Some helpful readers point me to Section 4 of Article I, which gives the Congress authority over the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives.” If “manner” is read to include districting, then the 1967 statute mandating single-member districts is valid, and my proposed “nuclear option for the Democrats” of electing the California Congressional delegation as a bloc doesn’t work legally. There doesn’t seem to be much caselaw on the question.
Of course, if the idea doesn’t work legally, that’s the end of the discussion. But I detect a noticeable lack of enthusiasm for the idea independent of its legality, on the grounds that it wouldn’t be nice.
That, it seems to me, is a mistake. Playing nice is nice as long as the other side is willing to play nice. Right now, the other side isn’t.
Update A reader offers a different plan:
I am all for bare-knuckle politics where necessary, and brass-knuckle politics everywhere else. But I don’t think the California nuclear option is a net
win for Democrats. I personally think permanent re-redistricting is a better way to go. Since Dems still control a few Deep South state houses, and the Voting Rights act will prevent the Georgia map from
becoming too evil, they are better off re-redistrciting Illinois, Louisana, and New Mexico in a very rude fashion, and then in 2006 re-redistricting New York once Democrats gain one party control there.
That would more than offset the terrible maps in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Texas.
Re-apportioning California from “incumbent protection” to “competitive” would also do the trick.
That raises an interesting question, to which I don’t know the answer. How does it happen that the Republicans continue to control the New York State Senate, and does anyone have a serious program to end that situation in 2006?