“This Is What a Political Train Wreck Looks Like”

NewCo Shift Forum 2018

Three political veterans ponder the future of the Republican Party

One of the most fascinating portions of the 2018 NewCo Shift program was its focus on US politics. In this conversation, veteran political journalist John Heilemann spars with two of the most seasoned veterans of presidential campaigns — Republican strategist Mike Murphy and Democratic strategist Jennifer Palmieri. The topic: The future of the Republican party in an age of Trump.

John Heilemann: We have a panel that was going to be a conversation about the future of the Republican Party with Mike Murphy, master strategist and political guru. Yesterday, she couldn’t make it, but now she’s here.

We’re going to go for a little bit of a different look on the future of the Republican Party panel by bringing a Democrat on board. I know Jennifer cares as much as any Republican about the future of the Republican Party. Jennifer Palmieri, Mike Murphy, come on up here, please.

[applause]

JH: I should say, I identified Mike as a political guru and a consultant strategist and so on. He’s senior partner Revolution Agency. Mike has a lot of different jobs and has worked for a lot of different candidates over the years and also does some work here in Silicon Valley.

Jennifer was Hillary Clinton’s communication director. Now she also has had a bunch of other jobs, but she was a communication director in the White House under Barack Obama, and has been a senior communicator in the Democratic Party for a really long time.

Thank you guys for coming up here to talk. I’m curious if you guys just right at the top have anything to say about what you just heard from Mr. Scaramucci.

Mike Murphy: I want to clear this stuff about Mr. Donald Trump being an anti-Semite. I don’t believe he is. I think he hates everybody equally.

[laughter]

MM: He hates humans. Look, Anthony is an old friend of mine, but I take a much harder view as a Republican. I think this is what a political train wreck looks like. I’ll give a pass to people on the staff on the National Security side for serving the administration. I’m a critique of everybody else. I think they are enabling him. Please.

Jennifer Palmieri: I find he can be engaging. He can be charming. He’s pleasant one-on-one. I fear this is what it looks like when the Russians succeed. This is how it looks like when we don’t take it seriously just how President Trump is eroding norms and eroding democratic norms.

It’s easy for someone like Anthony to explain away or say, “You just misunderstand them,” or “It was a malaprop.” This is what the disintegration of democratic norms looks like.

JH: I do want to keep this topic to be mostly focused on the future of the Republican Party. At some point, Donald Trump will not be President and there will be, presumably, still a Republican Party left. We all think that there is a value to having two healthy political parties.

JP: I do. I wasn’t joking. I really do.

JH: I know you do. I wasn’t joking when I said you were interested. I want to ask just this question, because this is a question about the future of the Republican Party. It’s obviously in the news right now. They’ve been asking a lot of people about it the last day, which is about guns.

The Democratic Party is not a complicated party when it comes to this. They are for gun safety. They are for greater gun control. That’s been the way it has been for a long time. Although, we had some Democrats as you know, Jennifer, who voted against the efforts to try to pass gun safety legislation after Newtown, who are unhelpful in this area.

It’s mostly a Republican issue. I want to ask you both. Starting with you, because you ran a gun control group for a period of time in the late ’90s, I believe. Is that right?

JP: Early 2000s.

JH: Again, right now — is this a tectonic shift? Something profound and different that’s happening in the wake of Parkland, or is this just another evanescent moment, where everyone is profoundly moved and emotional about this? We’re going to look up a month from now and we’re going to be exactly the same place where we were after Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Columbine, after all of it?

JP: It is a tectonic shift if you step back from the history of gun control. I started a gun control group after Columbine. It was called Americans For Gun Safety. It was a flawed concept at the time because it took a middle-of-the-road approach.

I started with this guy Jon Cowan. We tried it for a little bit. It didn’t work out. It became the think tank third way. I tried to find other middle-of-the-road policy solutions.

What the problem has always been on our side is that on the side of people who want to advocate for gun control or different gun safety measures is that the passion is on the people who oppose that. It’s never been a voting issue on our side.

It is a tectonic shift in that it will now become a voting issue. It will really hurt you as a Democrat if you are not embracing all of these solutions. Do I think this Congress is going to respond? No.

JH: I want to ask you this question. Republicans are the ones who have been afraid of the NRA for years. It’s the politics of this. If you oppose the NRA…

JP: Democrats, too.

MM: I’d say, yeah.

