Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gerrymandering Reinforces & Enables Further Polarization

More revisionist fantasy was presented as reasoned analysis in a recent op-ed from Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal. The authors claim, Gerrymandering Didn't Cause America's Polarization.

They begin, "The right wing of the Republican Party has embraced a fundamentalist version of free-market capitalism and succeeded in winning elections."

The authors continue, "The "blame it on the gerrymanders" argument mistakenly assumes that because redistricting created more comfortable seats for each party, polarization became inevitable."

Conversely, as an example, which Bloomberg reported, "Michigan’s 14th congressional district looks like a jagged letter ’S’ lying on its side. From Detroit, one of the nation’s most Democratic cities, it meanders to the west, north and east, scooping up the black- majority cities of Southfield and Pontiac while bending sharply to avoid Bloomfield Hills, the affluent suburb where 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was raised. Its unusual shape is intentional. Michigan Republicans, seeking to maximize their political strength, drew the district lines -- and the residential patterns of Democratic voters made their job easier. Michigan’s 14th district underscores how Democrats across the U.S. are bunched in big metropolitan areas, resulting in the party’s House candidates often winning by wide margins on Election Day while Republicans capture more seats because their voters are spread out."

The Bloomberg reporters continue, "It’s a prime reason Democrats fell 17 seats short of winning a House majority in 2012, even as their congressional candidates drew about 1.4 million more votes than Republicans nationwide."

The only reason just a few extremists can polarize our politics is because of gerrymandering.

Ignoring what gerrymandering is - manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor one party - the McCarty, et al. purport the myth that somehow this all happened naturally. People just sorted themselves geographically, ideologically and culturally. Yet, in the real world, gerrymandering is done to maintain power. Without manipulating the boundaries of electoral districts, Republicans would not be in power right now. They wouldn't be able to shut down government.

As Gary Giroux explains, "A majority of Americans disapprove of the Republicans in Congress, yet the odds remain in the party’s favor that it will retain control of the House. One big reason the Republicans have this edge: their district boundaries are drawn so carefully that the only votes that often matter come from fellow Republicans."

Next, for some odd reason, the authors use the Senate for an example, "Consider, for example, the rise of the mastermind of the government shutdown, Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas Republican won his seat, as does every member of the Senate, in a statewide race, without any benefit from gerrymandering. The same is true for other tea party stalwarts in the Senate such as Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah." The only problem here, Democrats control the Senate!

"The number of politically safe seats in the House isn't fully explained by gerrymandering, either. Other, longer-term trends play a role, too," the authors claim.

Again, without such manipulation, Republicans wouldn't be able to shut down the government or obstruct the Affordable Care Act. If not for gerrymandering, the Republicans wouldn't have the House.

For Further Reading: 

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