President Obama's got about three months left in the White House. Beyond arranging for the fumigation of Joe Biden's office, he's begun to indicate what one of his post-presidential cause will be, and he's bringing back someone from the old gang to lead it.
Politico reported Monday that former Attorney General Eric Holder would lead a new political action committee called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which will focus on state-level efforts to influence redistricting. The White House announced that Obama would work closely with the new group to try and create an electoral map that was friendlier to Democrats.
“American voters deserve fair maps that represent our diverse communities—and we need a coordinated strategy to make that happen,” Holder told Politico. “This unprecedented new effort will ensure Democrats have a seat at the table to create fairer maps after 2020."
Given that a lack of a Democratic majority in the House was Obama's nemesis for six of his eight years in office, it makes sense he'd go right to the source of his troubles in his post-presidential career. State legislatures are the ones who create congressional districts, or at least set the procedures by which those districts are created—and Republican control of state legislatures has skyrocketed in recent years.
The GOP currently controls the entire legislature in 30 states, creating real concerns over gerrymandering. That's how you get a situation like the 2012 congressional elections, where 1.7 million more votes were cast for Democratic candidates, but Republicans still won a majority of the House. They currently hold the largest majority that any party has had since 1928.
But even if Obama and Holder are successful, the actual impact they have might be limited. They're not just fighting maps drawn by Republicans. They also have the problem that Democratic supporters just live too close together. That's good news when electing a president or senator and the winner takes all depending on how the state votes. But having Democratic voters clustered in cities means you have a few landslide Democrat wins there, and a more close Republican wins elsewhere.
Things are looking good for the Senate, but it could be a long time before there's a Democratic majority in the House again. Holder and Obama have their work cut out for them.