Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Whoa, If True

Speaking of Republican plots to ensure the party a permanent majority through gerrymandering of state legislatures and House districts, they've seemed pretty scary to most of us—they haven't pretended not to be doing it, and we've seen plenty of evidence of success in the disproportions, at all levels, between how many Republicans vote in a given contest and how many seat they win—sometimes grossly unfair, as in 2012, when Republicans won a comfortable 33-seat majority in the House with just 46% of the vote, or these crucial and grotesque results for local legislatures in the 2018 election

As Eric Levitz put it in New York's Intelligencer rubric on Christmas Day,

The Democratic House majority was supposed to die in redistricting. For months now, pundits and political forecasters have predicted that Republicans could win back the House next year without flipping a single voter. After all, the GOP controls far more state governments than the Democrats, and this is a post-Census year, when states redraw their congressional maps. Republicans boast sole authority over the boundaries of 193 congressional districts, while Democrats command just 94. Given the slimness of Nancy Pelosi’s majority, several analyses projected that GOP cartographers would generate enough new, safe “red” seats to retake the House through gerrymandering alone.

But now, Levitz continued, Democrats seemed to be doing "weirdly well" in the redistricting process:

it looks like the new House map will be much less biased in the GOP’s favor than the old one. And according to at least one analyst, there is actually an outside chance that the final map will be tilted, ever so slightly, in the Democrats’ favor.

In the 27 states that had finalized the new apportionment by that point, analysis showed a total of 14 more House seats likely to go Democratic than in the 2020 election, for one reason because—

contrary to partisan stereotypes — Democratic trifectas have arguably mustered more ruthless party discipline in redistricting than Republicans have. Illinois, Oregon, and New York have all pursued aggressive partisan gerrymanders that have subordinated the job security of some incumbents to maximizing the overall number of Democratic-leaning seats. By contrast, Texas Republicans took the opposite approach, opting to fortify their incumbents’ hold on power, at the cost of leaving 13 Democratic-leaning seats on the map. Meanwhile, many red states have no room to improve on existing gerrymanders.

It seemed likely that California would add more Democratic gerrymander, while North Carolina and Ohio had offered such extreme Republican gerrymander that courts seemed likely to reject them, forcing revisions.

You couldn't really say these developments were going to change the odds in Democrats' favor, but they weren't making them worse—Republicans were failing to maximize their advantage in the midterms in the way it had been assumed they would.

Now, 34 states have submitted their plans, and the latest Cook Political Report assessments reinforce the picture, as Cook's Dave Wasserman, in an interview for the Washington Post, told Greg Sargent. It's not just in Texas where Republicans have opted for safe seats over new opportunities but also Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, driven by demographic changes (I think that means immigration from other states) that have made those seats less safe.

Most interestingly, Wasserman thinks the statistical effect of that gerrymander landscape has been changing, on a scale that looks pretty large to me:

Six or seven years ago, I would have said Democrats need to win the popular vote by four points to win the House. A couple of years ago, after Democrats got favorable court rulings striking down Republican maps — in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania — I would have said two points.

Under the new maps, there might be a slight Republican bias still, but I think the House vote and House seats are going to align more closely during the next decade than they do today.

If Democrats were to win the House vote by a point, there’s a good chance they’d hold control.

Of course what they did win it by in 2018 was over seven points, down to three points in the narrow victory of 2020. What I think Wasserman's math here is suggesting is that, if Democrats could hold their normal midterm incumbent losses to two percentage points in the overall vote, they'd still end up with a House majority, and if they could just defeat the midterm incumbent curse enough to keep the three-point lead they had last year, they'd end up gaining seats. 

Which (presuming Covid and price rises are under control in the next couple of months, infrastructure starts going up in the summer, and something finally happens with BBB—I don't mention the voting rights effort because I don't think at this point it can have much impact on 2022) really looks like enough hope to go by.

No comments:

Post a Comment