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March 14, 2022
By Marc Cooper
Let’s begin with a semantic correction. The three week old conflict that stands at the center of world attention is not a war between Russian and Ukraine. It is, rather, a Russian war against Ukraine. As I write, the invaders might be slowed down or stalled yet they are continuing to pound away at Ukrainian urban centers, reducing homes, schools, hospitals and occasional military targets into dust as Ukrainian solders and citizens fight a mighty resistance.
While the mounting casualties have moved from the hundreds to the thousands and soon might reach into the tens of thousands, Vladimir Putin has created the largest flow of European refugees since World War II. Almost three million Ukrainians have fled the country, an equal number are expected to leave in days to come, and at least two million have been internally displaced.
The war continues to widen to the west, threatening to envelop all of Ukraine. On Sunday Russian forces struck a Ukrainian base just 6 miles from the Polish border, alarmingly close to a NATO red line border.
As we complete the third week of a war whose ultimate scale remains a frightening unknown, there seems to be only one series of piercing questions that rebound across and over the US media: Are we going to do anything? Are we going to have to just sit back and watch this massacre? Why can’t we just give Ukraine those Polish planes? A no fly-zone? We gotta do something, right?
I will write this backward and offer my conclusion before I lay down the predicate. The answer is a rotund NO. At least a conditional NO. We should not and mostly cannot more deeply engage the US any deeper than present. And, yes, we are going to witness, we are going to watch, we are going to see a lot of sickening carnage.
That’s not all. We are doing a lot. We are providing more military aid than the entire Ukraine defense budget. And we are frenetically transferring tons in sophisticated arms, including anti-tank weapons and surface to air missiles that are of immense strategic value to the Ukrainian forces. We are also waging a fierce war against the Russian economy and with great success.
Let’s calmly unpack the three reasons why a greater US intervention is not desirable, why it would not work and why it would make things much worse for everybody.
NUCLEAR DETERRENCE IS REAL
This is a tough bone to swallow. Nuclear weapons have allowed both the US and Russia to swagger around the world without much fear of any direct attacks because we live under nuclear umbrellas. We have established a bi-lateral policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, each side with 1550 nukes pointed at each other and standing, at least in the words of their owners, as guardians of world peace and stability [sic].
Perhaps for the first time in modern history, the U.S. – at least the Biden administration-- is conceding that it too is mortal and that we the United States are currently hamstrung by the MAD doctrine and it is who are being constrained to act because of Russian nukes. Republicans are saying this proves Biden is weak. I think it proves he is rational.
Most alarming are the rising chorus of mainstream national security talkers who are pushing us to push those limitations. I’m thinking of former US Ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul and former national security aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman –both who get tons of air time—who are arguing that the transfer of fighter planes from Poland via the US air base in Ramstein, Germany would not be enough to provoke a nuclear reaction from Russia. Or, as McFaul has put it on several occasions, such an act would have a “very low probability.”
Of course, McFaul and probably nobody else except Putin himself has any idea if that’s true. Personally, a very low probability of World War III does not cut it for me. I’m thankful that so far these two influential guys are still opposing a no-fly-zone which, they agree, would be a direct declaration of war against Russia.
In the meantime, the mostly useless appendages in the US Congress have lumbered into action with 58 members, led by Republican Rob Portman and supported by Democrat Amy Klobuchar, making a formal call on Biden to provide Polish planes to Ukraine along with air-defense systems. The White House, fortunately, is holding firm on its non-intervention decision. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that after consulting with NATO allies and advisors, the White House "ultimately determined that the risk/benefit analysis of flying planes from NATO bases into contested airspace over Ukraine did not make sense."
And just the day before, the Russian government warned that convoys carrying US or NATO weapons into Ukraine would be “legitimate targets” for attack. Russia was not referring to just the future transfer of planes, but rather the current ongoing and massive arms transfers the U.S. is directing primarily from Poland.
