The House the GOP Built

New York Magazine:

The annual report by Jankowski’s organization, the Republican State Leadership Committee, laid out the mission for the world to see: “Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.”

“Our pitch document said, look, there are 25 true swing congressional districts,” Jankowski told me as we sat in the conference room of his Richmond offices. “We went back to those races from 2002 to 2008, and we found that $115 million had been spent on those 25 congressional races. All hard dollars. We had a graphic on the screen: 115 million hard dollars or $20 million in soft and we can fix it. We can take control of these 25 districts. We can take them off the table.” They called their project REDMAP.

Jankowski’s foresight wasn’t the only factor in the GOP’s ensuing control of Congress. The party was also able to take advantage of massive new amounts of public data drawn from social media that allowed them to pinpoint likely voters with more accuracy than ever before, and advances in mapping technology that made it possible to redraw districts precisely around the location of those voters.

The result: The gerrymander of 2011 built such a firewall around GOP control of the House that when Barack Obama was reelected in 2012, Democratic congressional candidates earned 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, but the GOP retained a 234-201 majority. You might even argue it worked too well, creating the solid conservative districts that gave rise to the renegade House Freedom Caucus, forced Speaker John Boehner out of office, and fomented the grass-roots anger that fueled Donald Trump’s ascent and punctured the GOP establishment.

This is one of the best specific (as opposed to abstract) accounts of gerrymandering that I’ve read.  Recommended.

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