- by Gitabushi
So here’s the issue, as the article above explains, and as non-partisan and objective as I can make it:
When you set up districts for House of Representative elections, you must try to have approximately equal number of voters. You can’t let one Representative represent 100k people and other represent 4k people in the same state (due to rules of minimum representation and a cap on there being only 435 Representatives, there will be an unavoidable disparity in total number of voters represented by a Congressman between, say, California and Wyoming).
Because population is not even, the size and the shape of the districts will be uneven. It only takes a second of thought to realize there are many ways to draw the districts to include approximately the same number of people, and different lines have different strategic impacts.
But let’s say districts in your state have 100k people each. You can put the mix any way you want it. Let’s also assume there are only two groups we are dealing with: whites (notional majority at 70%) and blacks (notional minority at 30%)
Obviously, not all blacks vote Democrat, and the Democrat political message also appeals to a significant number of whites, but for the sake of the mental exercise, let’s just assume black = Democrat and white = Republican.
You can draw the lines so that blacks are spread out across districts, say no more than 20% of any district. That means that to the extent that blacks political wants/needs are different from whites, they have been effectively silenced.
Since the Democrat political message was calibrated to appeal to almost all blacks (through playing up racial differences, stirring up resentment and distrust between the races, etc), arranging to allow them greater political voice would result in more political power for Democrats.
They redrew districts so that blacks would be a sufficient majority in more districts, thus pretty much guaranteeing those districts would elect a Democrat Representative. To the extent that blacks political wants/needs are different than whites, the whites in those districts have been effectively silenced. But it maximized the number of districts whose representatives were elected by blacks, and thus maximized the number of Democrat Representatives.
But those districts can also be redrawn so that blacks are all concentrated in the smallest number of districts possible. To the extent that the Democrat message appeals to blacks, it would guarantee those districts would vote Democrat, that blacks had a voice, and no other voices were political silenced. But it minimized the number of Democrat Representatives by concentrating blacks into the smallest number of districts.
This is what the GOP has done since taking over legislatures and governorships across the nation.
To be fair, this last method is probably the most “fair”, in that (to the extent that the political wants/needs of blacks are different from those of whites), blacks have a number of Representatives proportional to their actual portion of the citizenry. In our notional example, 30%. Obviously, Democrats would prefer to maximize the voice/power of a group they consider (for good reason) to be the most reliably-Democrat population group in the US. As a result, GOP gerrymandering is Evil and Racist and Unprecedented, unlike Democrat gerrymandering, which is Noble and Done for All the Morally Superior Reasons (because, if pressed, they’ll admit that defeating the GOP is *always* the morally superior outcome. Which just means that to Democrats, seizing and holding political power is a moral imperative).
Now, one unavoidable fact is that the GOP has broadened its appeal at the state level so that they were able to capture more state legislatures and governor seats. Those political victories mean that they have the support of a significant majority of people. It would actually be immoral to ignore or silence those voters to impose a system that favors Democrats just because it favors Democrats.
The interesting thing brought up in the above article is that there are risks for Democrats in their strategy to maximize their power.
If the GOP gerrymandering plan is maintained, then to the extent that Democrat political stances represent or are preferred by blacks, they are guaranteed victories in the black districts.
If the Democrat gerrymandering plan is restored, then to the extent that their political stances represent or are preferred by blacks, they maximize their political power, but at the risk that the GOP might split off black voters and/or the risk that black turnout might be lower than whites for reasons of enthusiasm. Compare the difference in vote percentages and voter enthusiasm between the two Obama elections on the one hand and the Trump election on the other. Trump received a higher percentage of the black vote than McCain or Romney, mainly because of the Democrat candidate. But the black turnout was also lower for Trump than for either of the Obama elections, again, mainly because of the Democrat candidate.
What that means, however, is that if you have your districts set up to have, say 55% black voters, that might deliver the district to Democrats in a normal year. But what is a “normal” election year? At 55%, it doesn’t take much voter discouragement to make the percentage of black voters drop below a critical number and deliver the district (and Representative) to the GOP. Or it doesn’t take many blacks deciding that Democrat regulation is killing the jobs they want, so maybe voting for Trump *can* Make America Great Again.
And that’s exactly what we saw in this past election.
The House and Senate did swing a few seats to Democrats. But not many, and far below what was expected to be a significant pendulum swing back to Democrats.
It makes me think that the GOP should redistrict exactly like Democrats want it, but with the margin for black representation razor thin. And then campaign in those black districts to the maximum extent possible, and be sure to work hard to represent them as effectively as possible in Congress, delivering on promises, providing jobs, getting blacks off of welfare, keeping their families intact, etc.
It could be interesting.