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Friday, March 15, 2013

Republican gerrymandering is racial — and it will hurt them in the long run

The Cook Report:

After Republicans won only 48 percent of all votes cast for the House in 2012 but 54 percent of the seats, it’s no secret that the party enjoys the huge built-in structural advantages in the chamber that Democrats had going for them decades ago. In a January memo, veteran GOP pollster Bill McInturff observed, “If you began your career as a Republican trying to win the House in the 1970s and 1980s, you would adopt, as I do, the borrowed adage, ‘There’s no crying in redistricting.’ ” The current unprecedented geographic concentration of Democratic voters was compounded by the 2010 wave election that gave Republicans unprecedented power in state legislatures to redraw political boundaries. Combined, these two demographic developments cast doubt on whether even a 2006-size wave would enable Democrats to win control of the House at any point this decade.

But could the Republicans’ arguably rigged House majority actually be a curse disguised as a blessing? It’s an interesting question. They clearly did everything they could to purge Democratic voters from their districts ahead of 2012, no matter whether those voters were white, black, Hispanic, left-handed, or right-minded—just as Democrats would have done had the roles been reversed. But in the process of quarantining Democrats, Republicans effectively purged millions of minority voters from their own districts, and that should raise a warning flag. By drawing themselves into safe, lily-white strongholds, have Republicans inadvertently boxed themselves into an alternate universe that bears little resemblance to the rest of the country?

You can probably disregard the comment that Democrats would’ve gerrymandered if they’d been in the same position — mostly because they were and they didn’t, But I suppose Charlie Cook wouldn’t be Charlie Cook is some rightwing bias didn’t always leak through. The rest is pretty solid.

Republicans have been so busy fighting the future by carving out districts dominated by narrow special interests that they haven’t noticed those districts look less and less like America with each passing election. By delivering what these districts demand, they’re getting the entirely deserved reputation of being the white man’s party and, at the same time, embracing policies that everyone but these narrow interests oppose. It’s getting so that seeing  Republican outside one of these GOP voter enclaves is like spotting a flamingo in Maine — a rare to nonexistent occurrence.

And, of course, the old saw that ignorance breeds contempt cuts both ways. The only time minority voters are exposed to Republicans is when they’re getting screwed over by them. And the only time Republicans are exposed to minority voters is when they protest the things Republicans do. As a result, both see the other as the enemy by default — and this arrangement, by virtue of gerrymandering, is of the Republicans’ own choosing. They’re actively choosing to make enemies, even if that isn’t their intention.

This has already cost them at the national level and it’s beginning to hurt at the state level. Districts that can’t be gerrymandered — governorships and US Senators — will go increasingly to Democrats, just as presidential elections have. And, of course, changing demographics will eventually render the gerrymandering ineffective.

The problem, of course, is that Republicans can’t stop. If they start drawing district boundaries honestly, they’ll lose elections. If they don’t, they’ll lose other elections. It’s a real pickle the GOP have gotten themselves into and it’s hard to see a way out of it. It may be that the smartest thing to do is just rip the bandaid off, swallow the pain, take the losses, and try to build back up again. It’s something they’ll be forced to do eventually anyway.

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