I hate to be so terse but, really, this should be the end of the debate about U.S. escalation. But it isn’t, amazingly so. The Ukrainians, very understandably, want to test that supposed nuclear restraint, arguing we are already in World War III so why are we waiting. As I said, perfectly understandable from those already under fiery assault. But throwing our hands in the air, saying fuck it, we are already in a world war, is clearly the shortest path to an ugly self-fulfilling prophecy.
NO SUCH THING AS A QUCK AND DIRTY INTERVENTION
Can you recall anytime the U.S. staged a short, quick and successful military strike? One that did not prolong a conflict and make it bloodier? Perhaps, Ronald Reagan’s fly-over and bombing of Muammar Kaddafy’s tent. That was successful if the goal was killing the dictator’s baby. Or maybe it was Bill Clinton’s cruise missile strike in Sudan that took out that lethal aspirin factory and killed one night watchman.
I am not about to rehearse for you the long list of wild, half-assed, ideologically-driven, US military adventures since WWII, you know them all too well. And exactly none of them stand out as glowing successes. On the contrary. Back in 2001, how many of us, I do include myself, thought that America’s reprisal strike against Al Qaeda and the Taliban would stretch out for 20 years and wind up with the Taliban back in power? I might add, 50 years after the Vietnam war, our “enemy” is still in power and is now our friends. In Nicaragua, where we spent a couple of billion supporting the contras against the Sandinistas, it’s the Sandinistas (a mutated variant of them) that is in power thirty years later.
Sometimes the Left and the Right portray the US as an almighty power that can will its way through any circumstance. All the best for democracy and freedom say the Right. And only to further economic, corporate and imperial interests argues the Left. What neither side wants to admit to are the very real limitations of US military power. It’s the one over-riding lesson the national security blob refuses to learn. Questions of morality and right and wrong to the side, the U.S. simply lacks the power to magically “fix” things with military troops and hardware.
Let’s be specific about Ukraine. A whole array of military actions by the US are possible. But what will they achieve? Let’s assume for this discussion that the U.S. and NATO do find some way to get some warplanes to the Ukrainians without generating some dramatic pushback from Russia. That alone will not win the war for the Ukrainians. The Russians have a long history of throwing division after division into the maw as Russia does not lack humans that can be conscripted.
So once the planes are in, and the Russians continue to grind down Ukrainian cities with field artillery and rockets, what is out next move?
I have no idea. Do you? But let’s be crystal clear: we would be engaging in an open-ended land war smack dab on the Russian border. Just how long do you think that conflict would last. A year? 10? 20? What, pray tell, is the end game there?
My point is a simple one: If the US could quickly and efficiently intervene to “save” Ukraine and do so without any possibility of provoking a terminal world war, of course I would support that. But this is not a word puzzle or a salon game. It is a very real war with extremely complicated underpinnings and consequences. And I am ready to unequivocally state that direct US intervention in the war would cause only more death and destruction and would no more “save” Ukraine than we have already saved Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Nicaragua.
This warning is still not enough for some. Yes, they say, there might be only a “low probability” of a global nuclear war but we can and should dive in because we can’t just sit back….
Which take us to a third final reason to avoid intervention.
THE WORLD WAR WILL BE TELEVISED
I was listening to the New York Times’ tech pundit Kara Swisher last night describing this conflict as the first war to be so forcefully fought over the internet. She and so many others – again include me—have recognized and admired with what deftness Ukraine has been winning the “information war.” Zelensky is much more than a comedian, he’s a successful media entrepreneur and he fully understands the broadcast medium. Putin’s person along with his clunky Stalinoid propaganda about “nazis” crashed on opening night and ceded the way to the Ukrainians. The Russians will speak primarily with their artillery and not prioritize memes. Ukranians are much more skilled in modern communications. Infinitely more so (one more indication of how Western-facing Ukraine has become).
