To what lengths should one go to preserve the soul of their nation? As discussed by Russell Berman, the Democrats have an opportunity to protect their majority in the House of Representatives before the 2022 midterm elections. After their decade-long campaigning against gerrymandering, the Democrats are now in a position to redraw the congressional districts of New York in favor of their party, resulting in a loss of up to five seats for the GOP. With their current razor-thin majority, these five seats could make all the difference when the midterms arrive.
Energized by the GOP’s overperformance in the 2020 House Elections, many Democrats have expressed a willingness to “fight back” by implementing previously condemned actions such as gerrymandering. Democrats have held themselves accountable in terms of redistricting in the past, but the same cannot be said about the GOP. The question plaguing many in the Democratic Establishment is whether or not they should stoop to GOP’s level in order to prevent Republicans from further abusing their power in the future.
Gerrymandering, in its most basic sense, is the manipulation of congressional districts to intentionally favor one party. It is inherently undemocratic, and its continued abuse has contributed to the backsliding of our democracy. It’s quite obvious as to why gerrymandering is harmful to a democracy. Gerrymandered congressional districts result in a skewed representation in the House of Representatives, effectively limiting the power the people have to elect their own representatives. Gerrymandering can also be used to intentionally split up or group together certain demographics in order to cancel out their votes and silence their voices. The people in power are choosing their constituents, the opposite of how a democracy should operate.
As violent coups and mass voter fraud become less and less prominent, democratic backsliding occurs at a much more gradual pace. As Nancy Bermeo points out in her article, “On Democratic Backsliding”, strategic election manipulation can bring about this subtle democratic regression. Those in power manipulate the electoral process in subtle ways to give their party the advantage, especially incumbents. This can pose quite a threat to our democracy, as it is much easier to go unnoticed than any election-day voter fraud. Gerrymandering is a perfect example of this dishonest practice. At its most extreme, gerrymandering can completely rig a district-based election, giving the opposition little to no chance. If Democrats were to intentionally redistrict the state of New York to give their party an advantage, it would be a clear abuse of power and an attack on our democracy.
Democrats have continuously lambasted the practice of gerrymandering for the past decade, and it would be hypocritical for them to change their stance now. Following the 2010 census, the GOP embarked on a massive redistricting campaign with the intention of maximizing the number of red congressional districts. Many have criticized the GOP’s aggressive gerrymandering and the unfair advantage they have gained in the House of Representatives as a result. If Democrats were to succumb to that level of underhanded politics, there’s no telling what the GOP could do as retribution. After the 2020 elections, the GOP has found itself in control of key legislative chambers across the country, putting themselves in a position to redraw countless electoral districts in a biased fashion. If Democrats can swallow their pride and commit to a biased redistricting of New York, it could spark an antagonistic redistricting war between the parties, furthering the erosion of our democracy by continuing to strip the people of their power and silencing certain demographics.
It seems that the desire to gerrymander is fueled by political polarization. People are so unwilling to accept the opposing party in positions of power that they are willing to compromise their beliefs to ensure that doesn’t happen. Many Republicans believe that Democrats will destroy our country from the inside and vice versa. Fear that the opposition will abuse their power has driven many to support devious practices if they will weaken the other party. The knowledge that the other party has the ability to gerrymander will certainly increase tensions and the likelihood that Democrats or Republicans will make use of this practice. Despite the GOP’s shady history with gerrymandering, it’s important that the Democrats stay true to their beliefs and refuse the temptation to gerrymander New York before the 2022 elections. The notion of “fighting fire with fire” will only lead to more destruction. Gerrymandering to counteract other gerrymandering just leaves fewer people with a voice and increases tensions between parties.
Gerrymandering is directly harmful to our democracy, and it’s imperative that both Democrats and Republicans refuse its temptations when redrawing congressional districts. Both parties are at a crossroads, and the paths they take will have serious ramifications for at least the next decade. Many people have spoken out against gerrymandering in the past few years, proposing that the ability to redraw congressional districts be ceded to an impartial organization. As a result, multiple states have altered their redistricting processes in an effort to preserve free and fair elections, a cornerstone of democracy. If the Democrats really want to preserve our democracy and limit the potential gerrymandering of the GOP, they should energize their supporters to campaign for impartial redistricting laws in states throughout the country. If our democracy is to survive, the Democrats must continue to take the high road and continue to empower the people, not the party.