On the tenth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...Independent Redistricting, the long awaited for, much hoped for, yet ever-elusive good government reform that will reconnect politicians with voters, end polarization, and put Virginia back on track.
Well, no. If you want to really reconnect politicians with voters, you need to expand the number of districts so there are fewer people per district. End polarization? Political scientists have found little to no evidence that gerrymandering is driving polarization; you'll have to tackle housing preferences and the individual sorting of voters to do that. Independent redistricting will not even solve all the challenges and obstacles of the Virginia Democratic Party, as the first diary showed that there are many Democratic-leaning seats that the state party is not winning at this time.
So why talk about redistricting reform?
Because unlike campaign finance reform or expanding the size of the General Assembly, independent redistricting, or at least something more partisan-neutral, may be closer to reality than you think.
A phantom of darkness suddenly appears, gliding ominously over the ground toward you. Shrouded in the blackest cloak, its head and face are entirely concealed. One skeletal hand stretches out toward your, a boney finger directed behind you. From beneath the hood, you can feel the gaze of two ghostly eyes directing you to turn around. Doing so, you feel transported ...
On the eighth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Swing voters, that crucial demographic of people who voted Romney-Kaine, or Cuccinelli-Northam-Obenshain, or even were crazy enough to go for Sarvis!
In the last half-decade, Virginia Democrats have seen a range of elections that allow us to roughly identify geographic areas of ticket-splitters. I'm talking about folks who came out and voted for Mitt Romney and Tim Kaine. Or switched back and forth in 2013 between Sarvis, Northam, and Obenshain. Or even McDonnell-Wagner-Shannon! It's all possible.
On the seventh day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Encouraging signs of growing Democratic trends in the state's largest counties and most competitive districts!
Take a look at the vote trend between 2001 and 2013 from Daily Kos. There's a lot of red there, but it's in the most rural, slow-growth parts of the state. All of the major population areas, from Northern Virginia to Richmond to Tidewater, are trending blue. The population growth in the state is heavily concentrated in this urban crescent. Favorable demographic trends and the alienation of moderate suburban voters by the hard-right have combined to turn Virginia into a blue state ... at least statewide in higher turnout elections.
Yeah, but what about in the General Assembly?
On the sixth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...Come in and know me better!
Of course, if day three was the Ghost of Christmas Past, day six is the Ghost of Christmas Present! Virginia Democrats may be depressed with the first part of this series, but this holiday season, they have a lot to be thankful for. In honor of this being New Year's Eve, we'll be looking at reasons to look forward to 2014.
First, good girls and boys of all ages across Virginia have opened up their invitations to an inauguration featuring three Democratic officials. Combined with Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, the party has demonstrated that the far right is no longer welcome in statewide elections in the Commonwealth.
In 2014, Mark Warner will be up for reelection and Virginia Republicans are desperate to find a warm body with a pulse to run against him. Earlier this year, Warner's approval ratings were above 50% and he was leading all challengers by double digits. Right now, with concerns over the implementation of Obamacare, his numbers may be softer, but this will be temporary as the health care roll out improves in 2014. I question what Republican will be foolish enough to run; Warner will march onward to reelection. Even with a strong challenger, only delusional Tea Partiers believe Warner is truly vulnerable.
On the fifth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Incumbents who are so safe in their seats they don't remember the last time they had to actually campaign. Could they even fundraise if they tried? Do they know anything about targeting, polling, and tools like Votebuilder or Catalyst?
In 2013, 41 incumbent Delegates were not even challenged by another candidate, either by the other major party or by a minor party candidate. One more was able to win their first election without any challenge at all, walking right into office. That may seem sad, but it's an improvement over 2011, when 59 incumbents were unchallenged in their newly drawn districts. That's similar to elections in 2003, 2005, and 2007, where over 60 delegates on average, almost two-thirds of the chamber, were unchallenged. In the ten years from 2003 to 2013, well over half of all delegate races were unchallenged.
On the fourth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...A Republican gerrymandering that has silenced Democratic voters downstate at the House of Delegates!
Wait, another post on gerrymandering? Lame!
Hold on, hear me out, this is about an aspect of Republican gerrymandering that has gone more unnoticed. As we know from day one, the Republican gerrymander isn't the only problem facing Virginia Democrats in the House of Delegates. But the gerrymandering's impact has negatively influenced Democratic recruits for higher office outside of Northern Virginia.
On the third day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...FLASH!
Hark! I am the Ghost of Christmas Past! I represent poor choices, mistakes, and questionable judgment. Let us travel first to 2009, the year in which eight Democratic incumbents were defeated during a landslide Republican election. Listen to my warnings!
In 2009, the Democratic Caucus spent almost $100,000 assisting Democrat Carole Pratt's campaign in the 6th District, an overwhelmingly Republican district where Bush had won over 60% of the vote in 2004 and where Anne Crockett-Stark had knocked off Democrat Benny Keister in 2005. In 2008, Obama managed just under 38% of the vote, 1% ahead of Kerry's 2004 performance. Yet the House Democratic Caucus led by Matt Mansell decided to prioritize this race where his mother was running ...
The result? Pratt received less than 35% of the vote. And elsewhere, incumbent Democrats dropped left and right, for a total of eight defeated incumbents, including some by the narrowest of margins: Mathieson by 14 votes, Valentine by 209, Nichols by 269, and Vanderhye by 422.
On the second day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A system of odd-year elections, shared mainly by Southern outliers and hotbeds of two-party democracy (hah!) like Mississippi and Louisiana that depresses voter turnout from high profile elections in even-years.
In 1948, the great American political scientist V.O. Key wrote that Virginia was a "political museum piece . . . more akin to England about the time of the Reform Bill of 1832 than to any other American state."
Have we changed much since then?
On the first day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates that is the excuse for everything that goes wrong?
It may seem as exciting as a lump of coal, but the Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates gets a lot of attention from thankful Virginia Democrats. Why? Because these district lines have become the perfect excuse for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad performance of House Democrats in 2013.
Manage to pick up only one seat, on net, in the House of Delegates? No worries, blame the Republican gerrymander!
A total of 14 Barack Obama-won delegate districts still held by Republicans, and 16 won by Tim Kaine? Mumble mumble, gerrymandering ...
Terry McAuliffe won 11 delegate districts held by Republican Delegates, and Mark Herring still won 9, but .. Look over there, it's a gerrymander! Run for your lives!