Ukraine has countered with brilliant up-to-the-minute mastery of social media, heart-rending images, and a very clear narrative (made easier by the fact that Ukraine has a righteous cause). It’s television that still beats the web for an image driven story. And what images are more compelling, more stirring than ordinary citizens taking up arms to defend themselves, while hospitals burn, apartment houses collapse and Russian tanks are set afire? I am not being cute nor frivolous nor am I in anyway understating the gravity of this war when I say it makes a fricking great live TV show – one that has now run solidly 24/7 for the last 20 days. More power to Zelensky and to the Ukraine communications and media crusade.
I get it, I can also distinguish between a media strategy and international policy. They are rarely the same. And while we can appreciate the narrative the Ukrainians have fashioned to rightfully gain much of the world’s sympathy, we must also take extra efforts to make sure our policy responds to hard realities and not media-enhanced emotion. The last thing we should be doing is to let television, television news, cast us into a suicidal adventure.
The problem with television and specifically television news, was laid bare in 1987 by the late Neil Postman in his iconic book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” when he wrote:
“I do not mean to imply that television news deliberately aims to deprive Americans of a coherent, contextual understanding of their world. I mean to say that when news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result. And in saying that the television news show entertains but does not inform, I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed.”
You might feel informed after watching an hour or two of CNN live from Ukraine, and you will be better informed about certain things that happened during the day: which city has been bombed, a reporter was killed, the convoy is still stalled. Or it isn’t. What you won’t walk away with is any better understanding whatsoever of the history, the context, the implications, the relevance, the realistic avenues of response and so on. You will be just as ignorant –or as knowledgeable—about Ukraine and Russia and a war that dropped out of the blue after watching 12 hours of coverage than you were before you sat down. As grim as the news might be from Ukraine, it is still a form of entertainment because it is not linked intrinsically to any real action. It’s a show, no matter how real it might be on the other side of the camera.
Postman has argued that when it comes to international crises, broadcast news both fires you up and then renders you impotent to do anything all at the same time. Daily news about things way beyond your control gives everybody something to talk about. Everybody’s business becomes everybody’s business but there is little and usually nothing you can do about it.
If you think that images of starving children in an African famine drive people into action, it’s true that such repeated imagery also creates an emotional numbness. When those images come on the screen you are torn between doing something –anything—and going to the fridge to get another beer. Eventually, it’s just the latter.
How prescient was Postman – a man I consider to be a mentor—when he wrote back in 1987:
“What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war? What do you plan to do about NATO, OPEC, the CIA, affirmative action, and the monstrous treatment of the Baha’is in Iran? I shall take the liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them.”
But isn’t it different now with this war? I mean, people really want to do something this time.
No, not really. We didn’t do much at all when we watched Russian planes level Syria a few years ago. We did nothing as a people to stop the Mexican drug war in the early 2000’s that took 60,000 lives (though our government provided the guns). I don’t hear but a few activists clamoring to intervene to stop Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen that has taken a staggering 375,000 lives. Ditto with the wars in Ethiopia and South Sudan.
All these conflicts are not equal and there is no question that the scale so far of the war against Ukraine outstrips and dwarfs them all. But, I would posit, if you put cameras on the receiving end of the bombardments in Yemen and you somehow got that as the feature story every night for a month on TV news, indignant Americans would be demanding immediate action to take out our Saudi allies, the perpetrators of this bloodbath (the same regime that this past weekend carried out the largest number of simultaneous criminal executions in history, killing 81 prisoners). Perhaps if we ran an hour strip every night on the news featuring Saudi beheadings and whippings, we would want to do something –anything—to stop them. And, just as likely, they would be turned into a popular reality show. I would go as far as saying that if news organizations decided to cover the now-cyclical invasions on Palestinian areas by Israel by, say, embedding in Gaza and doing a couple of hours live from there – nightly—Americans would be feverishly pushing for action against Israel.
