Tag Archives: Cook Political Report

A Problem? Or A Solution?

A columnist from Yahoo News has pinpointed what he describes as a “big problem” for Democrats. My reaction to the headline was along the lines of, “so what else is new”…every time I turn to an opinion page, someone is outlining yet another reason that Democrats are headed down the toilet, and taking the country with them.

When I read the essay, however, I was struck by the irony. Here’s the basic argument:

New Census data analyzed by the American Enterprise Institute shows that eight of the 10 states losing the most residents from April 2020 through June 2021 have Democratic leadership, while nine of the 10 states gaining the most new residents have Republican governors. The numbers measure net domestic migration, which is the net change in the number of people moving in or out of one state, from or to another. That isolates people choosing to move, whereas population growth alone would also include births and deaths….

This is a big problem, according to the author, because…

Population determines the size of each state’s delegation in the House of Representatives, and red states are gaining while blue states are losing. Following the 2020 Census, three seats moved from blue states that went for Biden in 2020, on net, to red states that voted for Trump. That shift might seem small, except Democrats have only a five-seat majority in the House now. The next reapportionment won’t take place until after the 2030 census, but it could bring an even bigger tilt in favor of Republicans.

Or not.

What if the people moving from blue to red states are mostly moderates or liberals? (Granted, there’s no way to estimate their politics). Isn’t it possible that an influx of more moderate and/or liberal folks will change the social dynamics of their new environments? I still remember an article urging Democrats to move to places where their votes might make a difference, rather than staying in deep-blue states like New York or California where they simply add to already massive Democratic majorities.)

One might also point out that the addition of a sufficient number of non-Rightwing voters to the electorate of a red state makes it harder for the Republicans of that state to gerrymander districts. We are seeing a related phenomenon in Indiana–where the emptying-out of rural areas has complicated GOP line-drawing–and the problem isn’t limited to the Hoosier state.

If you can believe some good news on the gerrymandering front, Greg Sargent recently delivered some via the Washington Post.

The long-awaited, long-feared Gerrymandering Apocalypse of 2021 has not materialized for Democrats after all.

Throughout last year, many analysts and panicked Democrats alike concluded that Republicans would win the House in 2022 because of their outsize control over the redrawing of district lines. Some suggested Republicans could take the House on the strength of extreme gerrymanders alone.

But that conventional wisdom just took a big hit with the release of a new analysis by the Cook Political Report. It concludes that the redistricting wars are shaping up as a wash and that the map may be somewhat better for Democrats than during the past decade.

The analysis confirms that Republicans will still retain a significant edge, thanks to their redistricting shenanigans, but that edge will be somewhat less than before.

Why is that? What restrained them? (Hint: it wasn’t a sudden attack of ethics.)

This time around, Republicans have had to shore up their safe seats, and the need to do so has limited their ability to gerrymander as aggressively as they otherwise would have done. (Also, to be fair, in Democratic states, the Democrats gerrymandered too.)

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Report is quoted as explaining that there are several places where  demographic shifts benefit Democrats, particularly in suburban areas, forcing  Republicans to “play keepaway. A number of their own districts have become more vulnerable over the past 10 years. They’ve had no choice but to focus on shoring those districts up.”

Demographic shifts are the result of more moderate and liberal people moving in, as well as the changing voting patterns of sane people already living there. Those voters are steadily leaving the GOP, recoiling from the Republicans'”out-and-proud” racism, vaccine denial, and other cult-like behaviors.

The bad news, of course, is that when the GOP’s already-safe seats are “shored up,”  Republicans representing those deep-red districts have an increased incentive to go full MAGA. We aren’t likely to see fewer members of what has been dubbed “the lunatic caucus.”

Bottom line: It’s always more complicated than the pundits want to make it–but there are more rational Americans than MAGA crazies, so turnout is still the name of the game.



The Problem With Labels

I’ve written previously about the problem labels present for political discourse. Rather than a means of communication–labels are used to insult, to foreclose communication.

When I was younger, the insult was “liberal,” and when that lost its potency, the Right  substituted “socialist.”

You can make a pretty convincing argument that people throwing these terms around are utterly unable to define them. (When Putin asserted that western liberalism had outlived its usefulness Trump’s embarrassing response disclosed he hasn’t the foggiest notion what western liberalism is.)

Paul Krugman addressed the intentional misuse of economic terminology in a recent column

The Democratic Party has clearly moved left in recent years, but none of the presidential candidates are anything close to being actual socialists — no, not even Bernie Sanders, whose embrace of the label is really more about branding (“I’m anti-establishment!”) than substance.

Nobody in these debates wants government ownership of the means of production, which is what socialism used to mean. Most of the candidates are, instead, what Europeans would call “social democrats”: advocates of a private-sector-driven economy, but with a stronger social safety net, enhanced bargaining power for workers and tighter regulation of corporate malfeasance. They want America to be more like Denmark, not more like Venezuela.

Of course, reality won’t keep the GOP from using the term to frighten their base (most of whom couldn’t define socialism if their lives depended on it), and assorted pundits are agonizing over the effectiveness of this strategy in columns with titles like “Are Democrats Moving Too Far To The Left?”

The belief that there is electoral danger in policies that are too “left,” however, rests on what may be a faulty premise: that the 2020 election will be a contest between Left and Right. An interview conducted for the Atlantic with Dave Wasserman, an editor for the Cook Report suggests otherwise.

Wasserman agreed that more extreme positions would be unwise– a platform of completely open borders or the immediate abolition of private health insurance. As he said, there are, of course, limits. But he sees the political battleground as essentially cultural, not ideological.

A few of his observations:

Generally, the tiny sliver of voters in this country who are still persuadable are not highly ideological people. They are fundamentally anti-élite in nature, and they are looking for three characteristics in a candidate for President that don’t have much to do with left-versus-right. And those characteristics are authenticity, being a credible agent for change, and empathy. In other words, does this person understand my daily struggles? And a common thread between Obama and Trump was a common touch.

It’s all relative, but, whether it was having been a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago or a billionaire who ate K.F.C. and went to professional wrestling matches, it struck a chord with those voters….

At this point in 2015, there was a widespread notion that the Republican candidate who wanted to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it was unelectable in a general election. That proved to be false. And we should be careful about making broad pronouncements about platform positions such as Medicare for All or an overhaul of ICE….

Wasserman noted that the bar is much higher for Democrats, thanks to the Electoral College, but he dismissed conventional wisdom about needing to appeal to “moderates” as a result.

I believe too much of the media in Washington, D.C., is viewing candidates’ chances against Trump through a left-versus-right spectrum, or a sliding scale, in which if they nominate Biden they can win middle America, but if they nominate someone too far left they will risk alienating those voters. I don’t view it that way. The reason that, in my opinion, Biden is vulnerable—perhaps more vulnerable than other Democrats in the race [against] Trump—is that I have watched congressional races for the last twelve years, and, over and over again, I have seen candidates with long paper trails and voting records get picked apart for every comment they made twenty or thirty years ago. And that’s what is happening at the moment.

Wasserman dismisses the hope that disillusioned Trump voters will desert him; he says they have become “culturally loyal” to Trump. And he points out that those voters are likelier to live in places where local news is declining—making them more susceptible to aggressive social-media propaganda campaigns.

And he clearly expects the “aggressive” use of social media, like the one Fox employs on Facebook.

The entire interview is worth reading.