Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Republicans are Going to be in Control for a Long Time

A must-read from yesterday's Salon is Paul Rosenberg's interview with David Daley about his new book, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy.

Daley explains the GOP bonanza of the 2010 Tea Party landslide as the ability to redraw district lines. It is a story of technology and Republican ingenuity under the gun of a disappearing base; and from Daley's telling, it doesn't look like the Democrats are capable of a meaningful response.

Which means solutions are going to have to be bottom-up, people-powered and organic. Money has a way of subverting these types of movements.

The interview includes descriptions of the how GOP practices the dark art of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Michigan. But the basic frame of  Ratf**ked is captured in the passage below:
The central focus of your book is the GOP REDMAP redistricting plan, which took the ancient practice of gerrymandering to a level never seen before. So, to start out, how did it come about and what made it so strikingly different from what happened before?
You can trace gerrymandering back to the late 1700s, but the plan that the Republicans executed in 2010 and 2011 reinvented this game in a completely modern and transformative way. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, it was the fourth presidential election out of five in which the Democrats won the popular vote. They took 23 of 33 Senate seats and opened up a supermajority. They held the House. The future demographics looked scary. And when you look again at the Election Night coverage, the leading Republican intellectuals were wringing their hands about the GOP’s future as a national party. But then a handful of brilliant Republican strategists centered around the Republican State Leadership Committee hit on a plan: They recognized that 2010 was a “zero year,” and that zero years reverberate through the rest of the decade because that’s when every Congressional district and state legislative district gets redrawn.   
The two key tacticians behind REDMAP (for Redistricting Majority Project), Chris Jankowski and Ed Gillespie, recognized that if they crafted a plan to flip state legislative chambers in enough key states–especially purplish states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin–that they could control redistricting in these states and redraw both the state and federal lines in a way that built the Republicans a firewall in the House of Representatives. They spent $30 million on state races and blew these Democratic incumbents out of the water, and recaptured control of all those state capitals. Then, they provided state legislators with the mapping, technological and legal help to draw impregnable lines. It worked exactly as planned, helped along by the fact that 2010 was a year of Democratic malaise and low turnout. This is the biggest political heist, and the biggest political bargain, in modern memory. Linda McMahon spent $100 million on two losing Senate races in Connecticut. For a third of that, the GOP locked in control of the House for a decade–and took dozens of previously competitive races off the board, where they would have had to have spent more money.  
In the past, gerrymandering had been an incumbent protection racket, a means of mischief, something that both parties did. What the Republicans did in 2010 and 2011–helped along by Citizens United, a brilliant plan, and technological advances that made map-making amazingly precise–turned gerrymandering into a blunt-force weapon for partisan control. 

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