Gerrymandering occurs when the majority party in state legislatures or commissions redraw the boundaries of their Congressional districts every ten years so that the minority party is disadvantaged. The translation of a gerrymandered advantage into legislative advantage occurs when one party can consistently win more seats with a smaller percentage of vote. So far, court challenges to the practice of gerrymandering have been unsuccessful, perhaps because those who brought suits tried to prove that the defendants intended to disadvantage their party. Recently, litigants are trying a new approach: trying to prove that gerrymandered redistricting plans do not treat all parties equally. If the courts accept this new argument, then the disadvantage Democrats face due to Republican gerrymandering may be erased.
Besides gerrymandering, Republicans have an advantage because the U.S. electoral system is based on geography. As an example, states have two Senators regardless of their population. Thus, Wyoming’s 2 Senators represent fewer than 200, 000 residents while California’s Senators represent 37 million residents. This disproportional design gives Wyoming more than 3.6 times the voting power of California. And, for cultural, historic, and racial reasons, some states, like Utah and Alabama are more Republican than states on the coasts like California and New York. Democrats, who are clustered in states along the east and west coasts of the country, are disadvantaged. Within states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin Democrats, outside of metropolitan areas, Democrats are underrepresented. As a result, unless Democrats win more votes outside of the metropolitan areas, then Presidential candidates will be unable to win elections.
While there is a legal fix for the disadvantage Democrats suffer from gerrymandering, there is no legal fix for the disadvantage Democrats have who are clustered in urban areas. The social fix for clustering is for Democrats to homestead those states and districts in which Democrats are underrepresented. Certainly not all Republican states and districts will be attractive to Democrats, but there are some factors that can entice Dems moving to some of these Republican strongholds. First, some states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio have excellent colleges and universities. Young Democrats who are preparing for college can certainly consider these and other states. Second, some states such as Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, and Arizona not only have good weather, but they also provide tax advantages that can be quite attractive to retirees. Third, suburban areas can provide advantages such as more affordable housing and recreational settings. At the same time many of the disadvantages previously associated with the suburbs are being improved. Long commutes are being made more tolerable by more companies moving to the suburbs and work from home arrangements being used by more companies. Limited shopping and dining venues previously associated with the suburbs are also being ameliorated as demand for these services increase.
In the final analysis, each of us must answer how much each of us want to be a part of the solution to the political problem of clustering. Without a solution, Democrats will continue to be plagued by clustering.