Former President Barack Obama is reportedly turning his entire political focus to redistricting, while claiming to battle gerrymandering. Which is just another way to say he is looking to maximize the voter clout of an urbanized Democratic Party.
The Atlantic reports that Obama has “announced a major shift in the politics of his post-presidency,” consolidating his Organizing for Action group into the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Why this is considered major news is unclear. It seems he’s just changing the subject head for his financed efforts dedicated to bringing about Democratic election supremacy.
Drawing electoral districts for biased political gain has been a hallmark of both political parties for as long as this nation has been holding elections. When especially egregious, it is called gerrymandering. Democrats have been recently taken to task for a particularly clumsy attempt in New Jersey, yet Obama is apparently ready to take a stand against this type of politically motivated line-drawing – by engaging in some redistricting of his own.
When it is especially egregious it is called gerrymandering.
In fact, the left-leaning website ProPublica writes that Obama’s entire political career may have been launched via gerrymandering. After losing a race in 1999, Obama successfully redrew an Illinois state senate district to fit his desired specifications for a 2001 run.
The site quotes Obama telling The Hyde Park Herald of the effort in 2001, “[t]he system of redistricting in the U.S. tends to allow representatives to choose people instead of people choosing representatives. It’s just politics.”
No wonder the issue remains dear to his heart today.
“People want commonsense gun-safety laws; Congress ignores it. People want compressive immigration reform; Congress ignores it,” Obama told supporters on Dec. 20, The Atlantic reports. “The single most important thing that could be done at the grassroots level over the next few years is to make sure the rules of the road are fair. If we do that, I think we’ll do the right thing.”
Translation: Democratic voters want to pass certain leftist legislation. But we are all bunched up in urban areas and have no appeal to real Americans in the heartland. Thus we have to redraw electoral districts to our specifications.
Real Problem Festers
Obama is, of course, an excellent spokesman for this strategy because he can lecture America once again on its inherent racism and use the purported lack of proper voting power for urban areas inhabited by large numbers of minorities as a sad example of tired, outdated prejudice… or whatever.
In reality, the problem for Democrats is not redistricting. It is that their appeal as a party lies mostly with a very narrowly concentrated population demographics of the nation as a whole: urban voters. They may get more popular votes in statewide and national elections but win fewer congressional seats, or the presidency, because of this demographic reality.
In a 2012 article for The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg explained the situation historically:
“For one party to win a majority of House seats with a minority of votes is a relatively rare occurrence. It has now happened five times in the past hundred years. In 1914 and 1942, the Democrats were the beneficiaries. In 1952, 1996, and , it was the Republicans’ turn to get lucky, and their luck is likely to hold for many election cycles to come. Gerrymandering routinely gets blamed for such mismatches, but that’s only part of the story. Far more important than redistricting is just plain districting: because so many Democrats are city folk, large numbers of Democratic votes pile up redundantly in overwhelmingly one-sided districts. Even having district lines drawn by neutral commissions instead of by self-serving politicians wouldn’t do much to alter this built-in structural bias.”
This is a power politics move on Obama’s part and may have some success in certain locales, but overall it still fails to address the main Democratic problem. Instead of making coordinated efforts to find common ground with working and middle-class Americans who reside outside the cities, Obama is trying to find a way for Democrats to win by remaining in their rigid ideological box. No matter how it plays out in future elections, Obama is showing once again by abandoning rural America in his political calculations what he truly excels at: dividing the nation.