Gerrymandering is among the weak spots in our constitutional system of government. Although it wasn’t intended or foreseen by the Framers of the Constitution, it popped up pretty early.
Anyway, skipping ahead
two centuries, Democrats are understandably annoyed that despite the
fact that Dem House candidates nationally received more aggregate votes
than Repub candidates, the Republicans maintained a solid 234-201
Successful Republican gerrymandering had something to do with it, but gerrymandering alone is not only or primarily in producing that result is often overstated.
During the current shutdown mess, some liberals have embraced a second,
related theory suggesting that not only did the Republican
gerrymandering manage to cobble together a majority of House seats out
of a minority of House votes, but they also managed to create a large
number of safe red districts packed with voters who are so far right
that they produce congressmen who are either right-wing hardliners or have
to act like they are to fend off a Tea Party primary challenge.
The goal of gerrymandering is to maximize the number of districts that are barely safe enough by
packing as many of your opponents' voters as you can into a small
number of extremely partisan districts while safely distributing the
rest throughout your own districts. In this way, gerrymandering may
actually increase the number of moderate Republicans.
So there's a problem in believing that gerrymandering inflated the
number of House Republicans, while also thinking that gerrymandering
increased the number of ultraconservative, Tea Party Republicans. That
may seem surprising, but it shouldn’t be. In many respects, the GOP’s
divide between relative moderates and ultraconservatives also cuts
across geographic and partisan lines. In the fiscal cliff,
for instance, northern, blue state Republicans were far more likely to
vote for the Senate compromise than their red state, Southern
counterparts. And the number of northern Republicans has been
meaningfully inflated by GOP-led redistricting efforts in states like
Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Ohio. Without GOP-led
redistricting in those blue or purple states, the inevitably
conservative Republicans in red states, locked into ultraconservative
districts by (let's call it like it is) racial polarization and the Voting Rights Act, would
constitute an even larger share of a somewhat smaller GOP
caucus, making it even more difficult to reach compromises like the
fiscal cliff deal for instance. It would be more difficult to resolve the government
shutdown or debt ceiling debacle.
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