The race for Merkel's successor heats up
Plus we check in on redistricting and Apple TV's Mythic Quest
Politics at home: Redistricting gears up
With the release of key census data on August 12, the 45 states with more than one congressional district can begin to draw districts that will be used starting in 2022. As we discussed earlier in the year, redistricting is one of the most important factors in whether Democrats can retain the House in 2022. For comprehensive coverage of the redistricting process, there’s no better place than my friends over at Daily Kos Elections. Their comprehensive guide to 2022 redistricting is a great place to have any state-specific redistricting question answered.
I’m not going to go into nearly that much detail here. Instead I’ll break down the key states into a few general buckets to give a brief overview, and then I’ll check back in occasionally over the next nine months to see what’s developed.
Bucket #1: Red State Behemoths
Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas
These are big states mostly or entirely in the GOP’s control where Democrats could be down more than one seat in the worst case scenarios. Texas gained two seats, while Florida and North Carolina gained one, and Ohio lost one. There are also various potential constraints on these states that could prevent the most extreme gerrymanders: North Carolina’s Supreme Court (4-3 Dem), Ohio’s new redistricting rules, Democratic suburban growth in Texas and Georgia. Keeping Democratic losses to a minimum is the goal in these states, but there will be losses.
Bucket #2: Midsize GOP Strongholds
Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee
These are GOP leaning states that already have mostly GOP congressional delegations. The question here is how aggressive they intend to be in going after the remaining Democratic members in these states. Each state could conceivably take out a Democratic seat with an extreme gerrymander. Oklahoma and South Carolina would have been in the same boat but for the Democrats losing in 2020. They’ll certainly shore up those districts, though.
Bucket #3: Democratic Opportunities
Illinois, New York, Maryland, New Mexico
These are the main opportunities for Democrats to cancel out their losses from the first two buckets. Maryland and New Mexico can each go after one GOP seat, while there’s a good chance Illinois (which loses a seat) can go from 13D-5R to 14D-3R, which is essentially a net gain of 1.5 seats. But New York, which also loses a seat, is the big prize. Despite the current congressional delegation being 19D-8R, New York’s map is not gerrymandered. A gerrymandered map, possible thanks to Democrats holding 2/3rd majorities in both chambers, could push the map as far as 23D-3R, netting Democrats 4.5 seats. This could single-handedly cancel out two or three of the big red states from Bucket #1.
Bucket #4: Independent/Bipartisan States
Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia
These states all have either independent commissions or both parties have a veto point to prevent a partisan gerrymander. This will likely lead to a number of competitive seats where the House majority could ultimately be decided. California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all lose a seat so that will be something to watch as these processes move forward.
Politics abroad: The search for Merkel’s successor
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced three years ago that she would not run for a fifth term, turning German politics into a giant game of musical chairs as various parties and politicians seek to succeed her in next month’s election. Merkel’s preferred successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, won an internal primary to lead Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but oversaw very poor results in European elections in 2019 and eventually stepped down. Armin Laschet, also from Merkel’s more moderate wing of the CDU, won an election to take over as party leader in January 2021. Despite leading the party, he then had to beat back a challenge from the leader of the CDU’s smaller sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, who also sought to be the CDU/CSU’s joint candidate for chancellor.1
Having won the nomination, Laschet now faces two other significant candidates, both of whom can claim to be an heir to Merkel in different ways. The German Greens, more center-left than the American version, had been until recently seen as the main challenger to the CDU, polling in second place since October 2018. The Greens nominated co-leader Annalena Baerbock for chancellor, only the second woman after Merkel herself to seriously contest the chancellorship. Having worked in Berlin for the federal Greens early in her career and then risen to prominence in Brandenburg (the state surrounding Berlin), Baerbock has a real depth of experience in federal German politics that most Green leaders have not had. Since becoming co-leader in 2018, Baerbock has become a regular presence on German television, appearing the second most times of any politician in 2019.
Before the rise of the Greens, the only other party seen as a realistic shot at leading the country was the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). The SPD have suffered in recent years from serving as the junior partner to the CDU in government and losing their traditional working-class base to more extremist parties. But the past couple of months have seen a rebound in the party’s fortunes, having just this month taken back second place from the Greens. This has been credited to the party’s candidate for chancellor, Olaf Scholz.
Scholz has served as Minister of Finance since 2018 in CDU/SPD coalition government and has been credited with a strong response to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the deadly flooding in the country last month. Seen as one of the more moderate leaders of the SPD, Scholz represents in some ways the clearest continuation of the current government. He is also, like Merkel, known more for his competence and pragmatism than his charisma. Scholz has also made an effort to win back the party’s working-class base that drifted away from it in recent years.
The SPD has overtaken the Greens for second place (and now even challenging CDU for first) which is vital to who may end up as chancellor. The largest party in any coalition will have the strongest claim to the chancellorship and the most likely outcome of the election is a “traffic light” coalition between the SPD (traditionally red), the Greens, and the classically-liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP, traditionally yellow). With no party polling above 25% at this point, a three-party coalition government will almost certainly be necessary. Both the SPD and the FDP have recently served as junior partners to the CDU and are unlikely to want to do so again if an alternative like the traffic light coalition is available.
We’ll check back in on this race before the election occurs on September 26th.
What I’m watching: Mythic Quest
How to watch: Apple TV+
For fans of: The Office, Community, videos games in general
While Ted Lasso has become far and away the most well-known show from Apple TV’s subscription service, I haven’t seen a show as laugh out loud funny as Mythic Quest in quite some time. Mythic Quest is set at a video game studio that produces the eponymous video game, a MMORPG, and has to navigate its corporate overlords, streamers, competitors, and its own fans.
As with most comedy series, the show is built on an outstanding cast. The most prominent names include Robert McElhenney from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Danny Pudi from Community, and F. Murray Abraham from Homeland. But the standout is relative newcomer Charlotte Nicdao as Poppy Li, the closest thing to a main character as the show has. While McElhenney does great work as Ian Grimm, the studio’s creative director and Michael Scott-esque figure, Nicdao carries both the humor and the heart of the show with ease. Pudi also puts in great work in a very different role than his well known Community character.
And while you don’t need to be well-versed in video games and Twitch streamers to find the show funny, if you are, many of the plots explored will have additional resonance and humor. In episode three, watching the characters discover and deal with neo-Nazis in their game provides both incredibly funny moments and is sadly relevant in today’s culture. The show’s first two seasons, along with two specials aired between them, are available now on Apple TV+.
The CSU party leader had been the Chancellor nominee once before, so this is rare but not unprecedented