Why Republicans should also fight gerrymandering

Today, gerrymandering helps Republicans significantly

Current gerrymandering provides the Republican party with a net benefit of 22 seats in the house, based on the non-partisan associated press. “Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.”

North Carolina gerrymander in June 2017
North Carolina gerrymander, June 2017 – courtesy Scientific American

 

Even if the Democrats were to win a significant majority of votes in 2018, they could fail to win the house. A detailed seat by seat forecast by Decision Desk HQ and reported by Vox highlights that Democrats could get 54% of the votes — and only 47% of house seats.

Why should Republicans want to change that?

Shouldn’t Republicans seek to maintain the advantage they created by gerrymandering?
Setting aside any democratic principles, there are several reasons for Republicans to want to put an end to gerrymandering too.

For starters, the reduction in the number of swing seats has been damaging to both parties, because it has reduced the number of representatives who speak for purple districts. This causes gridlock and results in party-line votes. In turn, this reduces the staying power of legislative changes. Increasing the number of safe districts also creates races where only the primary matters. This has resulted in factions in congress, such as the Freedom Caucus in the Republican party. House Republicans in particular have struggled over the years to shift from opposing to governing.

Furthermore, by creating districts with high concentrations of Democrats, gerrymandering has also pushed the Democratic party to the left. The moderate ‘blue-dog’ democrats are now long gone… This reduces further opportunities for bipartisanship.

But, perhaps most importantly, gerrymandering presents a major risk for Republicans too. Put simply, 2020 could be wave election year in favor of Democrats. If Democrats retake control of a significant number of states, then they could apply the same gerrymandering recipe to solidify their control of the legislature for the next decade. After all, Democrats have proven highly effective at this game too – check out Colorado or Nevada.

For all these reasons, setting aside any appeals to fairness, it is in Republican’s long term interest to minimize the risk of being locked out of power structurally – even if it means giving up some of their current edge.

Encourage the Supreme Court to rule against gerrymanders

This is why Republicans should support the diverse cases against gerrymandering which are now being considered by the supreme court. The Supreme Court has now taken on two challenges to gerrymanders:
Gill v Whitford, a challenge to a Wisconsin gerrymander drawn by Republicans
Benisek v Lamone , a challenge to a congressional district in Maryland drawn by Democrats.
Prominent Republicans had already signed onto a legal brief that opposes the GOP in Gill v Whitford. Well known Republican leaders such as Governor Kasich, former Governor Schwarzenegger have made their position public – as well as others such as Senator John McCain, Richard Lugar and Bob Dole.
All Republicans should join them and encourage the Supreme Court to decide in favor of democracy.

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