As midterm primary elections begin in earnest next month, today on The BradCast, we catch up with the latest successful attempts by GOP states to undermine their constituents' wishes through new, partisan gerrymanders following the 2020 Census and the Courts which are helping them do so. In the meantime, a Democratic-leaning court in New York today did the opposite, blocking a Dems from gerrymandering in the Empire State. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
Before we're joined by our guest to discuss all of that and more today, just a quick kudos to Rebecca Beitsch at The Hill for coming up with a new euphemism --- or, at least, one we haven't seen used yet by the rest of the corporate media --- to report on new evidence documenting the failed Trump/GOP attempt to steal the 2020 Presidential election. It's getting more difficult by the day to do so without using the correct word, "steal", when doing so. Sure, anyone can describe the GOP's attempt to "undermine" or "overturn" or "question the results". But that gets stale after a while. So, congrats to Beitsch for reporting on their attempt to "UNWIND the 2020 election", just to freshen things up! <insert eyeroll emoji here>
Then, we're joined today by redistricting expert and author DAVID DALEY, Senior Fellow at FairVote, to get caught up on a whole bunch of recent court rulings (and outrages) from over the past week or three when it comes to the last minute efforts --- largely by Republican-controlled states --- to game the 2022 midterms (and elections for the next ten years), with outrageously partisan gerrymandering of U.S. House maps.
Daley walks us through a number of such cases, including in several states where, over the past decade, large majorities of voters have adopted ballot initiatives to prevent the very gerrymandering that Republicans appear to be getting away with, nonetheless, in their newly redistricted maps.
In Ohio, the GOP-majority Redistricting Commission has had its new maps rejected four different times in recent weeks by the state's Supreme Court, with the help of its Republican Chief Justice. Despite being ordered by the court to follow the state's Constitution --- which now requires districts that generally reflect the partisan balance of the closely divided, if GOP-leaning state --- Republican Commissioners (which include state Gov. Mike DeWine, whose son sits on the state Supreme Court but refuses to recuse) aren't even trying anymore. With primaries scheduled for next month in the Buckeye State, the Commission is "just not meeting" anymore at all, says Daley. "They're trying to run out the clock so the federal court imposes one of the unconstitutional maps that has already been rejected by Ohio's state Supreme Court."
The state's previous gerrymandered map gave the GOP a 12 to 4 advantage in U.S. House districts. The new ones, repeatedly rejected by the state court, would give them a 13 to 2 advantage, despite the roughly 53-45% partisan split in the 2020 Presidential election and a 2015 mandate from more than 70% of voters rewriting the state Constitution to ensure new maps reflect the statewide partisan makeup.
In Florida, where voters also voted for redistricting reform, things are even more obnoxious and anti-democratic. The GOP-controlled legislature produced a map giving Republicans a 16 to 12 advantage, but it was rejected by Governor and Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis for his own hand-drawn map that is likely to result in 20 Republican House seats and just 8 Democratic ones. State Republicans "already produced a pretty good Republican gerrymander," Daley explains, "and DeSantis said, 'Wait a second, I can do even better than that.'" With the state's high court packed with his own appointees, Daley warns, "that is not a Supreme Court that we should look to for any sort of help when it comes to fair maps."
Back in 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that federal courts may play no role in preventing partisan redistricting, leaving the matter the chaos of each individual state court to decide. But on the matter of racial gerrymandering, SCOTUS is still happy to tell states what they can and can't do, even when the High Court's own rulings disagree with each other.
Daley explains how SCOTUS jumped in, back in February, months before the primaries, to block a new black-majority district ordered in Alabama by a lower federal court under the Voting Rights Act because. The Supremes, on the stolen and packed Court, determined it was just too soon before the primary election to draw up a new map. But late last month, after the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved a new state legislative map drawn by the state's Democratic Governor, SCOTUS ordered the state to rewrite the map, just weeks before the primaries, to remove a new black legislative district created in Milwaukee.
"The US Supreme Court has been eager this cycle to help Republicans and to put their foot on the scale against Democrats," Daley charges, describing their rulings as "Heads I win, tails you lose. They're not even pretending anymore."
And then we get to New York, where it was Democrats' turn to face the music for gerrymandering the state's U.S. House map to add three new likely Democratic U.S. House seats. Today, mid-show, NY's high court blocked the map (appropriately, as Daley sees it), ordering a court-appointed Special Master to draw up new maps in time for this year's primary (which the court also postponed until August to allow time to create the new maps.)
Last week, Daley, a longtime proponent of fair maps in all fifty states, wrote at CNN about what he saw as the "indefensible" map drawn up by NY Dems, describing it as "among the most obscene partisan gerrymanders nationwide." NY courts clearly agreed, but even Daley's own opinion article seemed to make the case for what Democrats tried --- but failed --- to do.
"If blue state courts roll back Democratic gerrymanders, but red state judges rule as partisan ideologues, a pro-GOP bias will be baked into the national map for another decade," he wrote. "A maximally gerrymandered national congressional map is...bad in nearly every way except, perhaps, compared with the previous decade's map, rigged so Republicans held control in 2012 even when they won 1.4 million fewer votes."
As regular listeners and readers know, over the past year I've (regrettably) changed my position on partisan gerrymandering, given the gaming of the system by Republicans which has succeeded in endangering America's small-'d' democratic project entirely. Short of federal legislation to ban partisan redistricting everywhere (an effort by Dems that was blocked by all Senate Republicans last year), I've been calling on states controlled by Democrats to gerrymander wherever possible. I hate that position. It's bad for many voters in the states but, ultimately, important for something resembling democracy on the national level at a time when democracy is facing a serious challenge from the forces of authoritarianism.
But Daley disagrees with. At least in as much as he has argued that such an effort could never be successful. "A national map that has been rigged for one side to win is extraordinarily dangerous, especially when one party has completely broken faith with democracy," he tells me as we debate this point again today. "Gerrymandering the hell out of Illinois and New York doesn't save democracy. It doesn't give Democrats that much of a leg up on fixing this. It is a band-aid, when what you need is a tourniquet. It's not sufficient. By all means, go ahead and put a band-aid on, but don't think it's going to stop the bleeding."
"I'm calling for a national standard that fixes the problem in New York as well as in Texas," he argues (as do I). "Because there are not enough New Yorks to balance out the Texases and Floridas. Democrats can gerrymander the hell out of these states if they want, but it's not going to help them. What they need to do is fix the overall structural problem, or it's only going to get worse."
Prepare for it to get worse...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)