In 2012, Democrats won over 1 million more votes than Republicans in US House races, yet they won only a minority of the congressional seats—201 to the Republicans’ 234. It was Republicans’ second-largest majority since World War II, and only the second time a party won more votes and won fewer House races than their opponents.
Chris Jankowski is partly to thank for that. As a top tactician on the Republican State Leadership Committee, he spent years preparing Republicans for 2010’s post-Census redistricting fight — in which conservatives, long dominant in state legislatures and governors’ mansions, successfully gerrymandered a number of states’ congressional districts to maximize benefits for their own politicians.
Jankowski, who has consistently defended his work on the airwaves, did likewise in an interview with Fusion’s Natasha Del Toro—but he also offered some circumspection and tough talk for his fellow conservatives. The interview was part of Rigged, Fusion’s documentary investigation into partisan redistricting and electioneering.
“What we did was we won elections and then we made available extra resources, if each state wanted them, in drawing their own lines,” he says. In some states, like Florida and North Carolina, those Republican-led redrawing efforts have been rebuffed by voters or federal courts.
“Do I think [partisan redistricting] is fair?” he says. “I think it’s a natural consequence of both parties playing by the rules and maximizing their advantage.”
But Jankowski adds that his work can end up being undemocratic. “I think that it can be taken to the point of being, you know, unfair,” he says. “Do I think there have been overreaches this cycle in the redistricting? Absolutely.” He adds:
I think that one of the things that will have is if you get too polarized and if you get out of touch with the folks who you are representing on a statewide basis, your party will pay a price. It will come around. All of these things are sandcastles. They’re not concrete bunkers, these districts. So the ocean can come up and take them.