Why Liberals Cling to the Gerrymandering Myth

Posted: Sep 09, 2014 8:00 PM

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum doesn't get why so many liberals insist on believing that gerrymandering is to blame for the Democrats' inability to win back the House.

"Gerrymandering is what it is," Drum writes, "The best studies I've seen suggest that it accounts for 6-8 additional Republican seats. The rest of the Republican advantage is due to the incumbency effect; self-sorting; natural Democratic clumping in urban areas; and a few other minor things."

"So: Is gerrymandering responsible for Republican control of the House?" Drum asks, "No. Is it partially responsible? Yes. What's so hard about this?"

What is so hard about this, is that the entire post-2010 Obama presidency is based upon delegitimizing Congress so Obama is empowered to expand executive power.

As Andrew Prokop details today, and others have detailed before, Obama has abused his executive powers in almost every area of government, from education, to war, to health care to immigration. "I think Democrats are going to rue the day they did not push back against Obama on these things," Mitchel Sollenberger, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, tells Prokop.

So how does Obama justify his unprecedented executive lawlessness? 

"If Congress won't act, I will," Obama has been saying repeatedly since Republicans took over the House in 2010. 

Of course, Obama is by no means the the first president to face a Congress where at least one chamber was controlled by the other party. But he is the first president to use that as an excuse to stop dealing with Congress altogether.

Crisis on the border? Obama doesn't even bother to tell Congress what legislative changes he wants

Crisis in Iraq? Zero chance Obama will seek congressional authorization for military action

Obama wants to rule by executive fiat and convincing his core supporters that Republicans only control the House because of gerrymandering makes his unilateral actions seem more justified.

That is why you see Democratic outlets like Think Progress and Slate constantly making the case that, but for gerrymandering, Democrats would control the House and Senate. But as The New York Times Nate Cohn explains, that is just not true. Even if we did somehow manage to get rid of gerrymandering, done by both Democrats and Republicans, it would actually end up helping Republicans. Cohn writes:

The partisan-blind criteria that mapmakers consider all tend to help Republicans: Following jurisdictional lines locks Democrats into cities; communities of interest tend to encourage demographically homogeneous districts; the Voting Rights Act can compel the creation or bar the dissolution of minority-majority districts; and bipartisan commissions almost always protect incumbents, who today tend to be Republican.

So by all means, let's end political gerrymandering. It may not help Democrats take control of the House, but at least Obama would have one less excuse for pretending to be king.