Yesterday, the Census Bureau released information about the 2020 census, designed to enable states to start the process of drawing new lines for their congressional districts, a process known as redistricting. Because of that very limited intent for this particular information dump, the picture the material gives is a very specific one. The specificity of that information echoes the political history that in the 1920s began to skew our Congress to give rural white voters disproportionate power. It also reinforces a vision of America divided by race: precisely the vision that former president Trump and his supporters want Americans to believe.
I’m white(ish) and don’t want to be ruled by a small, white, rural and mostly male minority.
So if you want to see a change in redistricting policies away from gerrymandering, cracking, and stuffing--which all go on all the time despite laws against these practices--the only way to do so is to vote the people who engage in such activity out of office. That means your state legislators. Those of us living in urban areas in rural-focused states also have the added fun of being un-voiced because our Dem representatives are a minority in Rethuglican-dominated legislatures. We are forced to rely on the "kindness of strangers" to change that and it is likely not going to go well because, y'know, that racism thing.
Places like TX, where if the population that doesn't usually vote were to do so, have a chance to make that change. Change always has to happen from the bottom. Then we have to go after the limitations of congressional representation, which skews the Electoral College to those tiny-population states and will always do so unless we get fair representation.
Part three of what should be (IMO) the agenda: once there are enough people committed to democracy at the foundations of our political community, then we have to get statehood for DC, Puerto Rico, and all the other territories that make up our imperial holdings: either they become states or we let them go. The continued domination of small islands throughout the globe for the purposes of tax sheltering and exploitation is a crime. The continued disenfranchisement of people living in Washington, DC is a crime.
We know that the Ghastly Obstructionists and their fascist agenda will resist all of these steps. That is why it has to start at the bottom: on the local level. And that is also why this is a long process, one that cannot be accomplished in a few short years.
This census could be among the least accurate in the modern era, thanks to Covid, unauthorized immigrants laying low, and the Trump administration's political meddling. Speaking of meddling, the NYT this week disclosed how Trump's most serious machinations failed thanks to key Census Bureau staffers fighting back. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/12/sunday-review/census-redistricting-trump-immigrants.html
Today, I received notice of payment, after my first year, of my subscription to your truly wonderful articles, HCR. What an extraordinary year to have been in your company and that of your followers. I start each day with your clear assessment of events, I rage and wonder with the respondents. Thank you!
C'mon, Dr. Heather, a long solid discourse on the census of 1890 is just what this crowd desperately needs, and they'd like it.
The longer the House goes unreformed as regards membership, the more corrupt it gets. We are in a similar position to England in 1830-32, in the great battle over Parliamentary representation that resulted in the Reform Act of 1832.
If we took the representation level of 1912, there should be around 1,400 members of the House.
The English Reform act was as close as they came to an out-and-out Revolution in the 19th Century - a riot over representation in Bristol in 1831 resulted in 109 deaths and property damage of 300,000 pounds (in comtemporary finance - around 5 billion today).
And our Tories would fight such reform with the same tenacity their English forebears did. For the same reason - they need their "rotten boroughs."
I would love to see a whole post about the 1890 election.
6 Wisconsin voters filed a Lawsuit today in Madison Federal Court seeking to throwout WI's exsting maps as unconstitutional & to prohibit them from being used to start the re-districting process. Fundamental Fairness (due procees) is a relevant inquiry as well.
Oh, please, don't spare us. Do write a post about the 1890 census ;)
A post on the 1890 census would be most welcome, particularly if it provided what you provide all the time: an historiacl illumination of what we need to be aware of today.
Interesting to read a post from HCR on the census and redistricting that never mentions gerrymandering. The problem is not just that smaller, rural states have disproportional clout in Congress and the Electoral College. It is also that state legislatures use gerrymandering to draw district lines that favor political parties. Although there are a few states where Democrats have gerrymandered to their advantage, the vast majority of gerrymandering today takes place in red states, to the advantage of Republicans. For just one example, in 2020 2.66 million voters in North Carolina voted for Democrats while 2.63 million voted for Republicans (50% for Dems versus 49% for GOP). Despite that Democratic majority, Republicans ended up with 8 Congressional seats versus 5 for Democrats (38% for Dems versus 62% for Republicans). This is because district lines were drawn by the Republican state legislature to give an obscene advantage to Republicans. Gerrymandering, which is clearly unconstitutional, was recently challenged in the Supreme Court. The Republican majority on SCOTUS found that gerrymandering is just fine, no problem here. Now that the census is out, Republicans in red states are hastily redrawing district lines so that they will “win” Congress in 2022, no matter that they will win far fewer votes. It’s not just the distortions of the 1920s favoring rural, white states that enables minority rule in our “democracy”, it’s gerrymandering (and voter suppression) as well.
What a concept by Karen Fields and Barbara Fields to factor wealth into redistricting.
Imagine the subsequent modification. From this:
"...it seems equally unlikely that an increasingly urbanizing, multicultural nation will continue to accept being governed by an ever-smaller white, rural minority."
It seems unlikely that an increasingly urbanizing multicultural middle class nation (99%) will continue to accept being governed by an ever-smaller (1%) white upper class uber-wealthy minority.
This Letter is still another of Dr. Richardson's simple, straightforward, and knowledgeable explanations of a complex process which is crucial to Americans, and which should be required reading. (Has she written about this before? She constantly makes me hungrier to learn the important history of my country!)
"Happy Birthday Social Security! You’re looking great at 86 years!!” Est in 1935, by FDR.
I wish I could say the same for David Crosby, who turns 80 today; Steve Martin turns 76.
