The Cancer That’s Killing Democracy

March 12, 2017 By: El Jefe Category: gerrymandering

gerund or present participle: gerrymandering
  1. manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.

Gerrymandering has been blood sport in the US almost since the founding where partisans established districts that favored one party over another.  Both sides did it for decades up until computer modeling raised it to an art form in the early 2000s.

Starting in 2002, pushed by good ol’ Tom Delay, Texas Republicans rammed through a mid-decade redistricting that turned state politics on its head to take control of the state house and delegation to Washington.  The result has been a slow death spiral of our state by almost every measure causing declines in education, health care, and infrastructure lead by screwballs like Louie Gohmert, Dan Patrick, and Blake Farenthold.

To make matters worse, Republicans, knowing that their constituency of white angry people is aging and shrinking, have continued to tighten their grip to maintain power as the demographics of Texas push them into the minority.  When they yet again gerrymandered Texas districts in 2011, using computer technology and a technique called “packing and cracking”, people who tend to vote Democratic were either packed into small districts or spread out so much that their votes didn’t count.  These techniques discriminate against not only white Democrats, but disproportionately affect Hispanics and African Americans.

Friday, the story began to change when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the redistricting plan of 2011 saying,

“The record indicates not just a hostility toward Democrat districts, but a hostility to minority districts, and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage.”

The court also noted the “strong racial tension and heated debate about Latinos, Spanish-speaking people, undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities.”  Finally, a federal court has spoken the truth about those who lead Texas – that they’re racists.  The record of open hostility to minorities convinced the majority that this wasn’t just simple gerrymandering, which is bad enough, but actually a strategy to keep the votes of racial minorities from counting.

This judgment will very likely end up in an appeal to the Supreme Court.  In the meantime, Texas has to go back to the drawing board.  It’s about time.



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14 Comments to “The Cancer That’s Killing Democracy”

  1. maryelle says:

    Let’s hope it gets to the supreme Court before Trump’s puppet is confirmed. The Court will probably split along partisan lines and it will be sent back to the 5th court.

  2. Maryelle, the SCOTUS calendar is already in place. It will take awhile for anything else to land under their collective noses, no matter the number. But when it does – and I am sure it will – best of luck on the verdict.

  3. Trump was right voting fraud was everywhere?? Done by rePUKEians and called gerrymandering!!!

  4. I’m curious why the judge only cited three (maybe I missed something?) districts for wrong doing. Did he see the map of the Austin area? The entire state is a miss mash of irregular lines and boundaries. The Republicans were so emboldened, they simply did not care, much like their attitude towards health care. Since I am one of those old “…angry white people….” (angry on the other side of the fence), i do not expect this to change in my lifetime. Hope for the future, perhaps? Although there is the Trump White House to consider. Dystopian thoughts?

  5. The Repubs aren’t the only ones responsible for this problem. Poor Dem turnout in 2010, a census year, allowed the Repubs to sweep a lot of states. During redistricting they gerrymandered like crazy and threw in voter suppression laws just for fun.

    Yes, the system is rigged worse than usual just now. That is why Dems/liberals/progressives need to turn out and vote rationally every time, which means voting for the best candidate who can actually win.

    Anyone who could have voted for Clinton and didn’t helped Trump. Anyone who criticized and smeared Clinton during her campaign helped Trump. (Note that criticisms of President Hillary Clinton would have been just fine.)

    People have the right to vote as they choose. They also have the right to take responsibility for that choice and its foreseeable consequences–in this case, a Trump Presidency. Hearing alt-Leftists blame their voting choice on Clinton or the Dem party is sickening.

    If we lose big in 2020 we will see this problem get much, much, much worse. And it won’t be just the Repubs who are to blame.

  6. Jane & PKM says:

    Lynn, your frustration is appreciated. However, before we move on to 2020 let’s do a fast two step hustle to 2018 doing what we can in the courts to address gerrymandering and voter suppression, while supporting candidates to take back Congress in 2018.