I am a fierce supporter of Ukraine. My family comes from Odessa. I have no problem condemning Russia and Putin and I wish him the worst. I want Ukranians to continue to be as fully as armed as possible. I also watch hours a day of the TV coverage even though I am basically watching a much louder and bloodier version of a boy trapped in a well, or of 33 Chilean miners struggling to get above ground, or the old BP oil leak, the movements of that guy who killed his girlfriend in the desert that ate up the news for a week or two. All of them deeply, deeply moving sagas (not so much for the killer guy) and all of them way out of our reach, and control and as cold as it sounds, totally detached from our real lives. And all of them interrupted with frivolous commercials, blatantly ignorant anchors, and accompanied by other “news” of the most trivial, senseless crap possible.
Just imagine: tonight you go home, flick on the tube to catch the latest in the war and, surprise! Instead of the live broadcasts from the battlefield, the refugee centers, and the offices of the Pentagon, CNN or MSNBC or your local commercial station, dedicated only three minutes of coverage of the war, and then 57 minutes –every night—of things you can actually DO in your own community, at your immediate reach, to contribute to the war effort of the Ukrainians. Endlessly watching the horror show and then crying out on the web that “we” have to do something, anything, to stop the killing, with no regard for consequences accomplishes absolutely nothing.
Going to back to the start of this essay: Yes, we are going to watch lots of innocent people get killed and we are going to do very little about it because we cannot. Killing a lot of people at a time is a recurring event throughout human history. The only difference today is that in some cases, we get to see it. +++
Because “thoughts and prayers” isn’t a strategy.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third week, the humanitarian toll is mounting, with thousands of civilian casualties. More than 3 million Ukrainians have already fled the country and another 2 million have become internally displaced. According to the United Nations, the crisis could end up displacing more than 10 million people, many of them children.
There’s been an outpouring of international support for the Ukrainian people. Not only are many of the world’s governments sending Ukraine billions of dollars’ worth of military and economic aid, but businesses and regular people are also being inspired to show support for the victims of the war.
If you, too, are tired of feeling helpless in the face of this tragedy, here are some novel and not-so-novel ways you can help.
1. Host a refugee
If you feel comfortable opening your home to civilians fleeing the war, there’s a couple of ways you can offer them temporary shelter.
View more on Instagram.
The number of people sent fleeing Ukraine by Russia’s invasion has topped 1 million, the swiftest refugee exodus this...
Sign up to host a refugee with Airbnb.org and they will take care of vetting them, connecting them with you, and providing you with liability insurance and damage protection. If you don’t have space but still want to help give refugees short-term housing, you can donate to Airbnb.org to fund other hosts and get the donation matched (and deducted from your taxes to boot!).
If you’d prefer to take a non-corporate route, you can also register at UkraineTakeShelter.com, an independent platform created by two Harvard undergrads to connect fleeing Ukrainians with potential hosts. All you need to do is provide your contact information and nearest city.
2. Tell Russians what’s really going on
Thanks to President Vladimir Putin’s censorship and propaganda efforts, the vast majority of Russians have been made to believe the invasion of Ukraine is just a “special military operation” designed to liberate their oppressed Ukrainian and ethnic Russian brethren from a gang of neo-Nazis and drug addicts. There’s no war, no targeting of Ukrainian civilians, no tanks rolling into Kyiv. Anyone inside Russia who tells them differently risks going to jail for 15 years, and they’ve been blocked from accessing much of the world’s internet and independent media.
But you can help break the information Iron Curtain. For starters, you can use the Outline tool created by Jigsaw to set up your own VPN server and give large numbers of Russians free and safe access to the global internet.
A website developed by Polish programmers lets you send texts, WhatsApp messages, and emails directly to random Russians with the truth about the war. Go to 1920.in, enter the number or email address at the top of the screen into your phone, copy/paste the message text in Russian (feel free to Google Translate and tweak it if you’d like), and hit send. Then get a new recipient, rinse, and repeat.
Want a more efficient way to reach behind Putin’s propaganda wall? Go to mail2ru.org and email up to 150 Russians at a time, drawn from a list of more than 90 million email addresses including those of every Russian member of parliament. The more Russians learn the truth about the war in Ukraine, the more likely it is they will rise up and demand that Putin end it.
