Why Are States So Important? Special Election Edition: The Long View


Photo by Marcus Byrne on Unsplash

As we wait in a fluctuating state of queasy panic/avid anticipation for next week’s election results, let’s remember this truth: change takes time, particularly the kind of fundamental change we are hoping to effect. Reversing the fascistic rot eroding our government and seeding our states with humane and decent legislators is not, to put it mildly, a short-term proposition.

We don’t know what will happen next week. Maybe our candidates will sweep the elections, or maybe the blue wave will turn out to be more of a trickle. Whatever the results, the midterms are not an endpoint, but simply one way station along the road to transformation. And with every hour we put in canvassing, phonebanking, postcarding, and fundraising for our candidates, we lay more groundwork for change in the future.

Lest you think “the future” is an abstraction, remember that the next two years will be critical ones for states seeking to reclaim their structural integrity after a decade of Republican gerrymandering. Over the past 10 years, Republican lawmakers have drawn ever more contorted district maps in states such as OH, NC, and PA (home to Sister District candidates Anton Andrew and Melissa Shusterman), crowding Democratic votes into as few districts as possible.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the “redrawing of district boundaries every 10 years is designed to ensure that Congress and state legislatures are representative. But all too often, redistricting is not used by elected officials to safeguard electoral fairness, but to manipulate boundaries and stack the deck in favor of a political party or incumbent candidates.” As a result, even when “an election sees massive changes in the votes a party receives, there can be zero change in the number of seats that party can expect to win.”

Several anti-gerrymandering lawsuits are already underway. The 2020 census, which is currently under fire over a proposed citizenship question, will determine the data states use to redraw their district lines, so it’s vital that we have principled, progressive state lawmakers in place in time for the recount.

Russian writer and warrior for righteousness Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offers some perspective with his quote – which, until I can track down the exact words, I must regretfully paraphrase – about how one fights for human rights not because one necessarily expects to “win,” but because it’s the right thing to do.

Obviously, none of us would be working so hard if we didn’t believe in at least the possibility of meaningful progress toward justice. Perhaps Solzhenitsyn means that “winning” is the wrong word, because it implies finality and completion in a struggle that is, by its nature, never final or complete. This is a daunting prospect, but it’s also freeing, because it means there’s always another chance to do the right thing.

Thank you for building the road with us. Onward!

– Juliet Eastland