Redistricting: Short-term Pain for Long-term Gain

Democrats are pursuing a redistricting strategy that could result in an absolute bloodbath this fall, but better news for them over the coming decade.

That’s my takeaway from this interesting analysis by the Associated Press. Democrats will start out with two big disadvantages in the mid-terms. The first is just history. On average, the party in the White House loses about two-dozen House seats in the off year election. Given where they’re at right now with Pres. Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, there’s reason to think that they would be lucky to get away with just that setback.

And then, to make matters worse, it’s a redistricting year, and Republican state Legislatures control the redrawing of 187 House districts while the Democrats control just 75. (The remaining 173 seats are in states where neither party totally controls the redistricting process. Wisconsin is one of those states. It’s all but certain that five of our House seats will remain in Republican hands and two will stay Democratic. Only southwest Wisconsin’s third district remains in doubt.)

But here’s the good news for Democrats. Republicans have chosen a strategy that keeps their incumbents safe while the Democrats have taken an expansionist tack. Republicans have maintained or increased the Republican tilt of already Republican districts while Democrats have spread out their voters to give them a better shot at taking new districts. Overall, there will be fewer Republican leaning districts and more Democratic leaning ones than under the maps we’ve had for the last decade.

So, how does that wind up being bad news for Democrats in 2022? It’s because the Democrats have created more districts with thin Democratic margins. In a wave year, like this one may be, those marginal Democratic districts will likely flip to the GOP. Meanwhile, the Republicans have created more wave-proof districts to protect their members when things go the other way.

When you combine the historic trend in off-year elections with more thin-margin Democratic districts it spells disaster for the Dems this fall, unless things change before then. And that could happen. Omicron is showing signs of loosening its grip as predicted. There willl be more variants, but we can hope that they will be decreasingly potent as this goes on. And it’s possible that inflation will ease as supply chains get ironed out. Also, you have to believe that Biden’s approval ratings can only go up from here.

But even if it’s a blowout in November, the Democrats have set themselves up for greater success when the winds change direction. They might find themselves in a hole in the next congress, but then back on top in 2024 and beyond.

But that brings me to my final point: here’s more evidence that they have to move to the center. The party has put itself in a position to win back majorities in the future, but only if they can do well in the new marginally blue districts they’ve created.

Welcome to the 341st day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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