Remember: Most Russians bear no responsibility for Putin’s war of aggression. Educate and inform, yes, but be civil. These are innocent people. The goal is to persuade them, not to attack them.
3. Counter Russian disinformation in the West
The Russian war machine has been hard at work spreading fake, misleading, and manipulated information about the conflict on social media platforms, in an effort to sow confusion, equivocate, and deflect blame. Many of these attempts are highly sophisticated and therefore effective.
But that doesn’t mean you have to fall for them—or let others. Start by purging your social accounts of Russian bots with Bot Sentinel. Instead of taking inflammatory images, videos, and claims at face value, fact-check them first. Look up any suspicious social media claims and footage you come across on the Bellingcat website, which is keeping track of pro-Russian misinformation. You can also use these handy guides to vet the information yourself.
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Firsthand footage of the war in Ukraine has flooded social media since Russia’s invasion started two weeks ago. How d...
When in doubt, refrain from sharing anything you haven’t seen confirmed by multiple reputable sources. And when you spot fake news, don’t be afraid to report it and call out BS publicly.
4. Join Ukraine’s cyber defense
You may not be a seasoned hacker, but you can still participate in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Russian state and media websites that routinely disseminate false information about the war in Ukraine. Simply open this website and let it use your computing resources to overload Russia’s propaganda infrastructure. Alternatively, you can do the same by downloading and launching an app as instructed here.
5. Donate money
Boring, I know. But during a crisis like this, when so many millions are in desperate need of food, shelter, medicine, and so much more, every dollar counts. Here’s a list of only a few of the dozens of trusted organizations that have been working tirelessly to help Ukrainians since February 24:
Many of these organizations accept crypto in addition to bank transfers, PayPal, and credit/debit cards. For more resources, check out SupportUkraineNow.org and StandForUkraine.com.
6. Stay informed
You won’t be of much help if you’re not on top of what’s happening on the ground—and why. Follow trustworthy news sources like the Kyiv Independent, which is covering events in English from the front lines, and subscribe to this newsletter and Signal for the most up-to-date, fair, and honest analysis of this conflict.
See @IAPonomarenko's post on Twitter.
Thanks for reading. We can all make a difference.
Washington Examiner Senior Political Correspondent David Drucker joins Sarah Westwood to discuss his recent interview with former President Donald Trump and whether or not he will consider having former Vice President Mike Pence as his 2024 running mate.
Watch the video here.
Ohio’s crowded Republican Senate primary grew more contentious Friday evening as candidates continued to jockey for an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
Read the full story here.
US CAMPAIGN NEWS
By Kate Scanlon
|Redistricting: What’s Left?|
Looking at the 5 states (and 59 districts) that have yet to be finalized
By J. Miles Coleman
Associate Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball
KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE
-- The national redistricting picture is nearly complete, as only 5 more states -- FL, LA, MO, NH, and OH -- have yet to enact congressional maps.
-- While Democrats are currently up in our running House tally, the plans from those 5 remaining states should boost the Republican tally.
-- Despite GOP hegemony in Florida and Ohio, the situations in both states have been especially messy. Ohio Republicans are constrained by new voter-approved redistricting rules and a state Supreme Court that appears determined to enforce them, while Florida’s governor and legislature are not on the same page.
The nation’s outstanding redistricting business
With the 2022 primary season already underway, the vast majority of states have passed their new congressional maps. However, while the lines have been finalized in 39 of the 44 states that have more than a single district, some of the remaining states are large -- in fact, the composition of their delegations could decide control of the House.
The Crystal Ball favors Democrats in 185 of the seats that have been drawn, to 169 for Republicans (22 districts are Toss-ups). But the 5 states that have yet to produce maps account for a sizeable 59 seats. Perhaps more notably, Republicans, at least on paper, technically control redistricting in 4 of those states -- Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio -- while they also may end up getting their way in the 5th, Louisiana, despite its Democratic governor.
Altogether, Republicans currently hold 39 of the quintet’s 59 seats, so in terms of the overall House count, even a relatively status quo arrangement would likely benefit the GOP (while Ohio is losing a seat, Florida is gaining one).
