Gerrymandering is Destroying the Political Center: Debate "Housekeeping" (07:08)
Moderator John Donvan addresses U.S. political divisions and resistance to compromise, in light of the 2016 election. He states the motion, explains the debate format, instructs audience members to vote, and introduces panelists for each side.
For the Motion: Caroline Frederickson (07:05)
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy President, Frederickson provides a historical framework for gerrymandering. Since a Supreme Court ruling that legislative districts must be roughly equal in population, state legislators draw maps to gain votes. House incumbents remain unchallenged in the primaries, decreasing voter turnout and exaggerating political extremes.
Against the Motion: Nolan McCarty (06:53)
Princeton politics and public affairs professor, McCarty says Congressional polarization reflects long term cultural, economic, and demographic changes. He uses a sample state to distinguish partisan from incumbency protection gerrymandering. Empirical data shows underlying U.S. geography is polarized; polarization does not increase disproportionately around reapportionment years.
For the Motion: David Daley (06:45)
"Ratfu**ed" author and Connecticut Mirror publisher, Daley outlines Republican attempts to gerrymander Florida districts after 2010 constitutional amendments forbade partisan intent in redistricting. Gerrymandering is why, with Democrats winning the popular vote, Republicans control state and national legislatures. Voter distribution is the most essential element in a polarized nation.
Against the Motion: Chris Jankowski (06:38)
Former executive director of the Republican State Leadership Committee REDMAP Project, Jankowski admits he engineered Republican political control, but argues that gerrymandering does not destroy the center. Swing voters have been disappearing for 20 years, and voters silo themselves through social media, communities, and cable networks.
Polarization in Senate (04:50)
Donvan summarizes arguments from both sides. Caroline Frederickson argues Senate members compromise more than the House; Nolan McCarty says minority filibusters "force" bipartisan cooperation and small state senators take extreme positions. Frederickson points out House incumbents are safe due to gerrymandering.
Recent Polarization Trends (04:03)
Chris Jankowski says gerrymanders help maintain district majorities, but the electorate is already polarized, as seen in the presidential election. David Daley uses Pennsylvania as an example of how a Democratic popular majority was usurped by a Republican Congressional majority.
Partisan Gerrymandering vs. Incumbency Protection (04:18)
Nolan McCarty explains that the majority party spreads out voters in as many districts as possible to impact the opposition, which are not "safe" for incumbents. Caroline Frederickson argues that non-partisan districting increases competition and decreases polarization. Chris Janjowski is skeptical of a neutral redistricting process.
Arizona Example (04:00)
Chris Janjowski says the 2016 presidential election was racially and economically polarized, despite competitive districts. David Daley cites partisan gerrymandering occurrences after 2010 that decrease political representation of the center. Caroline Frederickson adds that unaffiliated voters are excluded from the primaries.
North Carolina Example (03:53)
Nolan McCarty says there is little correlation between extreme politicians and district competitiveness. David Daley argues the system no longer holds parties or individuals accountable. He cites North Carolina redistricting as responsible for extreme Republican Mark Meadows shutting down the government in 2012.
QA: Defining the Center (01:52)
Nolan McCarty describes a time when Congress members would vote across party lines. Caroline Frederickson says Senators get in trouble for compromising. Donvan concludes the "center" refers to politician behavior, in this debate.
QA: Do Homogeneous Districts Create Polarization? (01:02)
Nolan McCarty clarifies that large districts where the majority party tries to spread out will be more heterogeneous.
QA: Voter Polarization causing Gerrymandering (07:07)
David Daley says new voter data enables "safe" partisan gerrymandering. Chris Jankowski argues shrinking Democrat voter turnout caused Wisconsin and Michigan to flip. Caroline Frederickson says gerrymandering has resulted in voter restrictions; 4 in 10 voters are still open to compromise.
QA: Gerrymandering Narrative causing Polarization (03:05)
David Daley argues that there is heightened awareness of gerrymandering. Caroline Frederickson says it contributes to perceptions of Congressional dysfunction and lack of accountability among elected officials, decreasing political participation. Nolan McCarty argues there is no correlation between gerrymandering and voter response.
Closing Statement For: Caroline Frederickson (02:07)
Frederickson tells the story of former Republican state representative Dale Schultz, the plaintiff in a case challenging partisan gerrymandering as a constitutional violation. He retired in 2014 due to polarization; as a moderate, his 2011 district was too conservative.
Closing Statement Against: Nolan McCarty (02:27)
McCarty argues that long term gerrymandering and polarization trends, including voter realignment in the South and Northeast, have not affected competition in House elections. Trump's Electoral College victory and popular vote loss results from demographics— not district lines.
Closing Statement For: David Daley (02:26)
Daley says the center has lost 99% of Congressional representation in 20 years. He uses Mark Meadows in North Carolina as an example of how redistricting polarizes the electorate and compromises democracy.
Closing Statement Against: Chris Jankowski (02:25)
Jankowski explains that control of the Wisconsin state senate passed back and forth between Republicans and Democrats under district lines drawn in 2000 by Republicans. Governor Walker’s reforms polarized the legislature, independently of gerrymandering.
Time to Vote (03:35)
Donvan thanks panelists, instructs the audience members to vote, outlines upcoming Intelligence Squared debates, and dedicates the debate to Gwen Ifill.
Audience Vote Results (01:01)
Pre-Debate For - 62% Against - 8% Undecided - 30% Post-Debate For - 53% Against - 34% Undecided - 13%
Credits: Gerrymandering Is Destroying the Political Center: A Debate (00:04)
Credits: Gerrymandering Is Destroying the Political Center: A Debate
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