JH: It’s all Republicans who are afraid of the NRA. Some Democrats are. Most every Republican lives in fear that the NRA’s going to primary them, the NRA is going to put money into someone who’s going to challenge them at the congressional level.

If you are a congressional Republican right now who’s been traditionally pro-Second Amendment, you look around, you see these millennials incredibly passionate and incredibly articulate out there making their case.

More importantly maybe — this is the question I have for you — you look at what’s going on among corporate America. You look at Delta. You look at the banks who are taking away the NRA credit cards, all that stuff. Does that start to change your political calculus as a Republican candidate?

MM: Yes. First of all, there are exceptions. Pat Toomey, in a tough state, stood up the NRA and beat them in a non-Republican base state. Maybe that’s why he did it. He’s a case study and he’s bringing back his bill.

I’ve talked to a bunch of Republican members last week about this. The pressure’s at an all-time high. Whether something happens that’s meaningful or not is an open question.

I would say what we know now is this issue is incredibly linked to demographics. Younger voters are not where older voters are. Even in Republican areas on the current super-wide — I would argue crazy-wide — interpretation of the Second Amendment. Over time, the power of the NRA will decrease.

Second, if you poll even gun owners, background checks, some of this stuff, they’re all for it. There’s 80, 90 percent. Huge numbers. What’s happening now is there are about 30 Republican members who had started talking in the House. Some of whom are at risk. Others are just bothered by it. Is there some medium thing we can do in the short term?

On the other side of the equation, you’ve got the NRA, which is a business. NRA used to be more of a sportsman’s organization. They have their own politics inside the NRA over the board, their epic fights.

The point is, in the internal politics of the NRA, will they accommodate part way because they smell this heat? Or will the dominant faction, the business, makes more money — there’s a lot of self-dealing, allegedly — from more intense appeals. They’d rather have two million really pissed off members than eight million happy members. There’s an incentive there to keep the war up.

Do I think big things are going to happen now? No. Do I think we’re going to see stuff we wouldn’t have seen a year ago possibly go through the House and the Senate, which is easier? There’s a good chance.

JH: It’s like marriage equality in the long run.

MM: Very similar. The problem is — I worked for Mike Bloomberg on the gun issue and I consider myself pro-Second Amendment — you do have to talk about mental health. There are so many guns in circulation now. You can limit the future flow of these military style carbines, but you can’t really get them all.

It is with the technology that we have coming — I know a lot of you are a part of that — it is easier to keep track of than help 40,000 mentally disturbed people than it is a hundred million guns. We’ve got to look at it like a public health issue now.

JH: I’m going to do you again and then come back this way because these two questions work in a sequence.

Anthony was here. He made the one really accurate point which is Donald Trump arrived in — he made some more than one, but one for sure — he arrived in the Republican field in 2015. Most people thought this is going nowhere. This is a publicity stunt.

He demolished a bunch of people, everybody in the field including the guy you worked for. You run Jeb Bush’s super PAC. He had a shitload of money. He spent, not all of it, but a lot of it to try and stop him and got nowhere.

Explain to me. I don’t just want to ask you why that happened or how it happened. If you look at how it was that he won, Mike, and now how he’s governed. Put those two things together and tell me whether that’s, as you look at the two of them, the power of his candidacy to engineer a hostile take-over of the Republican Party?

Now, how he’s governing as the leader of that Republican Party, what does that add up to for the Republican Party and for the country?

MM: That’s a great and huge question. Yes, I am the idiot who spent a hundred million dollars trying to help Bush. It’s good to have a job today and be here. [jokingly] I’m due back in the hotel kitchen in an hour.

[laughter]

MM: I’ll be quick. We did refund 14 million of it. No super PAC has ever refunded money to donors. Both parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, this was a year of grievance politics. We would never admit it publicly because the perception of our strength became part of our strength on the Jeb side. Everybody, from Jeb on down, knew that we were not really what they were looking for. They wanted a hammer to smash the system.

I worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger. I did his campaign for governor on the recall. It was a similar circumstance where they wanted somebody from as far away from politics as they could find them to go punish the political system. Donald Trump was already famous.

That’s why you’re going to see Iron Man 28. It’s much cheaper to market, known concepts. He’d been on The Apprentice on prime time. Even if all he was doing was teaching Gary Busey how to work a snow cone machine, it didn’t matter.

[laughter]

MM: He was the in-charge, can-do, Art of the Deal guy. All we idiots in the regular Republican Party, including the Rubio guys and Christie and everybody else, Kasich. All thought it would be Ted Cruz versus one of us. Cruz would be the grievance candidate.

