Fresh off a rather inappropriate dead-ender appearance at the G-20 over the weekend, America’s former president Barack Obama is turning his attention to a new project – namely, attempting to reverse the damage he did to the Democrat party during his eight years in the White House.
Obama is raising money for a Democrat group which aims to win back state legislative seats for the party in advance of the redistricting battles that will play out in state capitols across the country in 2021.
Former President Barack Obama will appear at a Democratic fundraiser in the nation’s capital later this week, one of the first times he has appeared on behalf of party causes since leaving the White House.
Obama will appear at a fundraiser for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee at a private residence in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
“Restoring fairness to our democracy by advocating for fairer, more inclusive district maps around the country is a priority for President Obama,” spokesman Kevin Lewis said Monday.
Before he left the White House, Obama said that redistricting will be a top political priority in his post-presidency and admitted he failed to create a “sustaining organization” around the political coalition that twice elected him to office.
After the 2008 election, Republicans poured money into state legislative races so they could control the round of redistricting that took place after the 2010 census. That byzantine process can have a huge impact on political power: During Obama’s presidency, Democrats lost more than 1,030 seats in statehouses, governor’s mansions and Congress.
The NDRC, chaired by Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder, will devote legal and political resources to the next round of redrawing state districting maps after the 2020 census.
John Diez, the director of political action committees at LABI, addressed the Louisiana implications of this subject in a must-read post over the weekend. But here’s why this gambit of Obama’s and Holder’s is almost sure to fail – it fails to address the reason the Democrats lose elections.
Let’s understand that Louisiana, while it’s usually a rather unique political animal in most circumstances, is quite typical among states where the Democrat Party has collapsed over the past 10 years – John Bel Edwards’ upset win in the 2015 gubernatorial election notwithstanding. Namely, the national brand of that party has become synonymous with the Hard Left, meaning a grossly redistributionist approach to economic policy, a regulatory policy driven by global warming hysteria and other hyped-up justifications for aggressive government action, and a cultural agenda which to most people comes off as punitive toward Americans with traditional views. That’s a platform which appeals only to people who are either above the fray of regular American life – like, for example, limousine liberals like Nancy Pelosi and the San Franciscans who vote for her every two years – or who feel disenfranchised by ordinary society.
And it means the middle class people who don’t live in bright blue states or in the urban socialist enclaves of big cities and college towns want nothing to do with it.
Until that changes – and Barack Obama and Eric Holder will do absolutely nothing to change it; their records speak for themselves – the current dynamic with respect to drawing congressional and state legislative seats won’t change.
That dynamic, particularly in places like Louisiana where the Democrat Party has nosedived, goes like this – Republicans in the majority will collude with black Democrats to all but wipe out white Democrats.
How does that happen? Well, Republicans want to insure as many GOP seats in state houses and in the U.S. House of Representatives as possible, and the easiest way to make that happen is to suck all the potential GOP voters out of the districts which can’t be won, in order to make as many GOP-friendly districts as possible out of the remainder. Republicans are more than happy to have a congressional district like LA-2, Cedric Richmond’s district, where no Republican could possibly win or even get above 40 percent of the vote, in exchange for relatively safe GOP majorities in the other five congressional districts in the state.
If Richmond’s district were drawn in a more geographically sane manner in order to encompass some 700,000-750,000 residents of the New Orleans area, it would not be a majority-minority district – and it would likely be a swing district where a Cedric Richmond would be unlikely to win against a centrist Republican or a “John Breaux Democrat.” But the spillover effect of that would mean centrist Republicans or old-school white Democrats might have a chance at knocking off Garret Graves or Steve Scalise. Similarly, if North Louisiana were cut into an I-20 district and another district running east-west across the middle part of the state, it’s less likely both districts would be represented by solid conservatives like Mike Johnson and Ralph Abraham. But there isn’t any way to cut those districts in order to produce a majority-minority district in North Louisiana; to do that would require finding a way to combine mostly-black areas in Caddo, Ouachita and East Baton Rouge Parishes into one Congressional district while preserving a majority-minority district for Richmond to reside in.
It isn’t doable. So the members of the Legislative Black Caucus, which makes up the majority of the Democrats at the state capitol, showed up at the 2011 redistricting battle with their number one goal being the preservation of Richmond’s district, and those of their members in the state legislature. Growing the number of Democrat districts overall is a distant second, so when it’s time to negotiate and the Republicans are offering to make it impossible for any of the LBC’s members to lose a re-election battle in return for betraying the “John Breaux Democrats” of the world, it’s easy to get a handshake from them. The 2021 redistricting negotiations will go the same way.
It works like this across the South, and it’s in the South where the Democrats have suffered the bulk of their losses in Congress over the past two decades – accentuated by the past decade’s left turn under Obama. There are barely any white Democrats left in Congress from the Southern states, and meanwhile the black members of Congress from those states have become fixtures. Nobody expects Richmond to lose election any time soon, nor does anyone expect that kind of change to come to Sheila Jackson Lee, or Hank Johnson, or Alcee Hastings, or James Clyburn, or John Lewis or Bennie Thompson. They’ll leave office in a pine box – or, in the case of Corrine Brown, in handcuffs.
The same dynamic applies to state legislative seats. In areas where there are large minority populations and Republicans won’t be competitive, the Republican majority in the legislature will work with the black caucus to insure a maximum level of insulation for both the GOP’s voters and the incumbent black legislator is guaranteed.
There is no way to fix this unless the Democrats return to their successful 2006 congressional strategy of running “blue dogs” in Republican seats, though the 2011 redistricting plans make that even harder to pull off. The Democrats wishing to help Obama and Holder in state legislative elections will have to find candidates who largely repudiate that economic and cultural message so as to connect with suburban and exurban voters – and the early returns on chances of doing that are, to put it charitably, poor. Just see the forkfuls of money the Jon Ossoff campaign went through in a vain attempt to beat Karen Handel, for example, or their other special-election losses in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina for congressional seats. Ossoff wasn’t exactly a blue dog Democrat, but the problem is he might be the closest thing available at present after the left turn that party has made.
In any event, though, it’s entertaining to see Obama throwing his weight behind this effort for a couple of reasons. It’s fun to see him attempting to address the 1,000 seats his party lost while he was president – and you’ll never once hear him actually take responsibility for those losses, and it’s also going to be interesting to watch Obama either raising money to run wholly uncompetitive Democrats in Republican districts or that he’ll supply funding to candidates who’ll be forced to repudiate both the former president and most of his legacy on the campaign trail.