That means a lot of us who love our social security were doo-whopping 50 years ago to “Suite Judy Blue Eyes.” And I still do! Cue the “turntable” and let’s sing along!
The Census, Redistricting, and Critical Race Theory
We now have the results of the 2020 Census and ... no surprise, our country has gotten considerably more diverse, younger, and more urban. So what does that mean for redistricting? It should mean that our representation in Congress is more representative of that younger, more diverse, and more urban population. However, with Republicans in positions of control in many states what are the odds that is the way it turns out?
OK, let's turn for just a moment to the relationship between Critical Race Theory and redistricting. Critical Race Theory (CRT), unlike what Conservatives contend, essentially says that racial discrimination is systemic in America due to our history of racial bias. It is important to understand the difference between systemic racism and individual racist tendencies. Systemic racism is not about those individual biases and prejudices. Sure, those individual biases exist but that is not what CRT is about. Rather CRT recognizes that many aspects of society such as residential housing, education, employment, and yes even Congressional Representation continue to reflect our history of racial discrimination in America. That is to say that some races that have been historically discriminated against, continue to suffer unequal treatment by and within those aspects of our society.
So despite Republicans' outcry about wanting to ban any discussion or recognition of CRT, they are about to prove its very existence by reflecting that historic discrimination in the process of redistricting by deliberately redrawing Congressional districts to underrepresent that more diverse, younger, and predominantly urban population.
So when Republicans try so hard to suppress any discussion of CRT, what they are really doing is advocating for the systemic discrimination that CRT was supposed to expose and explain. Thus they will prove the very need to have discussions about CRT.
And, by the way, among the most vicious and ugly forms of systemic racism and discrimination is depriving people of representation in their government. It seems something about that was the reason our founders sought their independence from Britain when our country was formed. I seem to remember something about taxation without representation?
I guess that says something about Republicans' respect for our history and the founding principles of our country despite any protestations to the contrary.
Thank you, Heather. Your Letter today is most informative.
You describe a situation in our country that is undemocratic, as it favors white voters in rural areas and penalizes multicultural voters in large cities. It's hard to imagine any nation that might be accurately described as "a democracy" that strays as far from the one-person/one-vote/my-vote-equals-your-vote standard as ours does. Of course there are historical reasons for this, but the ideals of the European Enlightenment that inspired our founding fathers to write the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution (weren't there some founding mothers, too?) were never inspiring enough to cause the inclusion of anyone besides propertied white men of northern European (ideally English) descent in the actual exercise of power and governance.
It took a civil war for African-Americans to officially become human beings, not mere private property, a few more years for them (only the men) to get the vote (on paper, at least) in 1870, and another 50 years for all women to get the vote (in 1920), each step forward via constitutional amendment, yet we are still far short of each voter having equal influence in the voting booth.
Then the Reagan Revolution came along and legitimized greed and selfishness as an alternative to community, cooperation and the notion of the common good, and then technology made it possible for anyone to say anything to nearly everyone and immediately attract a horde of fanatics willing to support a lying bastard like you know who. We have elected two recent Presidents (Dubya and we all know who) who both lost the popular vote by large margins. Now we are on the verge of yet another civil war, though this may "feel" hard to believe. Democracy?
But assuming most Americans - when they take a break from being ferocious political animals - are still pretty much like most other Americans (and like people generally in all the world), I have to believe there is a way out of our dilemma. Of course, just trying to be nicer to one another will not cut it, though it might help a bit or even a bit more than a bit. No, not enough, we need more constitutional amendments. Yes, I know it is politically impossible, will never happen, blah, blah, blah, but we are playing a modern game with an ancient rule book. We have discovered that when enough Americans grow tired of having to adapt to a changing world we face the danger of sliding into autocracy, likely of the Fascist variety. Our Constitution cannot save us and this is happening just as the necessity for all of us to get on the same page to block climate change, defeat a nasty international virus and make a good quality of life be a reasonable goal for EVERYONE EVERYWHERE is unavoidable. And, ironically, success is actually within human reach.
If we cannot reinvent our "democracy" to become a real Democracy - by making the Senate proportional to state population or simply eliminating it, by eliminating the useless and dangerous Electoral College, by ending all forms of gerrymandering and by making voter registration automatic for all citizens 18 and over - we will fall into a bottomless pit and drag the rest of our species down with us.
If anyone is left to remember anything, this is what we will be remembered for.
Another timely, well-written post. I studied a lot of the town/city data from Massachusetts (my home state, where I vote; I live in Europe) and I noticed there, the largest increase (even in western MA towns that got smaller) was Hispanics--in my own town the number nearly tripled.
What Heather refers to, is something that became super-stratified in the 2016 election. Look at a "hotspot" map (CNN's is perfect) and it looks like Hillary Clinton voters all lived on a chain of coastal islands around cities, while DJT was "supported by the heartland." This was successfully propagandized by The Right subsequent to that election to show "most of America really voted for Trump." (followed by my usual retort: "Oh, I didn't realize that LAND was voting instead of people now."
My one comment on all of this is that if, God willing, we ever get around to amending our amendment on this (resetting the Congress cap in some way) that we do so in a fair-minded way (in fairness, in an alternative universe this could've gone the other way) not something seething with currency bias. This current situation has, unfortunately, also given rise to the (I believe) misguided debate that the Senate itself is unfair. Such people apparently never studied the historical precedents and thinking by folks like John Adams that created a BICAMERAL legislature--it was (partially) to keep populous states from bullying rural ones (yes, this absolutely could happen), so the hope here is that 1) yes, we need to reset this and 2) do so in an elegant, thoughtful way that won't shoot ourselves in the foot another 30-50 years later.