There are Democrats running for state-level offices without websites. Meanwhile, there are Republicans around the United States winning seats uncontested. They pay the filing fee, and the Republican Party reallocates excess funds to their other candidates. One Democratic state party chair told us, “If we could’ve just entered the race, the Republicans would have spent fifty to one-hundred thousand dollars protecting the seat. Instead, they spent zero dollars and we handed them the seat.”
We reject the one-dimensional, linear view of blue vs. red. Our belief in the one-dimensional blue vs. red paradigm has caused us to give up large portions of America that we can win back. If you believe in progressivism, you should believe that we can convince the working and middle classes of America that the Democratic Party is the true party of and for the people.
If the Republicans want any seat, at any level of government, anywhere in the United States, they should have to fight for it. It is incumbent upon us to make them fight for it. Make them scratch and claw for county clerk seats. For school board seats. Mayor and city council seats. State representative seats. No seat should be handed over to Republicans without a fight. We can't afford it anymore. We want to fight for every seat in every corner of America.
Target vulnerable seats
There's a reason why both President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder established the National Democratic Redistricting Committee after President Obama left office. Redistricting may be the most important issue facing Democrats today.
Between 2008 and 2015, Democrats lost 13 Senate seats, 69 House seats, 913 state legislative seats, 11 governorships and 32 state legislative chambers, according to data compiled by University of Virginia professor Larry J. Sabato. Most of those seats were lost due to gerrymandering.
We will be following President Obama's lead, and will look to coordinate with his committee. According to White House political director David Simas, “Where [President Obama] will be most politically engaged will be at the state legislative level, with an eye on redistricting after 2020.”
We believe that every state race can be a potential target. No seat is unimportant. No race is too small. We look for close races that need a push to tip state legislatures blue. We will also prioritize gubernatorial races, since governors can veto redistricting legislation brought by their legislatures (more on redistricting below). We will use data analytics to identify optimal campaigns to support.
Donald Trump is right about one thing: the system is rigged. But it's rigged in favor of the Republican Party.
Utimately, our goal is to regain control of state legislatures and root out gerrymandering, which is the greatest structural hurdle that Democrats face. Many people see elections as the clashing of two political philosophies. In truth, Democrats are fighting on two fronts:
1) against an opposing political ideology and
2) against procedural safeguards that Republicans put in place by redrawing districts around the United States.
Both must be beaten.
Republicans have complete control over 32 of our 50 state legislatures. In 2010, they had complete control over 14. They are using their unilateral power in these states to draw partisan districts and further entrench themselves.
Watch this video about gerrymandering:
Here's some of the nomenclature used by gerrymanderers:
- Politicians can "pack" certain communities into a single district
- "bleach" out minorities
- "crack" troublesome voting blocks between different districts,
- "kidnap" a troublesome representative by putting his or her house in a separate district from his or her former constituents, or
- "hijack" a district by redrawing the lines to pit two incumbents from the same party against each other.
Through this process, Republicans not only keep control of more state legislative seats, but also control Congressional seats, since states draw their own Congressional districts. That means that state legislative gerrymandering leads to Republican control at both the federal and state level. And until we're willing to confront this issue head-on, we will continue to lose elections.
In Michigan, Republicans consistently win majorities in both houses, despite the fact that Democrats consistently win the popular vote. It is undemocratic.
In case you're curious, the Supreme Court has not set any standard for partisan gerrymandering and what it takes to determine that a given district is drawn unconstitutionally. Former Supreme Court Justice Stevens has long argued that some kind of standard — based, to begin with, on the principles of compactness and contiguity — is possible. Upon retiring, and in reference to limiting partisan gerrymandering, he said, "This is one of my major disappointments in my entire career: that I was so totally unsuccessful in persuading the Court on something so obviously correct," Stevens said.
End Party Polarization
Not only does gerrymandering keep Republicans in control, but it also further polarizes our country. Since representatives in gerrymandered districts need not cater to the interests of minority-party Democrats in their districts, Tea Party extremists with districts drawn to avoid serious Democratic opposition have little incentive to compromise. This has helped precipitate the Republican Party's race-to-the-right.
As President Obama stated during an interview with NPR, “I think political gerrymandering has resulted in a situation in which — with 80 percent Democratic districts or 80 percent Republican districts and no competition, that that leads to more and more polarization in Congress, and it gets harder and harder to get things done.” Republican dominance at the state and federal level, along with right-wing unwillingness to compromise, can all be traced back to the proliferation of gerrymandering.
The next redistricting will occur in 2021, after the 2020 census. Since Democrats have much higher turnout during Presidential election years, 2020 is a make-or-break year for the Democratic Party.
That means that we have less than four years to turn every state legislature and governorship blue. We need you. Like, now.