On December 21, 2010, the Census Bureau released the United States population count and congressional reapportionment data for each state. On April 1, 2010, 308.745,538 people resided in the United States. The US population grew 9.7% since 2000. Beginning in February and ending by March 31, 2011, the Census Bureau will release demographic data to the states on a rolling basis so state governments can start the redistricting process. Each congressional district will have about 710,767 residents.
New York and Ohio are losing two congressional seats each. Texas is gaining four seats and Florida is gaining two seats. New York remains third in population behind California and Texas. Florida stays in fourth place. With the Democrats losing control of the House in the 112th Congress, NY has even less political clout. New York is “blue” for more reasons than ever. Clearly the northeast is losing population and political power to the South and West.
As a consequence of losing two House seats, four Members will likely “battle each other for survival” in the regions north and west of New York City. With the state legislature divided, both political parties may follow previous precedent by agreeing to cut one Democratic and one GOP seat apiece. A timely retirement or two could ease any intraparty tensions. But it’s possible that two recently elected GOP congress members will face-off because none of the GOP members are ready to retire voluntarily.
We are unlikely to see a loss of congressional seats on Long Island since the population there grew relative to the losses north of Westchester County and east of Lake Erie. Since House districts are drawn from Long Island westward, other demographic changes may alter the makeup and representation of some districts. Racial/ethnic minorities may jockey for “representation” if the census reveals significant increases in those populations. State law also now requires that prison inmates be counted in the areas of their last residence. Having an independent redistricting commission proposing apportionment plans from which the state legislature chooses may reduce headaches (and political liability).
Regretably, some New Yorkers call the loss of congressional clout “embarrassing.” That, however, is an unfortunate ahistorical characterization. Carrier Corporation’s mass production of affordable air conditioning (and other technologies) have been cited as paving the way for population shifts to the South and desert Southwest. Fewer Americans would probably live in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Florida or South Carolina without air conditioned residences, office buildings, and factories. Technological shifts adversely affected Rochester-based Kodak and Xerox. Fuel efficient Japanese cars, higher gas prices and the St. Lawrence Seaway effectively contributed to the demise of Buffalo. Lastly, a globalized economy, low wage Asian countries, free trade agreements (WTO, NAFTA) killed other NY manufacturing towns. New York was overtaken by history, technology, and trade policies advocated by business elites. It’s easier for the GOP to tell voters that liberal tax and spend policies are to blame. Democrats remain clueless about how to simplify such complexities into populist sloganeering (“Wall Street killed Main Street”).
Pointing fingers and assigning blame, doesn’t alter the fact that New York no longer is the most populous state of the union. But like a mature athlete whose skills are slowed by age, New York must become wily and strategic. Although smaller, New York’s congressional delegation must act as if it were still 45 Members strong. They should wield the House rules, procedures, and traditions as skillfully as Joe DiMaggio played baseball in his waning years.