The smaller states
New Hampshire, the smallest of the 5 states, is typically a blue state at the federal level -- it backed Biden by over 7 points and does not send any Republicans to Capitol Hill. But in 2020, Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) won reelection by a 2:1 margin, and his coattails likely helped Republicans claim both houses of the state legislature. In an ironic twist, Sununu seems less than thrilled with the plan that the legislature seems intent on advancing.
Since the late 19th century, New Hampshire’s pair of congressional districts has seen little change. Over the last decade or so, the 1st District has been a prime swing seat, while the 2nd has leaned Democratic, but not overwhelmingly so. Last week, a Senate committee approved a plan that originated in the state House. Under this plan, Republicans would have a good chance to flip NH-1, as it would be turned into a narrowly Trump-won seat, although this means that the GOP would essentially concede NH-2.
If the full state Senate passes the plan, it will head to the governor’s desk. Though Sununu has stopped short of issuing a veto threat, he recently seemed to encourage legislators to amend the plan.
During a recent special legislative session in Louisiana, where Republicans hold 5 of the state’s 6 seats, legislators passed a plan that would maintain that split. But the 5-1 plan was met with Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D-LA) veto pen. Edwards reasoned that in a state that is roughly one-third Black by composition, 2 of the 6 seats should be majority Black, instead of just 1.
Republicans, who have majorities in both chambers of the legislature, need a two-thirds vote to override Edwards. While they have that number in the state Senate, they are slightly short in the state House. Interestingly, while at least one state House Democrat has announced his intentions to go against Edwards, Republicans may have some of their own defections. The congressional map made some curious splits in Grant and St. Mary parishes, which has some Republican legislators from those areas raising parochial concerns.
The Louisiana legislature began its regular 2022 session on Monday, so it may soon try to override Edwards’ veto. If Republicans are unsuccessful, the process may fall to the courts -- while this may give Democrats an opportunity to make the case for another Black-majority seat, such a district would still not be guaranteed. It is also possible that if Edwards’ veto is sustained, Republicans could pass another 5-1 map that would satisfy some of their defectors -- although it could still prompt litigation.
A few states up the Mississippi River, Missouri seems to be proof that just because a party can be maximally aggressive in redistricting doesn’t automatically mean that it will. In January, the state House passed a plan that essentially kept the state’s 6-2 Republican map intact.
Aside from MO-1 in St. Louis, which is about half Black (and acts as something of a natural Democratic pack anyway), Republicans have fairly wide latitude in drawing the state’s map. The plan that the state House passed kept MO-5, the other Democratic-held seat, as a Kansas City-area sink, while it gave Rep. Ann Wagner (R, MO-2), who has a light red St. Louis area seat, a boost.
However, conservative Republicans in the state Senate decried the plan as the “Pelosi map,” and charged that their party could be more aggressive. Though it would theoretically be possible to carve up MO-5, for a 7-1 GOP map, this would make some of the red seats less firm. Additionally, though it is possible to shore up MO-2 by turning it into a more rural seat, Wagner seems reluctant to relinquish much of her suburban St. Louis constituents.
After a filibuster, an amendment to create a 7-1 plan failed in the state Senate. Later, another 6-2 map was floated -- as a concession to conservatives, it would have moved Wagner’s seat even further right by giving her all of Jefferson County (this suburban county used to be swingy, but now usually gives Republicans solid majorities).
Without passing a congressional map, the Missouri legislature adjourned, but it will reconvene next week. With the candidate filing deadline at the end of March, though, there is pressure on legislators to pass a plan -- if talks break down again, it seems possible that courts could step in.
Florida and Ohio
Though Republicans have total control of state government in both Florida and Ohio, redistricting in both states has been, to say the least, hard to navigate.
In November, the Florida state Senate kicked off the process in the state -- it released 4 draft plans. Though each version had minor differences, none were especially dramatic departures from the current plan: each retained a dozen Biden-won districts, while the new seat, FL-28, was roughly coterminous with fast-growing Polk County.