When Trump popped up, he had two things that we really underestimated. One, he got seven times the cable TV news free attention of anybody else. I work at one of them, but it’s a business. It’s clicks and ratings. Trump was boss. That was an amplifier he got for free. He was pre-famous.

Hillary’s problem was she was pre-famous too in not good ways, politics as usual. Second, we thought Trump will blow up in the primary because he was ideological. He had been a Schumer guy, all these Republican litmus test issues that have been gravity in all the previous primaries.

There is a reversion to mean in politics, generally. It didn’t matter. His personality, dominant and everything, he out-grievanced everybody. There were a bunch of us running. By getting about 36, 38 percent of the vote in the early primaries with this huge field, he was able to turn that pool around into an unstoppable thing.

I would try to finish this by saying, he’s governing just like his campaign. Trump has never left the Republican primary. In fact, he’s never left his half of the Republican primary. On one hand, we Republicans under Trump sit atop the world now, double majorities in the White House.

On the other hand, this is what a political train wreck looks like in slow motion. He has the worst polling numbers in one year of anybody in the history of polling as President. We’re heading to a mid-term election which looks pretty dire.

JH: Poor Republicans.

MM: Democratic intensity and turnout is so high. I was at the RNC the other day, and I said, “Is the carpet now yellow?” “No. Those are all the dead canaries from the last special elections.” We’re getting slaughtered everywhere, including in Virginia governor’s race. Not only in percentage but in the turnout intensity which is what all fair elections are all about, who votes.

Democrats have a huge problem getting their presidential year voters to show off in the off-year. They never do it. All the Eric Smith, mumbo-jumbo, Google Magic, they have spent a lot of money, never worked.

Our problem is getting anybody who is not a cranky, old, white guy to vote for us, which is why we lose presidentials, until now.

To finish up, he’s the same as the atomic clock of what he is. He doesn’t change. That let him hack the nomination. It let him to win an extremely narrow, almost margin of error election. I think it will be his undoing too in the midterms. We will see.

JH: You, Mrs. Palmieri, I will say, you listen to Mike Murphy. I listened to him a lot in 2016. I thought Donald Trump can win the primary. I thought he had a chance to win the primary, I’d say.

I never thought he could win the general election. Most people in this audience didn’t think he would win the general election. Most people have watched him over the last year and said, “This guy is a disaster.”

People want to tar and feather Anthony Scaramucci, even though he only worked for Trump for 11 days. There are people in this audience who say, “There is no fucking way Trump can get reelected in 2020.”

You were one of the people inside Hillary Clinton’s campaign who was constantly dealing with this dark, nagging, foreboding sense that your boss is going to lose. More than almost anyone I know on the campaign, you were…

JP: Jake Sullivan.

JH: You were worried throughout. I think right now you don’t think that Trump is unelectable in 2020. You think he could win again. Talk about that and go to the target darkness here for me.

JP: There’s no one on the planet, literally, who knows more what I think about this election than John Heilemann. It’s true. First of all, I have to say I had like a good chuckle in the green room about how scared I was of the Jeb’s super PAC.

[laughter]

We were so scared in 2016 of the Jeb’s super PAC. Oh, my God. They have a hundred million dollars. They’re going to destroy Hilary.

MM: We had a plan.

JP: I don’t even remember what it was called. What was it called? Right to Rise?

MM: Right to Rise. Yeah, income equality. That’s out.

JP: It’s not what destroyed Hillary. Yeah, I think Trump can absolutely win reelection. In my mind, he is the disruptor that came to politics that proves the system is entirely busted. What it seemed to me, and what I have told John before of whom was referring to, is that I realized early on in the fall of 2015, this is a very different kind of election.

It is a reckoning. Disruption has come to my industry in the form of Donald Trump. He is breaking all the rules. I was like, “This is what everybody whose life has been offset by a confiding force feels like. Nothing makes sense. He’s broken all of the rules. He proves that this old system doesn’t work.

You see it now with Congress. You see have a Congress that is not at all responding to the needs and beliefs of the electorate that it represents. Our President doesn’t either.

I think that this is a very big deal in our Republic that we have these institutions that don’t respond to voters. We got a 62 percent chance that that’s going to get fixed and a 38 percent chance that it’s not. We are going to disintegrate into a fiery pit of racial hatred. 62 percent chance that we don’t, but I think that if he wins he could win reelection.

