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They might be the years you think they are, but probably not for the reasons you expect.  Take your well-earned break from the next election cycle (EDIT: I was unclear.  Meaning through the end of 2012, enough time for holiday revelry) but keep the following in mind.

Right now we have a struggle for the soul of the country.  Despite winning a majority of votes cast for House seats in 2012, the Democrats will still be the minority party in the House of Representatives in the upcoming session of Congress.  How did this happen?  The short answer is gerrymandering, a term coined for Governor Gerry of Massachusetts, who redrew district maps in the state to maintain a sizable political advantage for the state Democratic party.  It wasn't unknown before then, though:

Before the term "gerrymander" was coined and even prior to the U.S. Constitution taking effect, redistricting was already being employed for political gain. Late in 1788, just after Virginia voted to ratify the Constitution and join the union, former Governor Patrick Henry persuaded the state legislature to remake the 5th Congressional District, forcing Henry’s political enemy James Madison to run against the formidable James Monroe.
The reason we have so many gerrymandered seats right now is a large number of GOP-run statehouses.  The Census bureau has the data.  In 2001, the GOP controlled 18 legislatures; in 2011, they controlled 26.  They've taken pains to redraw the lines very carefully, quite possibly with outside assistance.  In the 2012 election, some states where Democrats got elected to the Senate will have majority Republican House delegations.

So, the more distant year you should pay attention to is the 2020 election, but you should pay at least as much attention to the state level as you will the Presidential horse-race between, say, Donald Trump versus Elizabeth Warren, much though I'll have lots of popcorn ready for that race.  The slate of statehouse legislators elected that year will determine how Congressional districts get redrawn (as well as state-level legislative districts) in all states that do not have non-partisan boards.  This is where the Koch Brothers, ALEC, Sheldon Adelson and more will be spending at least half of their money.  Of course, as long as the GOP can block attempts to tax their super-wealthy donors, or to let working people's labor be valued as much as investors' capital, they'll have plenty to spend.  If you want to make it more fair, though, put more pressure on your statehouses.  Texas did an off-cycle redistricting that led two other states to do similarly, all with partisan agendas in mind.  If statehouses can be pressured to put non-partisan election boards in place with the power to draw fair maps, that cannot be called gerrymandering.

Closer to now, though, you should pay attention to 2016, and not just because it will have Marco Rubio versus Deval Patrick, or even more amusingly the Comedy Central Election of Stewart versus Colbert.  I tell you, my popcorn popper will break three times that week.  No, the race to watch in 2016 will be for control of the Senate.

In 2010 the GOP scored a large number of Senate seats.  Not including Scott Brown (R-MA), who won the seat previously held by Edward Kennedy, they went from 41 to 47 total seats.  Right now it's the only Republican-majority class in the Senate, with 22 GOP officeholders.  If the GOP manages to keep the fires burning in 2016, they can keep enough of a minority in the Senate to cause major headaches.  And they will, if the most recent three sessions of Congress are any indication.  However, if they manage to lose enough seats in 2016 to hand majority of the seats over to the Democrats, then the GOP could conceivably be unable to filibuster--not that the filibuster is going to remain their weapon of choice if Harry Reid tweaks it back to an older method requiring actual talking and grandstanding.  It's easy for Republicans to say the Senate is dysfunctional and stay mum on why when they can quietly hamstring it; it's harder for the GOP to say it's dysfunctional and avoid mentioning why when they're the ones the one singing loudly and knocking over wineglasses.

I'm not saying you should ignore 2014.  The Democrats could lose like crazy if the GOP unleashes its usual lies-and-lucre tornado and people are caught sleeping.  However, if the Democratic Party can at least keep that year neutral, or no worse than slightly negative, 2016 will be for the whole enchilada in the deliberative legislative body, specifically the one that can sign international treaties that can override domestic law via the Supremacy Clause.  As Carlos Manuel Vazquez puts it in that article of the Harvard Law Review:

The Supremacy Clause gives treaties a domestic judicial sanction that they would otherwise lack. It makes treaties enforceable in the courts in the same circumstances as the other two categories of norms specified in the clause — federal statutes and the Constitution itself.
Gritty stuff.

Still, let me reiterate: we can take the rest of the year off from the next election cycle.  I expect another right-wing cashectomy in the next two election cycles, but I'll worry about that after President Obama is sworn back in.  It's not like the GOP can run on policy.  "We kept taxes low for the rich, cut your unemployment benefits, fought against birth control and abortion rights and aid to single mothers, and we just ate your last piece of chocolate cake.  Vote for us!" -- not a winning strategy.

