After historic electoral losses under President Obama, the Democratic party is in disarray and struggling to find identity. New party leadership hasn’t been successful in capitalizing on the anti-Trump “resistance” and their cohesion on political messaging is subpar.
But, they have a plan to win again: The National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The NDRC website reads, “The most important turning point for the future of the Democratic Party will take place in 2021: when states redraw their Congressional and state legislative lines.”
In the year following a census from the federal government, Congress and state legislatures redraw districts to better represent the changing populace. Democrats are supposedly looking to “produce fairer maps in the 2021 redistricting process.”
How bad have Democrats sucked at winning elections? They lost an unbelievable 1,030 races, between gubernatorial, state legislative and congressional, while Obama was in the White House.
The rhetoric from the NDRC even borrows from Trump’s messaging: "The biggest rigged system in America is gerrymandering,” former Attorney General Eric Holder, Chairman of the NDRC, said in a video.
And it doesn’t stop there.
As was already suggested by the unabashedly partisan nature of the entire organization, by their own omission the NDRC does not exist solely to draw “fair” lines around districts. They aim to regain control of those seats.
“This is a new central hub for redistricting strategy with the mission of evening the playing field by 2020 and continuing thereafter. Fixing our redistricting problem, then, is not just about focusing on the lines, but focusing on the larger effort to win back governance,” Holder said.
Gerrymandering is to the Democrats what voter fraud is to Republicans – both exist, but probably not to the degree each party suggests.
In fairness, gerrymandering can be a real problem. Drawing a district to stifle certain constituencies runs counter to American values. You would think, then, that this organization should exist entirely independent of partisan politics.
If it were a true fight for fairness the Democratic party were after, the NDRC would have nothing to do with regaining control or winning back governance and everything to do solely with drawing fair districts (and maybe not emblazon “Democratic” in the title of the supposedly “fair” redistricting Committee). But it’s hard to fundraise on fairness. This is politics, it’s about two things: money and control.
Democrats will automatically have their base on board with the talk of voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering. And what did we learn from the Trump wave? Voters hate Washington, they hate being controlled and subverted, and more than anything they hate the rigged system that no one addresses.
This is dangerous for Republicans. While we scramble to pass healthcare reform and (attempt to) fulfill campaign promises, the Democrats will slowly ramp up grassroots efforts and legal strategies surrounding redistricting.
“Starting in 2017, the NDRC will enact these strategies on a year-by-year, cycle-by-cycle basis, providing a framework by which Democrats can take action to undo GOP gerrymandering and reshape the 2021 maps,” reads the NDRC about page.
However, the disarray of the Democrats may prove fatal for the NDRC, if we’re lucky. Far-left rhetoric has co-opted much of their party’s messaging, with some of the loudest voices still being Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
No one can honestly say that an out-of-work, lower-middle class voter in the rust belt will care what former Attorney General Holder says about proportional representation.
Maybe the outward messaging on gerrymandering won’t win the voters Democrats need, but it might not matter. The NDRC efforts, behind closed doors, could be strong enough to build a war chest, spend wisely in newly-drawn districts, and put up a huge fight in court.
Republicans must head into this redistricting battle at least as strong as they did in 2010. While conservatives enjoy — or remain frustrated yet optimistic about — the Republican control in Washington, complacency and a lack of forward-thinking strategy could end our electoral successes. Don't sleep on the importance of redistricting.