The moment I had, particularly it was early September is when I really felt like we are going to lose. I thought why are we going to be the ones who can stop this guy. He just blew through that Republican field. You’re going to look back at 2016 and see it as a reckoning of all of these frustrations in America coming to the surface across the board.

Black Lives Matter, Dreamers that want to become citizens, women, who even during that time in response to Trump, coming forward about us all. Why are we going to be the ones who can stop this? You’re going to look back and say the only thing that made rational sense, the only possible ending to that crazy year as Trump wins.

JH: Here is the thing. Mike, I ask you this because again I think if you look at all the reasons why Trump should never have won in 2016. You look at all the rational reasons why he shouldn’t win in 2020. You look at his historically low approval ratings.

You look at how little he’s gotten done. You look at the huge percentage of Americans who think he’s not just out and against him, but think he is unsuited to the office, unfit for the office, etc.

I could write 20 pages about why Donald Trump could never win again. I could write 20 pages about why the Republican Party under Trump is doomed. On the wrong side of demographics, on the wrong side of the rising coalition, nonwhite voters, and millennials, all that stuff, right?

Yet, Republicans right now control the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the majority of governorships, the majority of state legislators. They have more institutional power right now, and after Trump, an increasingly large amount of the judiciary.

They control more of the governing apparatus in America than they have ever controlled. They are in some ways as dominant a political party in America right now as there has ever been in terms of the seats they hold. How does one reconcile all of that?

MM: No, if that’s the metric, as of today, everything looks tremendous. It’s almost like we’re the MySpace of our era. I hope somebody pays a hundred trillion for us right now. Maybe were sell to Bezos while we can get a good price. I’m a value investor.

Here’s just a little math. This is always a war between mathematicians and priests. I’m a mathematician, and I was wrong last time. Last 12 times I was right. I’m not giving up my belief in math.

There’s been a Rasputin effect on a lot of people in politics. Particularly Democrats and I think a lot of the media and a lot of the Republican party, which is why they’re hanging with Trump. Which is, Nate Silver said he was going to lose and he won.

This guy can’t be killed. Poison doesn’t work on him. He’s going to win again because he’s got these magic powers and look, he won. Here he is, atop the world, so it should continue. There’s an inertia to that.

I’ll just take you to the election very quickly. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and my home state of Michigan, any one of those if Hilary had won, he wouldn’t be President. This is like if Napoleon had nuclear subs, we’d all be speaking French.

Stick with me for a minute. Those three states together, which hadn’t voted to Trump’s credit Republican’s since the ’80s in a presidential race, together cast 13.9 million votes, a lot of votes. Trump’s margin was 77,000 out of that. It was like a calculus equation where he was in a range for a minute at the right time, and he won.

Instead, now how will the country be different in the next election? Will Trump get better and attract new voters? Maybe. I’d be surprised. Will the Democrats nominate somebody with, all due respect, as horrible a candidate as Hilary Clinton, the Dasani water of politics? Never your first choice.

[laughter]

MM: I doubt it. They might but I doubt it. Demographically, if you reran the election today with the exact same numbers Trump got in terms of vote share, he’d lose pretty comfortably.

We’ve never had one of these things with three million votes in the popular election. The Bush one was about 450,000 votes versus the electoral college.

Yes, it could happen. If Trump was better, if Trump could self-correct and adapt, if Trump could just take the thorn out of a few toes, I think he probably could get reelected with all his grossness and everything.

Here’s what we know. We’re going to know early. You want to make your bar bets, talk the day after the midterm elections. If Democrats win the house, they’re going to double the size of the government printing office for all the subpoenas they’re going to fly.

The Republican party will start to implode around Trump because we’re going to lose real power and real bodies and a real apparat in DC. People will start looking at primarying him.

He will react to that badly. He’ll start talking, I predict, as a third party candidate. “I don’t need any of these swamp jerks. I’m my own guy.” Then it will spin into the new reality that’ll drive the real life.

JH: Do you believe that? I’m up also as someone who believes in math and physics. There’s just so much history around the notion that a president with the kind of approval ratings Trump has in a midterm election, that this will be a national election.

We have a lot of Republicans who are resigning at historic levels. The party has a giant albatross around its neck. The likelihood the Democrats take control of the House does not seem a hundred percent, but it’s high. The Democrats are going to take control of the House. On that date, is Mike right?

