Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: Democrats need ideas, not maps

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Abdul-Hakim ShabazzIndiana lawmakers have approved legislative maps for Congress as well as those for the Indiana House and Senate. Critics say the maps were not drawn to create competitive races, but instead, the districts were gerrymandered in order for Republicans to keep their overwhelming majorities in the Legislature.

I will have to respectfully disagree with my friends and colleagues. I argue, ladies and gentlemen, that the GOP didn’t have to really engage in gerrymandering because of the natural political demographics of Indiana and how they have changed over the years. And if Democrats want to win elections, they need to present ide has to the voters, not count on political boundaries.

For example, back in 1991, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives 52-48 and then went to 55-45. But then came the Republican revolution of 1994. Republicans took control of the House 56-44. They won on ideas and a lot of voters being mad at then-President Bill Clinton. Democrats came back with a 50-50 split and then controlled the House from 1999-2005. And even though they drew the House maps in 2000, Republicans managed to win in 2004, when Mitch Daniels got elected. The GOP then lost control in 2006 and 2008, regained control in 2010 and has held the House chamber ever since.

Meanwhile, taking a look at the congressional map, Democrats controlled the map 7-2 in 1992, but that flipped in 1994. Republicans were then the majority of the delegation until 2006 and regained it in 2010. Once again, it wasn’t necessarily political lines that gave Republicans their control, but ideas that appealed to Hoosiers.

And if Democrats want to get back in the majority, they need to present ideas and an agenda to voters. Now, it helps if voters are angry at the incumbents, but you can’t count on anger all the time to win an election.

In the current maps, Republicans didn’t really have to do much gerrymandering because of the political demographics of Indiana. For example, there used to be a lot of Democrats in southern Indiana; that’s not the case anymore. As the national and state parties drifted to the left, a lot of those conservative Democrats turned into Republicans; which is why, if you can find a Democrat south of Interstate 70 outside of Terre Haute, Bloomington, Evansville and Jeffersonville, go buy yourself a lottery ticket, because it’s your lucky day.

And while we’re talking about “fair maps,” don’t forget, Libertarian Donald Rainwater came in second in about 30-plus counties in 2020 during his run for governor. So how do we adjust for that? I’m just wondering out loud here.

Now, this doesn’t mean there weren’t some politics being played, particularly when you look at the 5th Congressional District. But even then, the GOP only delayed the inevitable, as the southern portion of Hamilton County becomes more purple (or burgundy) and less red. But that’s at least two to three election cycles from now.

In a nutshell, folks, the GOP did what the GOP was legally required to do with the current maps—maintain as close to equal populations in all districts, be contiguous and not dilute minority voting power. Everything else would be extra. But let’s face it, for now, Indiana is a Republican state and will be for the near future.

Lines on a map won’t matter, nor should they.•


Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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3 thoughts on “Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: Democrats need ideas, not maps

  1. You are correct that Democrats are at a disadvantage due to the demographics of this state. But I’ll just toss your logic back at you… if Republicans don’t need to gerrymander Indiana in order to win, why do they work so hard at gerrymandering Indiana? Could it be that they really aren’t sure their ideas are winners? There is no way demographics alone could lead to a 7-2 Republican advantage in the U.S. House, nor the kinds of supermajorities they enjoy at the Statehouse. The fact is, Republicans gerrymander because THEY don’t want to run on policies that are becoming increasingly unpopular and irrelevant, especially to younger voters. They want power, and don’t really care about policies. If we had truly open, fair, unsuppressed elections where majority views really prevailed, Republicans would be worried.

    1. +1.

      I mean, look at what they did to Fort Wayne.

      “ you can’t count on anger all the time to win an election”

      What do you mean – that’s the Republican platform in a nutshell, anger all the time.

  2. It is an interesting observation that Democrats have drifted to the left. I would say if anything they have drifted to right and It is just that Republicans have gone so far right that from that point of view Democrats look like they are at the end of the. earth.