Robert Crohan/Staff Writer
After many delays, the electoral results of the 2020 United States census have finally been released.
Such an important staple of our republic holds heavy implications for every one of our citizens. Now, we finally have a clearer idea of what the evolving face of our country looks like.
Some major takeaways include that the US population grew to just over 331 million, a 7.4% increase since 2010. Additionally, although the finalized information has yet to be released, we can anticipate that the country has grown older, less white, more Hispanic and Asian, and more urbanized. Nationwide growth is at a near-all-time low.
However, the bigger surprises- and implications- lie in the census’ effect on our politics. A new electoral map has been released that sees a handful of states losing influence, and others gaining it, through both Congressional districts and electoral college votes.
Depending on each state’s population shifts relative to the country as a whole, each state is appointed representation based on calculations. And based on the 2020 Census, there is much shift indeed. The states gaining representation are Texas, Montana, Oregon, Colorado, North Carolina and none other than Florida. The states losing representation are New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, West Virginia and- tellingly- California.
What does all this mean? For one, both major parties are in a scramble, as mostly Republican states are among the beneficiaries. Because the GOP controls more state governments than the Democrats, they will have the upper hand in drawing new districts. In essence, the prize of a promised new district is a mystery present for Republicans.
Here in Florida, it is likely that the new seat will be gerrymandered to favor the right, much to Democrats’ chagrin in a state that was already turning away from liberalism. It is also possible that the new seat could come from South Florida, which could help FIU students get more help from their elected leaders. However, I personally expect the contrary, a new seat in Central Florida given that South Florida has experienced more stagnant population growth than the burgeoning Orlando area.
In other states, the picture is even more bleak for Democrats. North Carolina, a largely consistent lean Republican swing state, has been gerrymandered to the moon and back, so Republicans may find creative ways to circumnavigate urban growth. Texas, which is more conservative, will see similar developments. The only Democrat-dominated state to gain representation is Oregon.
Plus, the assumption that the vast majority of newcomers to southern states are liberal or voters of color, is not entirely true. Just look at Florida turning red, and the fact that conservatives have fled formerly red states like California and Colorado to resettle in Republican states.
The national effect could be astronomical, with analysts proclaiming that the House of Representatives will be a GOP lock in 2022, something that could derail President Biden’s agenda. This would embolden more Republican state legislatures to restrict voting and continue gerrymandering. Republicans could continue to point to growth in their states, and the first-ever census loss for liberal mecca California, as a moral win for limited government and low taxes.
Going further, reasoning has held for years that Republicans always stand to benefit from the new electoral maps, and that Democrats always lose. Indeed, the trend has been favoring the South and West for generations, both of which have been mostly Republican since the 1970s. Texas and Florida, which almost always gain seats, are the largest red states.
However, the ingrained GOP advantage, at least in the electoral college, is no longer the case. Yes, Texas, North Carolina and Florida voted for Donald Trump, but not by safe margins. I would argue that Texas is inevitably going to become a Democratic state, as its growth is mostly in the major urban areas and liberalizing suburbs and has seen climbing diversity. Even with the mostly Hispanic borderlands shifting hard to the right in 2020, Texas as a whole still moved left.
Plus, Democrats have successfully taken over Colorado, a former swing state that has experienced decades of growth. Oregon, another blue state, will gain representation. If the Democrats keep these states, and manage to win any of the aforementioned three, GOP overall gains will be dodged. This comes as Republican Ohio and West Virginia lose representation. Alabama nearly joined the pack.
Yes, the Rust Belt is mostly Democratic. But as its influence wanes, and as it shifts to the right, the Democrats will have some breathing room in the Sun Belt battlegrounds. They, however, will need to hold onto Arizona and Georgia. The diverse and progressive Democratic party of the 21st century is more suited to the South and West than the New Democrats that previously reigned over the midwest.
In general, growth results in increasing liberalism, which transformed California, Virginia, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada and now Arizona and Georgia. Even in Montana, it is possible that a Democrat could represent one of the two soon-to-be districts, if it contains liberal western cities.
In terms of the losing states, which are mostly Rust Belt Democratic strongholds, the Democrats have attempted to fight back by zeroing in on Sun Belt states, an effort that paid off in 2020. Although Arizona surprised many by not gaining representation, it nonetheless has grown exponentially and will continue to do so. The same holds true for Georgia. But the damage has been done, as Trump would have gained electoral college votes on this new map with his 2020 wins.
Only two red states lost representation. The consistent blue losers are Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York. These findings reveal that Democrats and Republicans have much work to do to revive state economies and make long-neglected states more livable and less corrupt. This should force national conversations.
Another defeat for Democrats lies in California losing representation for the first time in history. Wildfires and a miserably high cost of living have fueled an exodus, and Republicans have long sounded the alarm about the state’s problems. It should force California Democrats to invest in sustainable housing, fighting climate change and making the mammoth economy work for all.
However, a somewhat overlooked effect of this is more representation, and potentially more trouble, for voters of color and LGBTQA+ voters. As the more diverse states gain Congressional districts, it could create more opportunities for voters of color to seek public office. This may also pave the way, however, for state legislatures to restrict voting access and disenfranchise voters of color. They may feel emboldened to attack the LGBTQA+ community with nonsensical and discriminatory bills that push a national culture war.
If these diverse states go blue in 2022 or 2024, voices of color could be uplifted into more federal positions, such as US Senator or President. This holds especially true in Florida, as FIU students will be salivating over the prospect of their candidate winning 30 electoral votes or a US Senate seat.
With these new results, change is coming to American politics that represents challenges and opportunities for Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between. For better or for worse, the conflict has begun.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.
Photo by U.S Census Bureau