As state analyst Matthew Isbell chronicled in his summary of the state’s recent legislative session, conservative complaints over the relatively tame state Senate maps may have prompted Gov. Ron DeSantis to propose his own plan. The governor’s plan was an aggressive Republican gerrymander -- in 2020, Trump would have carried 20 of his 28 districts.
One of the main sticking points among Republicans has been how to draw the panhandle. The DeSantis plan eliminated Democratic Rep. Al Lawson’s FL-5, which runs from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. FL-5 was established in 2016 as a result of the state’s court-ordered mid-decade remap -- it replaced another heavily Black district that snaked from Jacksonville to Orlando. Though Black residents make up a large portion of FL-5’s population (49%), they are not a majority -- thus, according to some thinking on the Republican side, it is not protected by the Voting Rights Act. Earlier this year, DeSantis requested an advisory opinion from the state Supreme Court on FL-5’s legality, but the high court declined to give an opinion.
In the meantime, the state House produced its own plans -- perhaps in the interest of expediency, the state Senate got on board with the House. In the end, the entire state legislature passed 2 congressional redistricting plans -- each features 18 Trump-won seats. While Plan 8015 keeps FL-5 intact, Plan 8019 reconfigures the seat so that it is located entirely within Jacksonville’s Duval County (and it becomes less Democratic-leaning). The former acts as a backstop if the latter is struck down.
Neither plan is as aggressive as DeSantis would like, though. The governor has not backed off of his veto threats, and Isbell predicts that the courts are likely to step in.
Ohio was unquestionably one of Republicans’ biggest redistricting success stories over the last decade -- for 2012, they drew a plan intended to give their party a 12-4 edge in the state’s delegation, and it held each cycle -- but it has seen one of the most complicated redistricting sagas of any state. In 2018, Ohio voters passed Issue 1, a state constitutional amendment that established certain standards for fairness in redistricting. While this seems a worthy objective, the ramifications of this amendment have driven much of the tumult in the state.
In November, Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) signed off on a plan that the legislature passed. That plan gave Democrats 2 ironclad seats (in Cleveland and Columbus) and created 3 marginal seats -- all of which could elect Republicans, especially in a cycle like 2022 -- but left 10 clearly GOP-leaning seats. Importantly, because the map was passed along party lines, it would only be in place for 4 years, according to the rules established by Issue 1.
In January, the legislature’s plan was struck down by the state Supreme Court, which found the map to be “infused with undue partisan bias.” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who also served as the state’s Republican lieutenant governor from 1999 to 2002, was the critical vote -- she sided with Democratic-aligned justices in a 4-3 ruling.
At the beginning of this month, the state’s redistricting commission, which is a panel of statewide politicians and legislators, passed a plan that is generally similar to the version that the court struck down -- in the context of 2022, Democrats would only be solid favorites in 2 of the state’s 15 seats. The new map is currently under judicial review, but seems likely to get struck down.
Of these 5 states, Ohio may have some unique logistical challenges, considering its relatively early primary. Unlike Florida, for example, which has a late August primary, Ohio’s is scheduled for May 3 -- a date that may have to be pushed back. Additionally, filing for partisan congressional candidates in Ohio closed on March 4. If a new map is enacted, filing could very well have to be reopened. As an aside, Maryland recently pushed back its primary (and filing deadline) due to redistricting-related lawsuits -- so such delays are not unheard of in post-redistricting cycles.
It is hard to say what type of map Ohio may ultimately enact for the 2022 cycle, but given the state Supreme Court’s interpretation of Issue 1’s standards, Democrats seem likely to emerge with more than just 2 seats.
Even if Democrats get more favorable plans in states like Ohio and Florida, we expect these final 5 states to give Republicans a boost in our overall redistricting count.
To use an Election Night analogy, the national redistricting picture reminds us of watching a swing state report returns before all of its most conservative areas are fully in: while Democrats are ahead in our count now, that could change once these states finalize their maps.