by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One of the responses I have had to my writing about Roe is that returning the issue to the democratic process is somehow unfair because of gerrymandering. This is one of those arguments that sounds like it should be a 1980s high-school comedy: Dumb But Popular.
Gerrymandering is a thing. Always has been. Redistricting is the most political thing a legislature does. There is gerrymandering in Republican states, and gerrymandering in Democratic states, and Democrats never gave a hoot about the issue until Republicans figured out how to do it — seriously, the Democratic argument about gerrymandering is that everybody does it but Republicans are too good at it. It’s idiotic and dishonest, but, there it is.
Here’s the thing that every politician in state government in every state knows: Gerrymandering won’t save you.
In the early 1990s, Texas Democrats had benefited from 125 years of gerrymandering, and they also enjoyed almost complete control of the press and the major state institutions. What happened? They got killed in a series of brutal elections. And Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994. Between Reconstruction and the election of George W. Bush, Texas had one Republican governor — and it hasn’t had a Democratic governor since the 1990s. In 1994, Democrats controlled the governorship and both houses of the legislature. Now, it would be a shock if they controlled one of those. Gerrymandering can confer some advantages, but it won’t save you from a changing electorate.
Flip side: Across the country, people in Montgomery County, Pa., used to joke that you couldn’t get the water turned on at your house unless you were registered as a Republican. The local Republican Party was literally the model party, lauded as such by Richard Nixon. … Montgomery was still Republican territory into the 21st century. Today, it’s solidly Democratic. …
… “Oh, no! Gerrymandering!” is how Democrats say, “We’re afraid of democracy.”