I have not yet heard an honest explanation of how Republicans grabbed control of Congress on Election Day: by 23 years of ruthless and racist gerrymandering.
Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 185,000 votes in Virginia — 50 percent of the vote to 45 — but Virginia Republicans won seven seats in Congress to the Democrats’ four. In Pennsylvania, Trump beat Clinton by one percentage point — 49 percent to 48. Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation? Thirteen Republicans and five Democrats.
Trump beat Clinton by 4 percentage points in North Carolina, 51 to 47. Republicans in that state will send 10 congressional representatives to the U.S. House, to the Democrats’ three.
In Colorado, Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by 3 percentage points, but Colorado will have four Republican congressmen in the House for the next two years, to the Democrats’ three.
And in Georgia, Trump’s 5 percent lead over Clinton translated into a 10 to 4 Republican lead in the U.S. House.
Republicans began stealing in Congress in 2003, when then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay helped Texas Governor Rick Perry push through an off-year gerrymander.
Redistricting until then had been done every decade, after a census, but DeLay and Perry saw nothing to stop them, so they targeted congressional districts held by white Democrats. They managed to turn Texas’s congressional delegation Republican for the first time since Reconstruction, from a 15-to-17 disadvantage in 2002 to a 21-to-11 advantage in 2004.
DeLay and Perry left alone the seven congressional seats occupied by nonwhite Democrats, as if to say: “You can have those people.”
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn summed it up in 2006: “He [DeLay] saw an opportunity to help the Republicans stay in power in Washington.”
He sure did.
He gerrymandered the famous Fajita Strip, to cram as many Latinos as possible into one Democratic district, 440 miles long and as narrow as 5 miles wide, from Austin to McAllen. This allowed him to create two congressional districts for white Republicans.
Now, gerrymandering is an old, ignoble tradition in U.S. politics, ever since Elbridge Gerry pulled it off in Massachusetts 1812 for — get this — the Democratic-Republican Party.
DeLay’s innovations were to redistrict whenever he wanted, for nakedly racist, partisan reasons. And get statehouses across the country to follow.
It worked for congressional Republicans this year in Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia and other states, and it’s working for them in state houses nationwide.
I do not believe that the Constitution or our best traditions dictate that U.S. politics should be organized for the benefit of a single party. But it is today.
Democrats share the blame for this, for being cowards. When’s the last time you saw a Democrat other than Bernie Sanders try to organize a national coalition to fight against anything?
Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act 50 times, and what did the Democrats do? Nothing.
Every time the Republicans introduce a repeal bill, Democrats should do the same. The ridiculous law that prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices with Big Pharma would be a good place to start.
When Republicans do it again, so should the Democrats. All sorts of onerous laws on women’s health care are just waiting to be repealed.
Fear works, Democrats. You must wield it against the other party, to keep them from wielding it against the country. It may not be noble, it may not be what the Founding Fathers wanted, but it’s all that works today. Look at the election returns.
Subscribe to our columns
Want new op-eds sent directly to your inbox? Subscribe below!