’s not a jot of indication as to how the neutrality of the eventual districting was assured. There’s a lot of talk about statistics, and the report truly does show its math formulas, but the report does not answer the question: what map was used as its control? In other words, if we were to claim that a state was districted unfairly (they cite Michigan, among a few others) so that a Democratic voting bloc was divided and diffused among stronger Republican blocs to suppress a larger Democratic vote as a percentage (which is basically gerrymandering), you need to provide a “neutral” map for us to compare. In other words, show us the map that would have been more politically neutral; otherwise, your claim is based on a mathematical possibility rather than a probability.
The report concludes that gerrymandering exists, which is true. The report concludes that Republicans have been doing it according to the usual practices since 2010—which makes sense, as the GOP took the House in 2009 and therefore had some control over the 2010 Census triggered the re-mapping of congressional districts. But it’s a bit far-fetched to say that with a more neutrally drawn map, Democrats would have won X seats in Congress…unless we see that neutrally drawn map. Simply putting out statistical statements is not an effective argument.
The Czar is certain that gerrymandering exists. And yes, Republicans do it. Also, since it wasn’t mentioned in the story, Democrats do it, too. In fact, every political party in American history has done this since its beginning. Elbridge Gerry, the source of the name, was already expert at it when it was coined in 1812.
And the idea was well-known to the Founding Fathers (the first accusation of tampering with districts goes back to the First U.S. Congress in 1789), which is one of the keystone reasons we have a national census every 10 years. This allows political parties the ability to re-assess the map on a periodic basis, and allow the party du jour to re-do the map to their advantage. If malapportionment occurs, or if cracking occurs, there are legal remedies to this. They tend to be very hard to prove.
The possibility exists that Democrats are losing House elections because their party is not very widespread. When your voting base primarily lives in large cities, you win the cities but lose the states. Illinois is a good example: out of 18 Representatives apportioned to the state, 10 of them live in the greater Chicago area. Unless those Democratic voters start to move into the rest of the state, no amount of redistricting will change this. If Democrats want to win Michigan—one of the study’s targets for their claim—maybe Democrats need to start winning elections outside of Detroit and the 5th District.
The problem is, as we know, Democrats can’t. They don’t have a popular-enough platform outside of population centers. It almost doesn’t matter if Democrats or Republicans draw the maps—or if the study’s authors do: if people don’t vote, it doesn’t matter.
The study understands this, to a point: they talk about the wasted vote. For example, if you’re a Democrat living in a district heavily occupied by Republicans, you don’t bother voting because it’s a waste of time. That’s actually one of the techniques used in gerrymandering. But it’s also offset by Republicans living in New York, California, Chicago, Boston, and a whole bunch of other places.
In short, the claim “Republican gerrymandering cost Democrats the House” is a lot like saying “Hillary Clinton won the popular vote,” or “Russians hacked the election.” Using statistics, rather than a neutral redistricting map, is identical to the farcical claim from 2016 that Republicans win elections because electoral votes have unequal populations; therefore, urban black district votes are 3/5 of a white Wyoming district with a smaller population. It’s questionable math used to conclude a pre-desired political point. The real method is bipartisan in origin.
Ultimately, it’s just more sophistry hoping to prove some sinister force is behind Republicans’ winning the House, Senate, and Presidency—and not the collapse of the Democrats as a functionally, manageable political party into leftist incompetence.
The reason Republicans can redistrict maps is because they’re winning more seats, not the other way around. Please—draw up a better map—a real physical one—based on the 2010 census and then determine how the House would change.