Originally posted to Teddywolf on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 09:33 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The last time the (7+ / 0-)

    Dems took off an election, we got Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder John Kasich, Tom Corbett and Paul LePage. How'd that work out? Sorry, but you can't take any elections off.

    There is no such thing as an off year election. Every election effects each other. We need to work as hard in 2014 as we did in 2012.

    by pollbuster on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 11:08:27 PM PST

    •  No, I didn't say take an election off (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pollbuster, SilentBrook, NoMoreLies
      I'm not saying you should ignore 2014.
      The elections in 2010 were particularly potent because they helped define the political landscape for the next ten years, in a very literal sense.  Elections in 2014, while much closer to now and today's problems, do not have the same kind of long-term power as the elections in 2020.  Everybody should still go out and learn about the issues and the candidates in every cycle.  We still need to vote.

      I never take any elections off, and that includes off-off-year elections.  Voting in 2009 and 2011 is important at the local level.  That said, it lacks the same impact as voting in a year when a Representative and statehouse people are running for office, maybe with a Senator, or either of the last two choices and toss in a President.

      Elections in 2000 were more dangerous than most people knew, and that was specifically because 2000 was a Census year.  Census-based redistricting power is currently being used to back the Republican majority in ways hat Karl Rove only dreamt of.

      •  And most states will elect their (0+ / 0-)

        2020 redistricting governors in 2018. And whatever governors are elected in 2014 will have a leg up on seeking re-election.

        Never mind that if we sleep-walk through 2014, we lose the Senate.

        I don't think this diary makes a whole lot of sense.

    •  True'dis...! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      notrouble, pollbuster

      n/t

    •  Right now the election to pay attention to (6+ / 0-)

      is the 2014 election. We need to start lining up good candidates and broad support. We don't have a good record of turning out the vote on off year elections. We have got to reverse that.

      2016 and 2020 are presidential election years. We have a better record on getting out the vote. We can turn our attention to them after the 2014 and 2018 elections.

      A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

      by notrouble on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 08:15:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  and with what we've seen as of late (0+ / 0-)

      you can't even vote into office a 'moderate' Republican because they lie during the campaign and when they take office they reverse what they previously said and screw us all. It proves one thing. You simply cannot trust Republicans as far as you can throw them.

  •  Not really, the Dems do it too! (0+ / 0-)
    The reason we have so many gerrymandered seats right now is a large number of GOP-run statehouses.
    I think what you may have meant to say is that the reason it irks Dems so badly right now is the large number of GOP-run statehouses that prevent more of the country from experiencing the almost total dominance of Dem house reps in places like NE and MD.
  •  We don't need treaties agreed to, we need them (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch

    rejected.

     World Federalism is a great idea, but those drafting ouor treaties work for somebody else and have other interests in mind. Thus we get the WTO, NFTA, Shafta, a ton of stuff aimed at letting certain media moguls exact horrible punishments for non-crimes without any trial that has, so far, failed, and on and on and on.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 09:45:36 AM PST

  •  For those of us in Red States (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, llywrch

      Like here in TX - we ousted a TPer from Congress in 2012 - who has already removed his access via his Congressional Website -sigh.  But to believe that he won't try again in 2014 is just folly, as he lost 2 previous election bids before his win in 2010.  
        2014 in TX is important - as it is Gov. / State elections.   I haven't heard a peep (yet) about possible DEM candidates - but if I have learned nothing from 2012 is that we had a good Dem Senate Candidate - but low funding and  - and Freedomworks spent big bucks on Cruz - they started early.

       Per FEC 2012 Senate Race:   973K  DEM v. 61M GOP

         

    •  If I lived in Texas (0+ / 0-)

      I'd consider running for office, with the full expectation that I would get my name dragged through the mud.  Texas is Texas, and people are a little different there than in my native Massachusetts.  Not that I don't want the rest of the country to show less GOP-led crazy, but I'm comfy living in Massachusetts and being relatively obscure for now.

  •  2014 Hold the Senate, make gains in the House (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teddywolf, ChristianLeftistMD

    If Obama plays it right, there should be plenty of Rs in lean-R districts who voted to tax the poor and un-tax the rich.  We need to hold the Senate, even if its by a hair, and gain 5-10 House seats.  

    That sets us up nicely for 2016.

    Note if Hillary is our nominee, she brings in some groups that have stopped voting Dem, and gives us a tremendous opportunity to coat-tail it to taking the House and making gains in the Senate.

    Clinton - Schweitzer

    The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. --George Orwell

    by jgkojak on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 02:13:09 PM PST

    •  That's about right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      llywrch

      I think that if the Dems actually start showing some spine and principle on occasion (or, dare I dream, reasonably often), as opposed to governance at all costs even if it means giving in to brats, they should be able to show that they have principles to maintain.  One reason the GOP has made some of its inroads has been their ability to point to principled stands.  Think about the number of voters who didn't agree with McCain in 2008 but said that they appreciated that he was a man of principle.

