Gerrymandering-- Both Sides Do It... True But Only One Side Does It Enough To Base Its Entire Future On
Earlier today we took a look at some pretty good news from North Carolina which, admittedly, has been pretty depressing lately for progressives. Though not as depressing as it once was. Sunday, David Frum, in his review of Robert Norrell's biography of Booker T. Washington, Up From History, reminded us how racist sociopath Alfred Waddell became mayor of Wilmington back when the Democrats were the party of bigotry and racism and the Republicans were still vaguely anti-racist.
Waddell's mob swelled to 2,000 men, including whites from all classes and vocations. When a shot hit one of them, the mob raged through Wilmington, with whites hunting down blacks in running gun battles through the city streets. The gunfire alerted militias and vigilante groups from outside the city to join the attack. Literally thousands of blacks ran for their lives. As many as 300 African Americans may have been killed. Eyewitnesses later recounted seeing wagon carts piled high with dead black bodies being removed from the city… The riot depopulated Wilmington of its large black majority.
Today, the political racism of conservatives is manifest differently-- although with similar results. Despicable and unevolved self-serving rightists still get elected to office by screaming "Nigger" and dividing working people so they'll vote against their own families well-being. No matter how many times you've watched this, you haven't watched it frequently enough:
In Sunday's NY Times, Sam Wang explained how the Republican Party has made racism work for itself politically... and not just in the Old slave states it now completely dominates.
...Through artful drawing of district boundaries, it is possible to put large groups of voters on the losing side of every election. The Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based political group dedicated to electing state officeholders, recently issued a progress report on Redmap, its multiyear plan to influence redistricting. The $30 million strategy consists of two steps for tilting the playing field: take over state legislatures before the decennial Census, then redraw state and Congressional districts to lock in partisan advantages. The plan was highly successful.
...In North Carolina, where the two-party House vote was 51 percent Democratic, 49 percent Republican, the average simulated delegation was seven Democrats and six Republicans. The actual outcome? Four Democrats, nine Republicans-- a split that occurred in less than 1 percent of simulations. If districts were drawn fairly, this lopsided discrepancy would hardly ever occur.
Confounding conventional wisdom, partisan redistricting is not symmetrical between the political parties. By my seat-discrepancy criterion, 10 states are out of whack: the five I have mentioned [Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin], plus Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Texas. Arizona was redistricted by an independent commission, Texas was a combination of Republican and federal court efforts, and Illinois was controlled by Democrats. Republicans designed the other seven maps. Both sides may do it, but one side does it more often.
...Gerrymandering is a major form of disenfranchisement. In the seven states where Republicans redrew the districts, 16.7 million votes were cast for Republicans and 16.4 million votes were cast for Democrats. This elected 73 Republicans and 34 Democrats. Given the average percentage of the vote it takes to elect representatives elsewhere in the country, that combination would normally require only 14.7 million Democratic votes. Or put another way, 1.7 million votes (16.4 minus 14.7) were effectively packed into Democratic districts and wasted.
...Some legislators have flirted with the idea of gerrymandering the presidency itself under the guise of Electoral College reform. In one short-lived plan, Virginia State Senator Charles Carrico sponsored legislation to allocate electoral votes by Congressional district. In contrast to the current winner-take-all system, which usually elects the popular vote winner, Mr. Carrico’s proposal applied nationwide would have elected Mitt Romney, despite the fact that he won five million fewer votes than Mr. Obama. This is basically an admission of defeat by Republicans in swing states. Mr. Carrico’s constituents might well ask whether these changes serve their interests or those of the Republican National Committee.
To preserve majority rule and minority representation, redistricting must be brought into fairer balance. I propose two plans. First, let’s establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions in all 50 states. In Ohio, one such ballot measure failed in November, in part because of a poorly financed campaign. Maybe those who prodded voters to turn out could support future initiatives.
Second, we need to adopt a statistically robust judicial standard for partisan gerrymandering. In the Supreme Court’s Vieth v. Jubelirer case, in 2004, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy voted against intervention in chicanery in Pennsylvania, but left the door open for future remedies elsewhere if a clear standard could be established.
The great gerrymander of 2012 came 200 years after the first use of this curious word, which comes from the salamander-shaped districts signed into law by Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Gov. Gerry’s party engineered its electoral coup using paper maps and ink. But the advent of inexpensive computing and free software has placed the tools for fighting politicians who draw absurd districts into the hands of citizens like you and me.
Politicians, especially Republicans facing demographic and ideological changes in the electorate, use redistricting to cling to power. It’s up to us to take control of the process, slay the gerrymander, and put the people back in charge of what is, after all, our House.
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