Tag Archives: Politico

November Danger Signal

There is nothing that makes my heart drop down to my knees more quickly than a headline that reads “Trump Gets Some Good Election News.” But that was a Politico headline a week or so ago, and it was and is very troubling.

Late last month, the Democratic data firm TargetSmart found that while new voter registrations had plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic, those who were registering in competitive states tended to be whiter, older and less Democratic than before.

When he saw the numbers, Ben Wessel, executive director of NextGen America, said he “got nervous,” and other Democratic-leaning groups felt the same.

The report seemed to confirm what state elections officials and voter registration groups had been seeing in the field for weeks: Neither Democrats nor Republicans had been registering many voters during the pandemic. But Democrats were suffering disproportionately from the slowdown.

Unlike countries like Australia, America doesn’t have mandatory voting. If U.S. voters want to ignore the political process, if we want to leave the outcome up to those most passionate about it, if we just don’t care and want to stay home, we can. One of the reasons polls can so often be misleading is that pollsters have to make educated guesses about who will actually show up on election day.

Unlike a lot of countries, America doesn’t have a national agency that administers federal elections, either. Election day isn’t a national holiday–it isn’t even on a weekend–and very few states have made it easier, rather than harder, to register and vote. Add to that the GOP’s determination to use every suppression method it can muster–including some recent “enthusiastic” purges of the voter registration rolls– and the fact that a substantial majority of Americans want Donald Trump and the GOP defeated becomes irrelevant.

As one political observer puts it, “The electoral dynamics have already hardened. Donald Trump will lose if everyone who wants to vote can. His remaining hope is to choose his own electorate.”

In our system, what matters isn’t what a majority of Americans think or want. What matters is who shows up.  

November has always been about turnout. Democrats need to turn out a blue wave–a blue tsunami–if voters are going to decisively defeat Trumpism. Whatever happens in the wake of such a defeat–further erosion and ultimate disappearance of the cult that was once the GOP, or a thorough housecleaning by the sane remnant–is less important than the decisiveness with which we defeat the corrupt and traitorous cabal that currently controls the White House and the Senate.

That tsunami cannot happen if Democratic registrations lag.

We know that Trump’s cult will show up at the polls. If rational Americans don’t register and vote in numbers sufficient to overwhelm them, we can kiss America goodby.

As Politico concluded:

The months-long lull in registration, at a minimum, has added an additional measure of uncertainty to the fall campaign, muddying the likely composition of the electorate. In some areas of the country, a swing of even several hundred voters could tilt the registration balance on Election Day.

Ask everyone you know whether they are registered. If they aren’t–or don’t know–get them registered. In Indiana, you–and they–can check whether they are registered by going here.

We can’t afford to let the polls lull us into false complacency. Again.

The Wall And The Wave

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.