SILVER SPRING, Maryland — I live in Maryland, and I closely follow Maryland politics. That’s how I know that my congressional district is part of an absurd gerrymander that stretches from the Washington, D.C., border to the Pennsylvania border, thanks to a 12-mile strand of mostly parkland that at multiple places is only 2,000 feet across. And this is far from the most absurd district in my state. Here’s the wildest one.

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I also know that an official nonpartisan commission drew a good map reflecting the new census data, and that Democrats in the state Legislature tossed that good map in favor of a slightly altered map that gives them a chance to have all eight congressional seats in Maryland. This state has elected a Republican governor twice in a row, where one-third of the voters are reliable Republicans, and where there are two distinctively conservative regions, each with enough population to make up most of a congressional district.

I wrote about this map, and on Twitter, I got lots of engagement from liberals who share my distaste for gerrymandering.

The undercurrent in these Democratic endorsements of naked Democratic gerrymandering is that naked Democratic gerrymanders are payback for naked Republican gerrymanders. And boy are there some naked Republican gerrymanders, with Texas and Ohio leading the way this year.

But it’s a weird sort of millennial-too-online-closed-in-a-media-bubble myth that Democratic gerrymanders are rejoinders to Republican gerrymanders. Somehow MSNBC and liberals on Twitter have convinced a bunch of other liberals that Republicans invented gerrymandering in 2010. This is, as you might guess, false.

Start with the states Democrats point to the most, beginning with Texas.

See, I’m old enough to remember when Texas had a Democratic-drawn map. For a small taste of the map Democrats drew last time they controlled Texas, look at the lines in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.


This map allowed Democrats to expand their majority of the congressional delegation, winning 21 of 30 seats (70%) while congressional candidates getting less than 50% of the popular vote. Even by the end of the decade, Texas Democrats had 57% of congressional seats while winning 44% of the vote.

After the 1990 elections, North Carolina was controlled by Democrats, who drew one of the most famous gerrymanders in the country. Here’s the 12th District.

By Wikipedia user "Kingofthedead."

“The 12th Congressional District of North Carolina,” wrote David Broder, “is a 160-mile long ribbon, often no wider than the right-of-way of Interstate 85, which it follows from Durham southwest to Charlotte.

I want to be very clear: I think the Democrats’ shameless undemocratic partisan abuse of power does not justify the Republicans’ responding in kind. I wish Texas and North Carolina Republicans wouldn’t sink to the level of Texas and North Carolina Democrats. I just wanted to give a history lesson here. The first gerrymanderer, Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, was fittingly a Democrat-Republican.

Republicans are able to gerrymander more effectively these days, on net, because they control state legislatures in more purple states. It's also because Democrats tend to cloister in very Democratic places, while Republicans are more likely to live in politically diverse places.