Yesterday proved that the latest round of redistricting was a blow to democracy. According to the News & Observer, at the end of the filing period, almost a third of the legislative districts do not have races. What the article does not say, is that the majority of the rest of them aren’t competitive.
We can blame Republicans since they are in power, but we would be blaming Democrats if they were. Mapping technology has enabled legislators to precisely pick their districts down to the person. As a result, the majority of legislators aren’t responsible to the voters and in highly partisan primaries, the most extreme candidates tend to get elected, contributing to the polarization that we see today.
In politics as in business, competition is good. It forces our elected officials to be responsible to the people they are supposed to serve. It also ensures that they have to at least consider the opinions of people who disagree with them. Without competition, politicians can get insular, arrogant and lazy. It’s not good for anybody except the politician who is too secure in his/her job.
In 2012, roughly half the state voted for GOP legislators and half voted for Democrats. Same with Congress. However, Republicans ended up with a 9-4 advantage in the Congressional delegation and almost two-thirds of the legislative seats. That’s not democracy.
Republicans would be wise to look at redistricting reform. By the next redistricting, they will have been in charge long enough to leave their mark on state government. But by then, they also might not have power. Without redistricting reform, Democrats will be under pressure from their base to exert revenge and make mirror opposite districts.
It’s time to change the system. Other states have successfully instituted redistricting commissions. We should, too.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >
Is politics another perfectly good business model ruined by the Internets? It’s such an important point that competition is a good thing, since it forces legislators to be accountable, and to legislate good laws. That has served our nation well, as economics and demographics have slowly shifted power and influence across regions and between parties. It’s made our country nimble and resourceful, as better ideas have been tested and refined. In general, I agree with the “states as laboratories of democracy” concept.
Looking at the current NC legislature, it’s safe to say that the focus has not been to developing consensus solutions. They have legislated Culture War and faux Libertarian policies without regard for history, economics, or public opinion (it’s my opinion that the Legislature has no understanding of macroeconomics, so they just parrot what the rich guys tell them to). It’s ironic that their policies seem destined to hollow out already struggling rural economies. There’s no sense of accountability, or good government. The philosophy seems to be “We won, and winner take the spoils.”
Make no mistake, there will be a price to pay for that. Due to gerrymandering, the Dems are in a hole. Due to the incompetence and internal strife of the Dems at the state level (aka the Vollermort Chronicles), that hole is deeper. But simple demographics mean that it will become increasingly difficult for Republicans to win statewide elections, and without a significant shift, there will not be enough Republicans left by the 2020 redistricting to spread around for effective gerrymandering on the 2010 model.
Adversity has a way of pulling a movement together, and I suspect that Vollmer notwithstanding, the Dems will be in a much stronger position by 2016. Do the Republicans have a candidate that can win NC against Hillary in 2016? At this point, that looks doubtful. McCrony will be on the ballot, and a referendum on him looks to go strongly against. Will Roy Cooper and Hillary have coattails? Finally, infuriating young voters is a kamikazee strategy, but Berger And The Boys are well on their way to alienating a generation of votes.
So I think you’re right, Thomas: it would be very much in the Republican medium term interest to implement redistricting reform. You know what? It won’t happen, They’re not forward looking enough to do it. It would mean diluting their power to govern by fiat, and they’re not capable of doing that. So hunker down, it’s going to be a mean 2, or 4, or 6 years. But when the dust settles in 2020, Republicans in NC will be an empty shell of what they are today.