In a never ending quest to find an excuse for the abject failure of its policies and waning political fortunes the American Left is always tilting at phantom windmills. That is why the few remaining Democratic office holders and their apologists in the not-so-mainstream news media are fixated on so-called “redistricting reform”.
Unable to admit their policy ideas are deeply unpopular across a wide swath of the nation, and that their national talent pool makes nursing home recreation halls look youthful, they have seized upon the notion that if congressional and legislative district lines were more fairly drawn they would actually be able to compete with the GOP.
In most states the party that holds legislative majorities and the governor’s office has the biggest impact on the drawing of district lines. This is certainly an advantage, but a myriad of court decisions have placed significant restrictions on the process.
Feeding this “redistricting reform” frenzy in Pennsylvania is the fact Democrats are at or near an historic low in the number of seats they hold in the General Assembly. Republicans last year achieved a veto-proof majority of 34 out of 50 seats in the state Senate, and in the House the GOP has held steady in recent years at or near 120 of 203 seats.
Pennsylvania has 18 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, of which 13 are Republicans and 5 are Democrats. Given the fact there are over 800,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Penn’s Woods the Left blames gerrymandering while conveniently forgetting that Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, both Republicans, won statewide contests last year. In other words, registered Democrats are not consistently voting for Democratic candidates.
When it comes to Democrats losing seats Pennsylvania is far from unusual. During the eight years of the Obama presidency �" which featured a cornucopia of Left-wing policy initiatives �" Democrats lost a total of 1,042 congressional and state legislative seats. During President Obama’s terms his party lost the 55-46 majority it had in the U.S. Senate and the 256-194 majority it enjoyed in the U.S. House. And Democrats hold the governor’s office in just 16 states, including Pennsylvania.
For centuries both parties have sought the political advantage when they controlled the re-districting process. Seeking to solidify their own seats Democrats turned to the courts to mandate the creation of “majority minority” districts in which no Republican candidate could ever be competitive. That brand of gerrymandering was and is appealing to the Left.
There are, however, two real reasons why Democrats are electorally uncompetitive and they have nothing to do with how district lines are drawn: they are policy and a lack of geographic diversity.
A lack of diversity is not normally associated with the Left, but it is when it comes to where Democratic voters are concentrated. In Pennsylvania the Democratic Party has become almost exclusively an urban party. There are of course heavy concentrations of registered Democrats in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and significant Democrat majorities in smaller cities like Allentown, Erie, Scranton and Harrisburg.
As a result urban districts hold lopsided Democratic majorities, while throughout the state’s suburban and rural areas districts are either dominated by Republicans, or are competitive with a slight GOP advantage. Ironically, the only way to change that is for Democrats to gerrymander as they did for decades by basing congressional districts in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and extending them outward to negate Republican-leaning suburbs. No amount of “redistricting reform” can change this concentration of Democratic voters.
By claiming the GOP has tilted the playing field the Left is able to avoid having the one conversation it doesn’t want to have: the fact its policies, when implemented, have failed. For example the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, has proven to be anything but affordable. Over-regulation has stymied economic growth and resulted in the loss of family sustaining middle class jobs. Voters understand these approaches have not worked, but the Left has doubled down rather than adjust to economic and political reality.
Redistricting occurs every ten years after the national census. With 2020 rapidly approaching and the redrawing of congressional and legislative district lines to occur shortly after look for the drumbeat of “redistricting reform” to intensify.
It is not because the Left wants fair districts; it is because they can’t admit to themselves the real reasons for their failure.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org)
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