This was a woman from Bloomfield Hills who strongly supports freshman congressman Gary Peters, who had a tough reelection battle. The race was close, but Peters finally won.
His supporter was a nice lady, so I felt bad about ruining her lunch. “You helped pull off a great victory,“ I said. “But all you really did was postpone the inevitable. Two years from now, Gary Peters is almost certainly going to lose his seat in Congress.“
The lady, who had given a lot of money to the Peters campaign, was taken aback. “But isn’t 2012 likely to be a better year for Democrats?“ she asked. “Doesn’t matter,” I told her. “Even if they bounce back and President Obama carries the state by a landslide, the seat Gary Peters now represents probably won’t exist anymore.
Here’s what’s going to happen. Next month, we’re going to get the final, official state by state population figures.
Michigan, experts agree, is going to lose one of its fifteen seats in Congress. That means that the state legislature will have to redraw the map to fit all of us into fourteen districts.
It will be musical chairs, and the Republicans are going to be in complete charge of the rules. Their only constraints are these: Every district has to have precisely the same number of people.
And a pattern of court decisions and rulings indicate strongly that two majority black districts need to be preserved in southeast Michigan. The rest is up to them. Now, they are going to draw that map to produce as many Republican seats as possible.
How can they do that? Well, we like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers, but most of us are creatures of habit.
Donkeys tend to live with other donkeys, and elephants with other elephants. By careful manipulation of boundaries, experts can easily draw maps to produce a majority for one party or the other, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
When you have divided government, you tend to get compromise redistricting plans. Not this time. Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the governor’s office.
They can pass whatever they want to, and the Republican majority state supreme court will approve. Odds are that Peters will be thrown into a new heavily Republican district, or his district will be combined with that of fellow Democrat Sandy Levin, meaning one of those two men will have to retire or be killed off in the primary.
Rest assured that Democrats would do the same thing to the Republicans if they could, but they lost the election. They’ve been really unlucky in the redistricting wars for decades, in fact.
There hasn’t been a redistricting under a Democratic governor since 1961. Of course, this shouldn’t be a partisan process at all. And five states do leave redistricting up to an independent commission.
But don’t think Michigan Republicans are going to give up a golden opportunity to cement their new majorities in place for a decade. Democrats did have some luck in this last election.
Unfortunately for them, it was all bad.