My title is pushing the bounds of reality, but I'm going to try. There's not much good news for the state--or our region's political future--in the Census report out today. New York is going to lose two congressional seats, from 29 down to 27. That puts us at the lowest level in two centuries, and means that the state will come out on the shorter end of the stick when it comes to the federal dollars allocated to the states on the basis of population--according to one news report about $4 trillion over the next ten years.
With two less seats, there will almost certainly have to be some significant reshaping of the congressional districts Upstate. It would be hard to drop two seats by just rearranging the deck chairs on the RMS New York. So here's the first silver lining: Perhaps the need for a major redrawing will occasion the shift to an alternative method of redistricting. Just how to constitute an independent commission (or other approaches toward the task) is a topic for another day, but it's possible that this development could push the dial a little closer to real reform.
Across the nation, if you're a Democrat and keen to see President Obama re-elected, this is not good news, as the general shift in congressional representation--the basis for votes in the Electoral College--favors the South and the West, which are comparatively more friendly to Republicans, on the whole (save California and a few others of course).
In our own region, the need to substantially redraw the districts will throw our congressional politics into greater flux, as within the state, Upstate has lost ground to Downstate, and therefore there will be more re-slicing necessary up here. With two new Republicans elected in the greater Syracuse area, it's not clear whether Democrats or Republicans will ultimately be more hurt by all this.
But if we take a further step back and more generally consider the question of the political influence of the state in national politics, other factors arguably rival the loss of two congressional seats and two votes in the Electoral College--and thus supply the second silver lining. Consider the following: Chuck Schumer continues to climb up the ladder of influence in the U.S. Senate, and is now among the very top senators. Kirsten Gillibrand has become a fast-rising star, and is even mentioned as a future presidential prospect (premature, I think, but the conversations are nonetheless happening)--and she replaced a senator who is now Secretary of State. We've just elected a dynamic, ambitious governor who knows his way around Washington. And the mayor of New York City has prominent national stature and is clearly not leaving the political stage anytime soon.
Granted, none of this erases the loss of the seats, the College votes, and the federal dollars, but we may not have hit the political iceberg, just yet.
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
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