I debated whether this really needed its own thread but I didn’t want to pollute the Senate thread with discussion of the “lower chamber.” I’d like to use this thread to discuss anything related to the decennial House redistricting, specific races and/or general discussion about which party will come out on top in the chamber.
And in that vein, Texas Republicans have released their initial maps for redistricting. Texas picked up two additional House seats in reapportionment, and the initial maps would likely strengthen the GOP’s already sizable majority in the Congressional delegation from 23-13 to 25-13. It looks like Republicans prioritized shoring up incumbents whose districts had been drifting left rather than trying to make a big play for carving out more R seats (although they may already realistically be at the limit of what gerrymandering can accomplish). The new map also eliminates one Hispanic majority district and the state’s only Black majority district, and is sure to be the subject of multiple lawsuits before all is said and done.
Dave Wasserman just tweeted that the feared gerrymandering that would of itself allowed for a GOP takeover of the House isn’t really shaping up as such.
His reasoning is that (a) Republicans have already come close to maxing out from previous districting efforts and (b) that population gains in increasingly blue suburban areas are further constraining their efforts to draw up districts that will remain favorable for a decade. If a red-leaning district is drawn too close to an urban area, it’s very likely to flip if current trends continue.
Wasserman contests that the bigger problem for Dems in '22 is Biden’s dip in approval.
I forgot to mention that Dems are also getting more aggressively partisan in their own efforts. New York may eliminate a seat or two and Oregon has just engineered a 5-1 advantage. My own state of Maryland has the political power to draw up an 8-0 configuration (currently 7-1) if it wants to.
One of the GOP’S biggest fears is losing majority control of the districting process. It’s hard enough to overcome even with a statewide majority of voters – see Wisconsin and North Carolina – but it’s even worse with a statewide minority.
FiveThirtyEight has an article up about the Texas map, and makes the same point – Republicans who realistically have reached the limits of seats they can capture through gerrymandering prioritized entrenching incumbents. Currently, 11 Texas districts held by Republicans have a partisan lean of less than R+20. Under these new maps, only one GOP seat would be less than R+20. To do so they shored up some Democratic seats by making them even more Democratic. There is only one seat (out of 38) that would be competitive.
While this may mean that very few seats will switch between parties (at least in the short term), it also means that an incumbent’s biggest vulnerability will be in his or her primary. This is a recipe for driving Representatives more and more to the extremes to avoid a primary challenge from their flank. This does not bode well for our democracy.
Gerrymandering is an abomination and I’ve enjoyed immensely the threads we’ve had discussing systemic changes we should be considering to improve the nation’s representative democracy. But this is the 2022 horse race thread and we have to talk about it with the abominable system currently in place.
So I appreciate this thread. Republicans taking over one or both houses of Congress would be a disaster for the country.
Last night, the Texas Legislature adopted the final Congressional map with some small modifications. The new map likely cements a 25-13 Republican-Democrat advantage in Texas Congressional seats well into the next decade, with only one or two seats being potentially competitive for the other party. They also created no new minority opportunity districts, despite Hispanics accounting for most of the growth in Texas since 2010.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has already sued over the map. If the last Texas redistricting is any guide, the Congressional map will be subject to judicial tinkering for years to come but it unlikely to change substantially. With no strong Democratic challengers to Abbott, Patrick or other statewide Republican officeholders having emerged, I expect 2022 to be once again confirm Republican hegemony in Texas.
Some good news from Ohio today – the state’s Supreme Court rejected the Republican-drawn congressional map that would have gerrymandered 11 Republican district to 2 Democratic districts (with two toss-ups). Ohio voters had adopted a constitutional amendment to require that redistricting create partisan-leaning districts in proportion to the state’s overall partisan lean (which is red but not 11-2 red). The state’s Republican Chief Justice joined with the Democratic justices in the ruling.
Previously, the decennial redistricting had been a bit of a surprising success story for Democrats and a source of some hope for avoiding or limiting a red wave in the midterms. Republicans in Texas and (initially) Florida chose to shore up incumbents rather than aggressively gerrymander additional Republican-leaning seats, while Democrats in Illinois and New York worked hard to carve out more Democratic-leaning seats. Now it looks like more of a wash, and with Biden’s approval rating verging on Trump’s at this point in their respective Presidencies, a big Republican pickup is likely.