Required reading: End of the Solid South

Bob Moser at American Prospect has an interesting analysis of the Republican prospects in the South - and how the party faces a ticking demographic timebomb.

Some highlights...

Gerrymandering:

In a bad year for Democrats nationwide, it was a disaster in the South. Two years after North Carolina voted for Obama, both chambers of the general assembly went Republican for the first time in 120 years. In Florida, the Tea Party launched Marco Rubio into the U.S. Senate. The year before, in Virginia’s off-year elections, right-wing Republicans had been elected governor and attorney general. Republicans now controlled all but four legislative chambers in the region.

With those statehouse majorities, the GOP had won the larger prize it sought: control of legislative and congressional redistricting. The party redrew the maps with gusto, giving it favorable districts for the next decade. The trick is watering down the impact of minority voters by moving them from competitive districts into those that are already minority-held. That way, the blacker and browner districts get blacker and browner, and 60 percent Democratic districts become 70 percent Democratic. The white districts, in turn, get whiter—and more Republican. In North Carolina, which ended up with the South’s most egregiously misshapen map, half of the state’s black population of 2.2 million was drawn into one-fifth of its legislative and congressional districts.

Minorities:

Once Latinos begin to vote in proportion to their population, the change that they will bring to Southern (and American) politics won’t be limited to a shift in party loyalties. It will be manifested in a new progressivism as well.

Republicans like to talk about how Latinos are “hardworking, religious, family-oriented,” as if those qualities automatically made people conservative. In fact, an exit poll from 2012 showed the opposite: Latino voters are not only more liberal than Republicans; they’re sometimes more liberal than Democrats. On same-sex marriage, 59 percent said yes, against 48 percent of all voters. Should abortion be legal? Sixty-six percent said yes, against 59 percent overall. On economic issues, Latinos’ liberalism tends to be even more pronounced (the same is true for African Americans). Fifty-five percent said last year that they have a negative view of capitalism. They want more spending on public schools. They want universal, public-run health care. They want government to take a strong hand in the economy. Taxes? Raise them, if it means better social services. The same goes for every part of the South’s emerging majority—African Americans, Asian Americans, and under-30 whites who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Prospects for the Republicans:

In the South’s new battlegrounds, 2020 shapes up as a pivotal year. If Democrats have gathered enough strength by then to send majorities to Richmond, Raleigh, Atlanta, Tallahassee, and/or Austin, they can tear up the Republican maps from 2011 and make it dauntingly difficult for the GOP to regain its majorities. That’s likeliest to happen in Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina; Democratic majorities could take longer in Texas and Georgia, where Republicans are more deeply entrenched.

But the politics of the big Southern states are all betwixt and between, as natives like to say. If Republicans can find a way to hold on to their majorities through 2020, they will stay competitive, on the state level at least, for another decade. Ultimately, they won’t be able to keep winning unless they can convince Latinos and African Americans to vote Republican.

Comments

Gerrymandering

Extreme gerrymandering is one of the top moral issues of our time.

Republicans complain that Democrats did it too. Let's say they're right (which they are). Next let's say that the degree of extremism isn't important (which it isn't). Any kind of gerrymandering fundamentally undermines democracy by making some votes more important than other.

There's one flavor of gerrymandering - bad. And right now, Democrats are eating it.

The big question is how long Republicans will want to exact retribution. As long as they can? Eight years? Four years? Why not stop now?

If non-partisan redistricting is a good idea tomorrow, it's a better idea today.

The discussion currently on the table in the General Assembly favors enduring retribution. That means they value revenge more than integrity. No honest person thinks gerrymandering is moral position to take.

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“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
― Joe Biden

Gerrymandering as marking time

One of the main points the author makes in the piece is that the Republican's strong push for gerrymandering is just a short-term strategic move - the trends are against them and they know it, so throwing districts into upheaval is the only way they can maintain power, at least for now.

In order to make a Republican majority viable longer term, they have to combine that strategy with minority voter suppression, passing laws to attract more Tea Bagger-leaning Republicans to the state, and strengthening the numbers and turnout from primarily white evangelical churches through mis-use of laws governing non-profits and political activity. In addition, they're hoping to "turn off" moderate voters, planting seeds in their mind that voting in NC is corrupt and their vote wouldn't matter anyway.

When you think about it, it's a rather precarious little house of cards that Pope and Company are building there.