On November 7th, in Washington, D.C., after delivering a speech to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Eric Holder grabbed his Blackberry in search of results from the Virginia elections. As the former Attorney General scrolled backward through a long e-mail thread, he quickly learned just how stunning a night it had been for the Democrats. He also understood that, after this triumph, it might be a little harder to keep his party focussed on gerrymandering.
“The system didn’t become more fair as a result of what happened last night,” Holder told me the next day. “The system appears to be more fair in spite of the reality that those Democratic candidates faced. The job that I have is to make sure people don’t become complacent.”
Holder has spent the past year tackling the once hopeless task of making redistricting sexy. He leads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, and its charge is nothing less than saving the Party’s prospects for the next decade. Big donors need to be convinced that state legislative races matter as much as the Presidency; congressional leaders, desperate to retake the House in 2018, need to recognize that long-term down-ballot success is crucial to unlocking future majorities. These are not easy arguments to pursue with politicians who are narrowly focussed on their next election. It’s even harder when they believe that an electoral wave—one like last Tuesday’s—rather than sacrifice, compromise, and planning, will save them.
Read more: The New Yorker, October 14, 2017