The public hearings on the new legislative maps bought for the GOP with taxpayer money are little more than a ruse. The Republicans in the House and Senate are going to pass the maps without any real discussion and without considering alternative maps. It’s so clear, that according to people in Lee County, Republican Representative John Sauls has already sent out letters to his prospective new constituents. He wouldn’t have done that if the maps were in question.
At the public hearings, legislators dismiss criticism out of hand. They’ve got veto proof majorities and most incumbents are in extremely safe districts. They’re not really interested in input. They’re interested in saying they had public hearings. So, really, this whole process is a waste of time and taxpayer money.
Yesterday, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice released its own maps. They’re more favorable to Democrats so they won’t get serious consideration from the Republicans who control the legislature. However, they do show that alternative maps are possible and set the stage for another challenge to the districts the GOP bought.
The districts are certainly drawn to give Republicans maximum representation and to reduce competition in elections. That said, some of what Republicans say is true. Democrats have basically ceded rural America, giving the GOP an advantage in district configurations here and across the country. Democrats might be able to garner majorities in statewide and national elections, but they win with large margins in highly concentrated areas.
To win back majorities, Democrats need a two-front strategy. They should contest the extreme gerrymandering brought about by professional mapmakers to rig elections. They also need to broaden their appeal to build a bigger tent. If they want to win legislative majorities in states like North Carolina or Virginia, they need to redefine themselves with an economic message that has broad appeal. Right now, most rural residents see them as a party consumed with pushing an agenda of social change while ignoring the huge hurdles facing working-class families outside of major urban areas. For Democrats to win control of legislative bodies, that perception must change.