Eric Holder's organization to combat political and racial gerrymandering is about to acquire Barack Obama's political organization.
The coming merger, between the former attorney general's National Redistricting Action Fund and the former president's Organizing for Action, guarantees that perceived abuses in the world of electoral mapmaking will gain unprecedented prominence during the coming campaign – in time to help shape the once-a-decade redistricting of the House and state legislatures.
But the consolidation also guarantees the burst of additional energy, and money, will be all about benefitting the Democratic side of the debate. And the potential for further partisan polarization of the issue will do nothing to draw the collaboration of Republicans, who will be essential to any widespread depoliticization of the process.
"Simply put: this is a leftist power grab that will undoubtedly bring on more election-time shenanigans," Cheryl Chumley wrote in The Washington Times today. While Holder "says it's all about fairness and equality and democracy and justice," she added, "as every good conservative knows: those are all leftist code words for killing conservatism, one district at a time."
The main consequence of the merger is that Holder's group will have access to Obama's database of supporters, donors and volunteers. The newly enlarged organization plans a series of small house parties across the country March 23 to launch All On The Line, its campaign to promote redistricting reform and participation in the 2020 nationwide headcount.
"The integration of OFA with NDRC, into our redistricting effort, is going to help us have activists all over the country who are fighting for fair maps and more representative democracy," Holder told The Hill. "The integration of OFA with NDRC is an organizational action, and it's really just designed to effectuate that which OFA has always stood for, which is to engage citizens at the local level."
Holder says he will be legally barred from using the Obama database if he decides to run for president.
The NDRC plans to focus its energies on establishing politically competitive and demographically balanced House and legislative maps in six increasingly competitive states where mapmaking is the province of politicians (Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado and Texas) as well as four bellwether states where bipartisan commissions control the process (Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Arizona).
Republicans controlled the redistricting process in seven of the states after the last census. Pennsylvania's delegation is now split, nine Republicans and nine Democrats, after the state's top court declared the earlier map a partisan gerrymander and ordered a new one. In the other six, the GOP holds 65 of the 101 House seats.