No, not that wall. The wall that Republican partisan redistricting built to keep Democratic voters out.
A report from Politico in the wake of the midterm elections put it succinctly:the GOP had used partisan redistricting to build a “wall” around Congress; Trump tore it down.
For years, some Democrats said gerrymandering was an insurmountable roadblock to the House majority that couldn’t be cleared until after the 2020 census.
Then along came President Donald Trump.
House Democrats steamrolled Republicans in an array of districts last week, from those drawn by independent commissions or courts, to seats crafted specifically by Republicans with the intention of keeping them in the GOP column.
The overriding factor: a Republican president who political mapmakers could not have foreseen at the beginning of the decade. Trump altered the two parties’ coalitions in ways that specifically undermined conventional wisdom about the House map, bringing more rural voters into the GOP tent while driving away college-educated voters.
I’ve posted numerous times about the ways in which gerrymandering undercuts democratic decision-making, and discourages voter turnout. I’ve also referenced several books and articles detailing 2011’s “RedMap”–the GOP’s most thorough, successful national effort at locking in a Republican House majority. (The book Ratfucked said it all…)
The were two important structural lessons from this year’s midterms.
First, the results confirmed a truism among political operatives and observers: In order to surmount the gerrymandered wall, Democrats would need at least a 7 point vote advantage. Nationally, they got that, and a bit more.
Second–gerrymandering really does matter more than the geography of “sorting” would suggest. In Bill Bishop’s book The Big Sort, he pointed out that Americans currently migrate to locations where they feel philosophically and politically comfortable. We can see the results in the rise of the Urban Archipelago–those blue dots representing cities with populations over 500,000.
One argument against nonpartisan redistricting rests on the theory that–since we have “sorted” ourselves into red and blue enclaves– gerrymandering really doesn’t make much difference. The Politico article undercuts that argument, bigly.
Despite Democrats’ massive House gains — the party’s biggest since 1974, after Richard Nixon’s resignation — redistricting clearly held them back in some places. Democrats netted at least 21 districts drawn by independent commissions or courts — getting a major boost from courts in Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia that altered GOP-drawn maps in the past two years — along with 10 districts drawn by Republicans and the two in Illinois that were drawn by Democrats.
As the article makes clear, Democrats did appreciably better in non-gerrymandered districts.
The blue wave was high enough to overcome a large number of gerrymandered walls, thanks to revulsion against and very welcome rejection of Donald Trump. But in districts drawn fairly–without partisan bias–they did even better.
Gerrymandering, vote suppression (Georgia, anyone?) and the other tactics being used by the GOP to game the system need to be eliminated. A few states–Missouri and Michigan among them–voted this month for fair elections; the rest of us need to do the same.
We shouldn’t need a “wave” to install a government that reflects the values of the majority of America.