Weigel also says those who see Democratic potential in growing blue pockets of red states might need a political reality check.
It’s almost a fool’s errand to try and predict redistricting now, before incoming legislatures get control of it, but if there was no partisan gerrymandering, we’d see a lot of competitive or Democratic-leaning new districts in red states. Most of the growth in the past decade has happened in suburbs and exurbs that have been growing bluer—Travis and Harris County in Texas, Maricopa County in Arizona, Wake County in North Carolina, and so on. But Republicans can easily carve up red states after the Florida and Texas models, and pack non-whites in uncompetitive districts, shore up a few liberals, and make the rest of the districts too Republican-leaning to get into real danger.
An interesting offshoot of the latest reapportionment reporting is the question about the size of the House: when one congressperson represents almost one million people, should the House be expanded to include more members? At The New Republic’s Citizen Cohn blog, Jonathan Bernstein has some thoughts, responding to tweets from Firedoglake’s David Dayen and conservative political writer Reihan Salam, both suggesting Congress needs its own population increase. He sees the concern, but says a “Big House” could prove problematic.
For elections, the problem with a Big House is that, given residential patterns and assuming no change in single-member districts, we would wind up with even more lopsided partisan districts than we have now. Indeed, all the incentives of reapportionment would work the same as they do now, which combined with good modern technology would mean that we would probably wind up with about the same number of swing districts, but far more solid partisan districts. Meanwhile, more districts mean even less media coverage for each contested election—and I would strongly argue that more media coverage is almost always a good thing. Small districts with little or no media coverage are a recipe for a strong incumbency advantage, which few people see as a really good thing.
Politico focuses on the upcoming fights to come when states begin redistricting—packed with detail about potential fights to come. It’s a worthy read for anyone who would dare call reapportionment boring. A selection:
For the next year, ambitious and sharp-elbowed legislators around the nation will look to Machiavelli, rather than Jefferson or Hamilton, for inspiration as they draw the congressional maps that will begin and end political careers and determine the partisan makeup of Congress during the next decade.
Some incoming House freshmen are already marked men and women — before they’ve been sworn into office. Some veterans are about to be brusquely pushed into retirement. A few members of Congress will be forced into head-to-head battles with colleagues in order to survive another term.
All in all, it’s a harrowing exercise in political Darwinism.
The peril is greatest in the 9 states — Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania — that are slated to lose seats as a result of population shifts over the past decade.
Most of those states have been hemorrhaging seats for decades and have already produced epic incumbent vs. incumbent clashes — some of which helped forge the political personas of some of the best-known figures in American politics.
And how’s this?
“You probably have one Democrat and one Republican killed,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist in the state, speculating that Rep. Carolyn McCarthy would be thrown into the same district as fellow Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman and that GOP Rep.-elect Ann Marie Buerkle would see her district joined with that of another Republican.
“Democrat-on-Democrat violence and Republican-on-Republican violence,” added Sheinkopf. “It’s who blinks first.”
What are they putting in the eggnog down there?
For soberer minds, one of the more interesting straight news pieces on the reapportionment comes from John McCormick and Tim Jones at Bloomberg, which is mentioned above. The writers point out that this reapportionment needs to be put into historical perspective.
The scope of the reapportionment would be the smallest since 1970 if just 17 states see a gain or loss. That’s a reflection of slower migration in recent years triggered by the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The reporters also put flesh on the bone of some of the statistics we’re seeing, contextualizing the population changes in some states.
Nevada, which is projected to gain one seat, was the nation’s fastest-growing state for much of the past decade, before its growth was stunted by the recession. The state had the highest foreclosure filing rate for the 47th straight month in November, at one in every 99 households, five times the national average, according to RealtyTrac Inc.