The redistricting process kicked off this week in Washington. The Census Bureau released initial data from the 2020 census Monday afternoon, (much later than usual thanks to a combination of the pandemic, Donald Trump’s efforts to stop unauthorized immigrants from being counted, and his administration’s general flailing incompetence), which means that congressional district boundaries will soon be redrawn to account for changes in population.
These changes will probably tend to benefit the Republican Party, as conservative states will get more seats — for instance, Texas will gain two seats, while New York, California, and Illinois will all lose one. Republicans are also certain to use the process to try to gerrymander themselves as many additional congressional seats as possible by leveraging their control of a majority of state legislatures. And that is just the opening tactic in a long-term strategy to abolish American democracy and set up one-party rule.
The basic strategy goes like this. First, win control of state legislatures, then gerrymander the state district boundaries such that it’s virtually impossible to lose, and add further protection with vote suppression laws making it harder for liberals to cast their ballots. Then, leverage control of the state legislatures in a post-census year to gerrymander the congressional district boundaries and gain a large advantage in the national House vote. This was exactly what happened after the previous census in 2010, when a fortunately-timed Republican wave victory allowed them to cement a roughly 4-5 point handicap in House elections and control of the chamber for eight years, along with control of dozens of state legislatures.
Today in Michigan, gerrymandering means Republicans enjoy a 3.4-point handicap in the state House and a 10.7-point handicap in the state Senate; in Pennsylvania, it’s a 3.1-point handicap in the House and a 5.9-point handicap in the Senate; and in Wisconsin, a 7.1-point handicap in the House and a 10.1-point handicap in the Senate.
Though some of those 2010-vintage gerrymanders have been eroded or taken down through the courts, new ones will be attempted in every state Republicans control this year that do not have nonpartisan redistricting commissions (which is most of them). As Ryan Grim estimates at The Intercept, a fresh hardcore House gerrymander would likely net the GOP 15-20 House seats — easily enough to let them take the majority, if the 2022 electorate looks anything like 2020. And thanks to the conservative hammerlock on the Supreme Court, the new gerrymanders and vote suppression measures are virtually guaranteed to be blessed as “legal” (in conservative jurisprudence, something is constitutional if it benefits Republicans).
It’s impossible to gerrymander the Senate, of course, but luckily for Republicans that chamber is inherently gerrymandered due to the large number of disproportionately white, low-population rural states that lean conservative. The swing seat in the Senate is biased something like 7 points to the right.
If the GOP can win the House and Senate in the 2022 midterms, and if they retain control of a handful of swing-state legislatures, then they will be in a perfect position to steal the presidency in 2024. As Jonathan V. Last explains at The Bulwark, it would be quite simple to steal a presidential election within the formal rules of America’s electoral system, though of course it would be a blatant violation of the entire spirit of the Constitution. The anachronistic, nonsensical legal structure that governs presidential elections says that if Congress does not certify a majority winner in the Electoral College, then the next president will be chosen by a vote of the House — but each state delegation bizarrely…