Former President Barack Obama will make an appearance at a Washington, D.C.-area fundraiser to help boost the efforts of his former attorney general, Eric Holder, and his project to counter recent-years’ massive Democrat losses by tinkering with election maps.
Barack Obama will make the first official political move of his post-presidency on Thursday, headlining a private fundraiser for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee at a private home in Washington.
The event, which will also be attended by NDRC chair Eric Holder and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is to support the group he’s helping back to coordinate Democratic efforts in state races and lawsuits to push back on Republican success in gerrymandering over many cycles. In many statehouses and Congress, that’s left Democrats at a baked-in disadvantage.
This is not Obama’s first foray into the political sphere since leaving office. Obama has taken criticism for taking pot shots at President Trump for pulling out of the Paris climate agreement and attempting to address the failures of his signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act.
Former presidents have been known to take up causes after their time in the Oval Office, but the most notable examples – such as George W. Bush’s work in veterans’ advocacy, and Jimmy Carter’s efforts globally to combat disease and homelessness – have skewed closer to the philanthropic than political. Even The Washington Post has called Obama’s involvement in the NRDC “a rare, if not unprecedented, step in the modern era.”
While the committee may be “proud” to have Obama’s support, as Holder said in a statement, that enthusiasm is somewhat ironic, given the massive electoral losses the Democratic Party suffered under the former president’s leadership.
According to the committee’s website, Holder’s group was created to build a “targeted, state-by-state strategy that ensures Democrats can produce fairer maps in the 2021 redistricting process.” The goal of these “fairer maps,” of course, is to help the DNC win elections against their Republican counterparts.
Eric Holder and the NRDC’s efforts are already getting a fair amount of support from sympathetic federal judges.
In recent years, however, due to court decisions mostly revolving around the Voting Rights Act, a combination of federal legislation and courts have usurped power from state legislators and have placed an ever-increasing list of prohibitions against how states can run their elections.
And while many critics of partisan gerrymandering tend to view it as a means by which the GOP alone holds power in the supermajority of state and local jurisdictions, these assertions tend to overlook examples like those in Illinois and Maryland.
And while racial gerrymanders are prohibited by the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court agreed to take up a redistricting case that could also bar drawing lines based on political affiliation as well, despite previous federal rulings which have allowed the practice.
In reality, there is simply no way to draw a district’s boundaries without favoring or disfavoring some sort of demographic. Regardless of which actors are given control over the process, some group is going to experience less representation. Even when the power to draw lines is taken from one group, the real outcome is simply trading one group’s gerrymandered map for another one.
This understanding is written into the U.S. Constitution, which leaves the power over redistricting to the states and their citizens.
“Yes, both political parties are guilty of gerrymandering in their favor when they seize control of state government,” explains Conservative Review senior editor Daniel Horowitz. “That is part of politics and the spoils of war.”
“While legislative gerrymanders — when taken to an extreme and disrespect natural geographic and demographic boundaries — are insidious, they are not nearly as bad as judicial gerrymanders,” Horowitz writes. “Federal judges are unelected and serve life-tenures. There is no recourse when they subjectively redraw maps.”