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Republicans' Misplaced Masochism

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 8: U.S. Senate candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina arrives with her husband Frank Fiorina to celebrate her primary win at the California Republican Party event on California Primary Election night at the Anaheim Hilton on June 8, 2010 in Anaheim, California. Fiorina hopes to unseat Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer who is in a virtual tie with Republican challenger Tom Campbell, according to a recent poll. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    California Republicans are a strange breed of masochists.

    They keep beating themselves up over the wrong thing.

    The recent ProPublica story that accused Democrats of fooling the redistricting commission has occasioned a round of Republicans masochism.

    GOP voices, when not denouncing the Democrats, are asking why they didn't do more to swing the redistricting commission, just like the Democrats.

    They should stop. If it's true that they didn't spend a ton of time and money trying to game the redistricting commission, they were wise not to do so. It would have a waste.

    For all the hubbub about redistricting and the ProPublica charges, there's very little advantage to be gained in this redistricting process.

    That's one of the big problems with the ProPublica story; the publication never establishes that the Democrats did any better than they would have done without theiir behind-the-scenes politicking.

    The hard fact is that political geography is destiny in redistricting, at least in California.

    The state is so well divided between coastal Democrats and inland Republicans that there simply isn't any way -- in a system that relies on single-member districts of big sizes -- to change the party breakdown very much.

    Independent analysts see little more than one or two seats moving between parties. The number of competitive seats is also unchanged.

    So playing the redistricting game is a dumb move for a party that has bigger problems: declining registration and a governance system that has reduced them to hostage takers.

    Unfortunately for Republicans, party leaders are seizing on the ProPublica story, beating themselves up, and vowing to pursue legal and political challenges to redistricting even harder. 

    They're doubling down -- on a game that not only they can't win, but also that no one can win.

    There's a wiser course. Focus on party-building and on real political reform. Specifically, Republicans needs an entirely new voting system that would reflect the party's true strength in the state by allocating legislative seats based on the proportion of the vote they receive in legislative elections.

    The current system -- because it's based on single-member districts -- badly exaggerates the strength of Democrats (who win elections with fewer votes not because of redistricting but because Democrats in Democratic districts don't vote in the same numbers as Republicans in Republican districts).

    The redistricting controversy is a trap for Republicans. They would be smart to avoid it.

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