Show Me The Money

Abusive gerrymandering is bad, and all else being equal I’m all for efforts to reduce it. It is, however, a bit hard to know exactly what the non-gerrymandered district ideal is supposed to be. Should districts be as compact as possible? Should you maximize the number of evenly split districts? Should districts generally approximate statewide opinion? It’s not clear to me that there’s a “right answer” though there certainly are some wrong answers.

As you can probably guess, however, I think indignation about this is overblown. The real issue is simply that incumbency provides such enormous advantages given the current campaign climate. If every congressional district faced one well-funded Democrat and one well-funded Republican every cycle, that would do a lot more for political competitiveness. You could recruit a higher caliber of challenges if the funds were guaranteed to be forthcoming for a challenge, you could be sure that any incumbent who made a major misstep would be fighting for his political life, and you’d probably have more ideological diversity within the parties since you’d have more incentive for Republicans to find candidates well-suited to very liberal districts and vice versa. This world would require, of course, some form of public financing which is even harder to get than serious districting reform. Still, at the end of the day it’s a much more worthwhile goal.