      Speculation on the 2016 race is quite idle at this point.  I'm pretty sure Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is toying with the notion; everybody is speculating about Hillary--thankfully she's out of the shadow of her husband this go-round; and I've heard a few people talking about drafting Elizabeth Warren.  Warren would be excellent but I'm not sure she'd really want the job.  Everybody says it would be like Barack Obama, starting a run a mere two years into his stint as a US Senator, but he had several prior terms in office at the state level.  Not the same kind of campaign experience, and she already had an enormous learning curve on the campaign trail this time around.  I'm going to be even more proud to be a resident of Massachusetts come January 3.

      My own dream pick?  Bernie Sanders, and would he give the Republicans fits!  I don't think he'd run, and even if he did I suspect the mainstream press would do their best to marginalize him, but he'd be a top-notch guy in the office, he has vision, he tells his story well, and he's unafraid of articulating what he sees.  Nightmare pick on the Dem side?  Rahm Emanuel--not that he doesn't know how to run the office, but I don't like his stand on unions.

  •  "Fiscal Cliff" failures (0+ / 0-)

    on behalf of the GOP will make 2014 a different 6 year cycle election.

    If we put effort into 2014, we can win the House back, pad the Senate majority, and put the Republican party on their heels.

    "Congress" has a very low approval rating. We have them right where we want them.
    Talk about "gerrymandering" is an apologist's excuse. We kicked hiney in the 2012 cycle so don't try bringing that concept up again.

    We had Bachmann's seat... if we would have gotten on board earlier.
    We had another dozen... if we believed in ourselves and supported our candidates.

    I can't find it now, but a recent poll here in Nebraska suddenly shows the overwhelming support for our 100% Tea-Party delegation has dropped below 40% approval (Primarily on veterans issues and Farm bill defeat).

    Anyone not realizing 2014 is a prime chance to stand the conventional wisdom on its ear and bring Dems forward... is a slacker.

    They're looking for a reason to be losers.

    Enagaged activism wins elections. 100 million words on liberal/progressive websites gets beat by one new GOP voter casting their vote.

    by Nebraska68847Dem on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 07:36:06 AM PST

  •  In Ohio, we should not forget the 2018 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gizmo59

    election.  Three statewide offices basically control the drawing of State legislative districts which in turn has large implications on who controls the state legislature.  Those three are Governor, Secretary of State and State Auditor.  

    They make up 3 of the 5 seats on the Apportionment Board which draws those districts.  The reaming two seats come one each from the State Senate and State House but those two have to come from opposite parties so they cancel each other out.

  •  I agree that both 2016 and 2020 (0+ / 0-)

    present great opportunities for Democrats, but we really need to put our nose to the grindstone for 2014 in the meantime.  By my amateur judgement, it seems to me that the number of vulnerable Democratic Senators up for re-election is greater than that of Republicans (e. g. Begich of AK, Hagen on NC, Pryor of AR and Rockefelller of WV to name some obvious ones).  If we hope to continue controling the Senate, we need to make sure most of these Seantors return to office, and that's going to require a lot of money and shoeleather.  And don't even get me started on the House!

    -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

    by gizmo59 on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 12:20:03 PM PST

    •  No argument (0+ / 0-)

      There will be some vulnerable Democratic senators in 2014, and we need to see about protecting as many as possible--but the Dems shouldn't forget to play offense.  This year was supposed to be the year the GOP took back the Senate, because they had mostly safe seats and the Democrats had so many senate seats in play.  The GOP started showing just how ideologically pure they were and put their own seats in play.

      Just proof that even enormous sums of money cannot completely mask insanity.

      I am fond of non-presidential election years because they allow for a lot of play at the state level, especially in my home state.  However, if the national Dems are going to keep on keeping on, they need to focus on shoring up weak spots.  Right now, state-level races are major weak spots for the Democrats for two reasons: major right-wing legislation gets passed in GOP-dominated states, much to the detriment of how those states function; and state-level politics are where you build your farm team for most Federal-level candidates.  

      Candidates like Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren are generally exceptions, coming into the Senate with their first run for elective office.  More commonly you'll find city mayors, state reps and various statewide-level officeholders like Attorney General or Comptroller running for Federal offices.

  •  Every election is one to pay attention to, (0+ / 0-)

    but thanks for reminding us to consider "the long game".
    Politics is as much a game of chess as it is an arm-wrestling match.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 01:02:23 PM PST

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