The Californication of North Carolina

I noted a couple of stories about a panel at Guilford College held by members of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission addressing North Carolina’s gerrymandering and how it can be fixed. As the Winston-Salem Journal put it, the committee was “in town to spread a gospel of fairness and integrity.”

Boy that’s rich, considering California is the biggest, most obnoxious example of one-party rule in the country. And that one-party rule –yes, Democrats—have made a mess of a beautiful state. Just read the news.

But let’s be fair—some make the valid point that gerrymandering is not the reason California has turned deep blue. And the reasons are as ugly–if not uglier—than gerrymandering:

A variety of trends, then, have left California with a deeply unequal demographic and economic state of play that is ideally suited to the Democratic Party. The working and middle-class exodus has left California with a large and disproportionately white upper and upper-middle class concentrated in the metropolitan areas surrounding San Francisco and Los Angeles; urban, educated populations tend to be cosmopolitan and culturally liberal. (This is especially true in the two industries California is known for—technology and entertainment; the dramatic decline of Southern California’s Cold War-era defense and aerospace industry also deprived Republicans of a once-significant business-class constituency in the Golden State.) California also has among the highest poverty rates in the country; poor people of all races tend to support the Democrats for economic reasons. Meanwhile, one of the few middle-income occupational categories that is still robust is the public sector. And public sector unions support Democratic politicians because they are dependent on them for continued state-sponsored benefits and patronage.

Which is not to say that North Carolina should not embrace redistricting reform. JLF chairman John Hood has been a consistent advocate for redistricting reform and recently wrote:

Set aside for the moment the prudential case for Republicans to support redistricting reform — that given the uncertainty about who will win the 2020 elections, and how current redistricting litigation will end, reform would keep Republicans from suffering the kind of gerrymanders they faced before 2010. North Carolina conservatives and Republicans should change the system simply because it’s the right thing to do, because letting politicians choose their voters rather than letting voters choose their political representatives is incompatible with basic principles of conservative governance.

And while North Carolina matches California in its physical beauty, it is most definitely not California in its political or social makeup. So perhaps importing this bit of the Sunshine State could be a positive thing.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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