All of the things that I thought the institutional Republican party would do in reaction to Donald Trump, it has not done. The institutional Republican party has capitulated to Trump at every turn. All it has done is said, “Yes, sir.” No matter what he did and how it realigned up with their existing beliefs, their existing votes, their history, their alleged ideology.

They have just bent over for Trump over and over again to tie his shoelaces. Is it true that on the day after the midterms, that the Republican party suddenly says, “Oh, you know what, hey, these Trump things not working out for us. We got to go the other direction”?

Or do they just do what they’ve done for the last two years, which is to say, “Hey, Trump is still a beast and we got to stick with him”?

JP: I think that there is a chance that after the midterms, they could turn on him. That’s less than 50/50 because they haven’t…I thought after they passed their tax bill, maybe they would start to turn on him. They got what they wanted out of him. That still hasn’t happened because they fear his…

With gerrymandering, they’re not…Paul Ryan, I guess is not wrong to think that not embracing Trump is going to hurt his Republican caucus because the way that those seats are designed, that they’re made up of hardcore Trump supporters.

It’s like blowing on the embers [laughs] to try to start a fire for the Republican party because they’re just trying to hold back their losses.

It’s certainly not a growth strategy but I wouldn’t be surprised that after the midterm, even if they got slaughtered, they still don’t turn on the guy because the people who are left…It’s like when all the moderate Democrats left, the only people that are going to be left are the hardcore Republicans. Which is why I think those chances are less than 50/50.

The parties are probably going to realign in a really dramatic way that I certainly have never seen. The way I thought about it from ’16, there was open and closed.

The people that ended up voting for Hilary are the people that think we should engage in the world. Then there are people who think we should not, and want to hold onto what they have wanted in their lifetimes.

I don’t know that it’s going to go back to Mike and I having the same kind of differences that we have had in our careers. We had a very narrow aperture through which we looked at a small set of issues. Mike and I would have enormous, ginormous fights over them, and make it seem as if the world was going to end if Mitt Romney’s tax cut passed because he won instead of Barack Obama.

That’s something I own. That’s my contribution to the dysfunction is not misrepresenting but perhaps exaggerating the impacts of some of these things. All of us, press, practitioners treat politics like a game. Pretty soon the people believe it.

Trump took the playbook of just driving up as many of your enthusiastic supporters as you can and not trying to commit. That’s something that all of us have embraced, too. That’s why I think he is the ultimate disruptor. I’m hopeful that in 2020 we’ll come back. Everybody’s going to have to participate in a different way.

JH: I want to ask you last question and then take a couple questions from the audience. I asked a question earlier about guns. I want to ask you a question about another big thing. Some said certainly in the midterm trend and maybe in varying ways, the two parties, which is this Me Too, Time’s Up moment.

We had a Democratic congressional candidate here, a female, running in the primary to try to unseat Dana Rohrabacher yesterday. I want to ask you, just looking at this extraordinary explosion of female candidates. Mostly on the Democratic side, but not entirely, who are just flooding the field.

Maybe that’s partly about a general thing that’s going on. Maybe Hilary Clinton’s part of that but certainly this moment that we’re going through around sexual harassment, with the Me Too and Time’s Up movements are part of it.

I know you talk to a lot of female candidates all the time. How do you see it reshaping? Again, tectonic change? If so, what does it do to our politics if that happens, plays out that way?

JP: I think we’re living through a tectonic shift in general and that women is part of it. As a matter of fact, I have written a book about the subject, actually, John.

JH: Really? Have you?

JP: Yes. Thank you so much.

JH: What’s the title of that book?

JP: It’s called Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World. It’s written as a letter of advice to the first woman president, but really for women everywhere. I was really concerned among the races when Hilary lost, that women, children were going to feel so destroyed.

That happened for a few weeks. Then a lot of women realized, wow, these rules that we have lived our lives by do not work. We are going to create a whole new set of rules. This game is broken. It doesn’t work. Women weren’t meant to plateau this way. Women weren’t meant to lose to a misogynist. No.

It’s been a weirdly empowering moment. Me Too, I believe that is a direct reaction to Donald Trump. I think that is women saying, “Well, I got nothing to lose. I’m going to speak up and I’m going to tell my story. People will believe me. People aren’t, but I can’t…I got to do something.”

