Thursday, February 19, 2015

Everybody Mander

Nebraska & Maine are famously unusual in dividing our presidential electoral votes by congressional district.  (With the two voters representing the Senate decided statewide.)  In 2008 there was a near-as famous incident when President Obama won the Omaha area elector to break up what has of course generally been a reliable GOP monopoly.  Omaha has historically been when of the larger Republican leaning settlements in the US though though it has become a purple swing city in recent years.  This of course puts the GOP in something of a quandary. Red & Blue is not new to this particular century; inner cities have been strongly Democratic and hinterlands strongly Republican for a very long time.  It is the mid-sized cities suburbs and market towns that majorities are won and lost and both parties know this very well.  So if the GOP does face a long-term problem if cannot count on the votes of farm state urban islands out of hand.  Yet at the same time it is unable to moderate its message towards modern urbane respectability; as white rural activists in existential dread of not being the American prototype 'Anymore' are votes that the party needs; and so it is compelled to wage imaginary tribal warfare for exclusive control of the national identity.

The local solution to the half-loss of Omaha seems very simple; both for the above stated reasons and because conservatives are by nature territorial folk who at some level truly believe that they 'own' right-leaning states at not just the practical but also the moral & cosmic levels.  The solution is simply to change Nebraska's allotment of electoral votes to the national norm so that moderate Omaha gets drowned by the rural wave.  There's been a now-annual movement in the not-really nonpartisan unicameral to accomplish this.  It hasn't gone through so far though we may rest assured that the conservative forces who rule the state will keep trying over and over again until they get there way; especially after Omaha goes Democratic again, which is a when and not if proposition. 

The great Senator Chambers however, in that half-trickster half-sincere manner of his; has proposed an alternate solution; to allot our five electors by the vote of five separate geographical districts.      Nebraska's population divided by five is about 376,301 people, rounded up.  This is not quite 80% of Omaha proper, which would under this system would go from toss-up to straight Democratic leaning. The city of Lincoln meanwhile; (which slightly leans Dem in national elections, though this is negated by its strategically arraigned countryside),  would have near-total dominance of a district centered upon itself along with a couple of its satellite towns like Beatrice or Crete.  There'd be a real possibility then, of Nebraska rewarding 40% of its electors to the Democratic candidate instead of maybe 20% as is the case today. Chambers idea will of course never happen for exactly this reason. It's an interesting idea; all the same, and if nothing else does provide a mental exercise for what Nebraska's congressional districts would be if the US House were expanded to 600 or so; which is something that I think should happen. 

If the majority party feels entitled to gerrymander or rewrite the rules in its own favor; why then shouldn't the minority party play the same game as best as it is able?  In its own perverse way it is kind of fun. 

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