Sunday, November 23, 2014

Has Liberty Given Way To Gerrymanding?

Has Liberty Given Way To Gerrymandering? 

Has Liberty Given Way To Gerrymandering?  In continuance to seeking an answer to the question, Where Do Democrats Go from Here, we find ourselves faced with another one, Has Liberty Given Way To Gerrymandering?  Like influence peddling, the practice of redistricting called today gerrymandering has a long history. 

Late in 1788, just after Virginia voted to ratify the Constitution and join the union, former Governor Patrick Henry persuaded the state legislature to remake the 5th Congressional District, forcing Henry’s political enemy James Madison to run against the formidable James Monroe. The ploy failed, and Madison won, eventually becoming the nation’s fourth president. Monroe’s career wasn’t over, though: He succeeded Madison as president.[Library of Congress

Where Did the Phrase Gerrymandering Originate? 

The origin of the word “gerrymander” was a combination of “salamander” and the last name of Elbridge Gerry, who as governor of Massachusetts in 1812 signed into law a redistricting plan designed to benefit his political party. The term was put into print for the first time by the Federalist-leaningBoston Gazette on March 26, 1812. Printed alongside this cartoon, it described a newly formed district in Essex County, said to resemble the shape of a salamander. The portmanteau stuck. [Library of Congress

Shortly after the Voting Rights of 1965 passed, in Congress,  some states created black and white voting districts. This creation of congressional districts  was mostly achieved by evaluating Census data.  This type of redistricting got the name " affirmative gerrymandering." Its intent was to curtail discrimination and promote minority politicians. This brief overview of the origins of gerrymandering is valuable. Why? Because the redrawing of voting districts lines based on race or ideological criteria was not the intent of our founders or does, it represent a balance for Democracy as a whole. What is concerning to many is its use in these modern political times. Our research has found a shifting precedent regarding the redrawing of voting district lines.

The whole business of political redistricting [gerrymandering] can get ugly. Moreover, often at the taxpayers expense. 

"The opportunity to control the drawing of electoral boundaries through the legislative process of apportionment is a critical and traditional part of politics in the United States, and one that plays no small role in fostering active participation in the political parties at every level." Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109, 145 (1986)(O’Connor, J., concurring in the judgment)
In short, the state of North Carolina was found in violation of the Constitution in its 12th Congressional District by drawing the lines using race as the predominant factor in 1993 However, the court shifted in the 1999 case Hunt v. Cromartie (99-1864),

Gerrymandering Created An Uphill Battle For Democrats in 2014!

This all centers around the 2010 Census. The Republicans through political design and lack of democratic voter participation were able to be successful in gaining control of state legislatures especially in the Red States. Their apparent first order of the day were to gerrymander their prospective districts. Create the now coined phrase " political safe-zones." 

Why this is, a problem for Democrats is as clear as a bell. These districts have been drawn with a partisan mindset which introduces us to another type of redistricting call partisan-gerrymandering. In states like Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina we have witnessed Democratic voters being packed into the fewest voting districts possible.[See Article] This activity is gerrymandering in its purest form. We have a situation where Republicans voters have been systematically placed to provide a win-win no matter the issues or the qualifications of the participants.  Granted geography had a role to play in some cases, but, by and large these areas were designed with partisanship in mind. 

Let's Be Clear Here! 

The practice of gerrymandering is not sovereign to the Republican Party. Democrats have been willing partakers of gerrymandering as well. With the way, the House and Senate have shaped up and with the next census not due to be taken soon Democrats have a significant issue to solve. Gerrymandering is one of those issues that many Americans feel there isn't much difference between the parties, in terms of how they use it.  

Regarding our focus at House of Public Discourse we hold the position that next to unbridled influence peddling made legal by Citizen United. The haphazard, and wholly undemocratic practice of redistricting based on race, and other social factors hampers our nations democracy. This dangerous ingredient in our political system has helped this country slip into something less that a Republic. In fact, gerrymandering is a total undermining of Democracy. 

Many in America, this writer being one feels that gerrymandering should be banned period. There is a better way. No question there has been criminal behavior associated with the practice of gerrymandering. Many have given up hope on changing a system that the very people we would ask to do so benefit. From a Progressive Liberal point of view, we contend we can overcome this disadvantage by doing what Liberals do, thinking outside the box. We need to fight in the courts, in the state capitals, and on the front steps of City Hall, and anywhere the fight takes us to overcome these corrosive elements in our governance. I want us[ liberals] to answer the question, Has Liberty Given Way To Gerrymandering, a no, but, hell no answer.

However, Did Liberty Give Way To Gerrymandering In The 2014 Mid-Term Elections?

Fresh off, Republicans winning their largest House majority since the Hoover Administration, Where do the Democrats go from here? Democrats lost of their second straight mid-term election has many in the party pointing fingers. There are the normal scapegoats, weak candidates, bad money allocation choices, dismal narrative to inspire the Democratic base.

The GOP benefited from the most egregious gerrymandering in American history.

Backed by the likes of ALEC state lawmakers were on the take from big lobbyist, advocating state-wide redistricting or gerrymandering. Redrawing congressional lines was the paramount focus of this enterprise. Due to the poor Democratic participation in 2010 and the emergence of the Tea Party, right-wing radical state Governors and Legislators carved out huge chunks of political real-estate based on partisan gerrymandering. This tactic paid huge dividends for the Republicans in  Ohio, Pennsylvania Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Tennessee and beyond.[The Nation]

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