Streams

Redistricting Could Mean More Power for Swing Voters

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Just two short years ago, political punditland was awash with predictions of permanent Democratic majorities as far as the eye could see. A few years before that, Karl Rove’s troopers were claiming that they’d changed the face of our electoral landscape, with similar predictions of “painting the map red." Both claimed the country was going their direction, and a more strident liberalism or conservatism was the ticket to permanent majorities.

Time has shown both of these predictions were complete garbage. Centrist independents, and moderates of all stripes, rewarded the two major parties’ increased pandering to their bases, and abuse of power, by swinging the opposite direction a few years later. The number of years between swings has been shrinking even more, as more in the center let it sink in that neither party is going to turn back.

Throughout this slow motion diluting of our representative democracy, the Democrats have been pointing out that certain demographics are trending their way, mostly involving minorities, while Republicans point out that the population is aging and shifting into states that lean red. Both arguments have some sense to them, but as usual, reality is much more nuanced.

Most of the commentary on reapportionment of Congressional seats has, accurately, focused on the fact that most of those seats will be moving from blue states to red states. Like an awful lot of what has gone on over the last several months politically, the Democrats are getting the short end of the stick here, but it's premature to chalk up a major win for the Republicans.

Because of federal guidelines that require some states’ redistricting panels to oversee the process, there are likely to be some Democratic districts created in these states. It's also likely that some left leaning districts in the states gaining seats will become even more liberal, and growing left leaning populations may make some right leaning districts more vulnerable to swings the next time the pendulum goes the other way.

The population shift away from the Northeast and upper Midwest, Southward migration towards the Sunbelt, and increases in minority populations is nothing new. Unless there is a drastic shift in political alignment among the demographics that are causing these states to gain Congressional seats, the most likely development in the medium to long term is that these red states will become more purple.

Coupled with increasing estrangement among centrists and moderates, as both parties move farther from the center, more will join the ranks of independents. This should put even more power into the hands of swing voters. It is likely to make it more difficult to create safe liberal districts in the blue states that are losing seats, as much as it is likely to create less safe conservative districts in places that are gaining seats.

We saw an unusually high amount of turnover in last year’s election, as left leaners didn’t turn out, right leaners were fired up, and true swing voters largely came out for the GOP. The movement for an end to partisan control of districting will only add to likelihood of more districts becoming less solid for one side or the other.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.

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