That’s why you see this amount of women candidates. My advice to them is it’s different than running as a man. People have different questions about you. You shouldn’t listen to [laughs] pollsters who tell you different. It is a time for women to just, even not even listen to practitioners like me because they…

Voters are looking to engage in a new way. They’re looking for a new kind of candidate. Women, you’re going to see them win in historic numbers. I don’t think it’s going to change. I had a sickening moment on the Clinton campaign in October 2016 where I realized, right, we have made Hilary a female facsimile of the qualities we look for in a male president.

No wonder you think she’s unauthentic. She’s got to be strong. She’s got to be tough. She’s got to be commander and chief. She’s got to wear a pantsuit. It doesn’t mean that everybody who didn’t vote for her is sexist. It’s just, we have no other model in our head for what that looks like.

My conclusion is she unfortunately, had to be the one to go through this horrible, painful, awful, grueling, wrenching campaign to lose to this asshole because that’s what the first woman had to go through for us to see how broken it was. Now the next woman…

When you hear somebody say about Kirsten Gillibrand or Elizabeth Warren, there’s something about her I just don’t like …. I know what that is. I hope that people learn that lesson from watching what happened to Hilary and it doesn’t happen to the next woman.

MM: Yeah, very quick. I applaud that but I will say as a Republican that did one of the few successes for Republican gubernatorial candidates for two terms, when the Democrats play to identity politics they’re helping Trump as a tactic and they have to be careful.

I wanted Hillary to beat Donald Trump because I despise Trump so much. I’m no big Hillary fan. When I saw those endless ads with young girls looking up at Hillary, it drove me nuts because they had all that vote for free.

The metal benders in Detroit, nobody was talking to them except Trump which is how Democratic sense and security carried for 25 years were lost. I understand the emotional power of that. I understand the righteousness of it, but careful making identity politics the siren song of the Democratic party or you may have Trump again.

JP: I agree with that. It’s just that I don’t think women are identity politics. We’re more than half the population.

[applause]

JP: Also, the gender bias isn’t gender biased. We as women, I certainly hold a lot of these biases too. It’s not as if women automatically want to vote for other women. There’s a lot of problems getting women to vote for other women.

In the example of our election, I’ll just say two quick things. One is by the time we got to a lot of these voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, they could not hear Hillary. It was way too late. They were frustrated. They were angry. They were mad. They were disenchanted with Obama. It was done.

What we should have done is we should have spent more time in Arizona, Georgia, Texas. That’s the future of the Democratic Party. You got to play the hand you got. We were doing that.

JH: …I know in a friendly way you guys could go on forever. I just want to get to the audience before we run out of time. I could listen to this conversation all day. Got it. Sir, go ahead.

Ron Stoltz: Hi, thanks for the straight talk. I really do appreciate it. I’ve seen you guys on TV. To see you in person is great. I’m Ron Stoltz. I’ve spent my career in technology, doing it and then explaining it to members of Congress.

[laughter]

RS: I’ve spent a lot of time on the Hill.

MM: The second parts a lot harder than the first part.

RS: We had to speak in simple terms.

[laughter]

RS: My question is a little wonky. I’m a math guy. It has to do with gerrymandering, about redistricting and also about voter suppression. I see that chokehold potentially being loosened. I just wondered what you thought.

Will more Democratic governors be elected in the midterm, do you think? Will the courts push back on biased voter suppression? That’s my concern.

MM: Both parties love to do it. I live in a district in LA that used to only be contiguous of low tide that the Waxman-Berman machine drew. Iowa has the best plan because it’s totally technocratic. It creates more swing districts which is better for democracy.

Both parties are incentivized when they have a governorship to draw their lines. I guarantee you at DNC headquarters when they pick up some seeds, they’re going to be drawing Republican districts into lakes. That is a hard cycle to break.

There’s also an issue with minority districts that can get in the way of fairly districting mathematically, because it tends to make for denser Democratic districts where you don’t spread the votes out into Republican places.

There’s often a practical alliance between the Republican state legislators and the African American or other minority to cost the Democrats one to create one more minority districts. There’s a whole system of incentives that has to be broken.

RS: Voter suppression should be laid at the feet of Republicans?

MM: Voter suppression is very low on my list of problems we have in our democracy, because, with a few exceptions, and those are mostly under legal challenge, it’s pretty easy to vote in America. Yet, a lot of people choose not to.

Biggest problem the Democrats have is a third of the voters, mostly theirs, won’t show up in the midterm. Not because they’re suppressed, because they’re not interested in it.


“This Is What a Political Train Wreck Looks Like” was originally published in NewCo Shift on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.