    Then, about 2020. Can we agree to disagree, or at a minimum agree to bury the Nader bone? He didn’t lose the election for Gore any more than Bernie lost the election for Hilz. Elections are ours to win or lose, so let’s focus on voter registration, exciting people enough to vote (messaging) and assisting the DNC toward getting their tin ear out of their posteriors. Accept the self evident truth that people want change. They said so in 2008 by electing President Obama. Albeit, what happened with Donnie in 2016 should slap some voters upside their heads with buyer’s remorse for that ‘change’ to destruction. Change and messaging: candidates with actual plans addressing voter issues and organization to make it clear beyond a reasonable doubt what their choices are.

  7. This bit in the WashPost story: “All three judges agreed that the legislature packed minorities into some districts and splintered them among others to dilute their power. But the jurists disagreed about whether that was simply partisan gerrymandering, which the Supreme Court has tolerated, or racial discrimination, which is forbidden.”

    Can anyone rational explain why partisan gerrymandering should be tolerated by the last body capable of stopping it? Whether racial or partisan, the practice is dishonest and creates a government that is not the one chosen by a majority of voters. When the GOP gets 45% of the votes for legislature and gets 60% of the seats, that cannot be what the Founders had in mind for representative government.

    In November (after the election), a federal district court struck down Wisconsin’s gerrymandering on partisan grounds, the second time in US history it’s been disallowed.

    Granted the Founders put a distortion in place when they gave each state the same number of senators regardless of population, and we’re paying the price for that.

  8. Jane & PKM says:

    Rhea: “When the GOP gets 45% of the votes for legislature and gets 60% of the seats, that cannot be what the Founders had in mind for representative government.” Those numbers should impress the courts. But why partisan gerrymandering passed their sniff test is certainly baffling. Maybe we should re-frame the debate to ‘stacking the deck’ to appeal to their sense of fair play?

    How to determine when a state has gerrymandered districts should be visible to the blind, when the districts resemble tributaries formed after a dam burst, or when morons like Louie Gohmert and Steve King are elected.

    As for the Senate twofers regardless of population, we probably missed the numbers boat, when the slave states were allowed to retain their Senate seats.

    Or, we could restrict $$$ in politics to do away with the new era slavery. It’s not right that the Koch brothers and monied interests (.01%) have >50 Senators, while the rest of us (99%) have <40.

  9. JAKvirginia says:

    Anybody here garden? Takes some time doesn’t it? If you want a beautiful garden you HAVE to put the time and effort in. That’s a fact.

    Same with good government. It requires time and effort, what has been termed good citizenship. The 2016 presidential primaries are a case in point. Turnout in VA was 25% – 30% on average. And for the general election in Nov. 53% of all registered voters in the U.S. turned out. Wow. Isn’t that something to be proud of, huh? Yeah, let’s lecture the world about democracy when almost half of our voters don’t care enough to vote.

    And please, don’t get on my case about voter ID. The truth is most Americans are too lazy to care. In 2014 I worked the polls. We had redistricting and voting locations had changed. All voters got new voter registration cards with their new polling location listed. I did! All day I had to redirect people to their correct polling place.

    Now, voter I.D. has been around in some places for years. So what have people done to comply? If you check, practically nothing. There are people you can contact, help you can get, but no. I’ll just do nothing and complain. In fact, doing nothing is what got these asshats in power to change the voting laws!

    Democracy, like gardening, isn’t easy folks. If you want good you have to work at it. And the first step is caring.

  10. I do not like, and I do detest Reince Preibus. But the repubs love him. He has organized the party. he sends out absurd talking points every morning, and cable news is nothing if not a chorus of party songbirds all the day long. He hustled money and relit every stupid issue every single day. He spread rumors and fueled assaults on integrity. I guess he pushed the gerrymandering surprise.

    Problem is, it was a surprise. And that’s the way the Dems have been–six months behind every scandal or allegation the repubs can brew up.

    He has learned they can r

  11. Jane and PKM, elections are certainly ours to win and we’ve done a poor job of it. Turnout is one problem.

    Protest votes don’t help. Since you brought up Nader, it is worth remembering that in the 2000 presidential election in Florida, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by 537 votes. Nader received 97,421 votes.

    And there’s this for 2016:

    This doesn’t prove how the elections might have turned out without third party candidates, but why take the chance? What is the upside?Throwing away a Dem/liberal/progressive vote for a candidate who cannot win makes no sense and it likely helped Trump win.

    I do agree with all the actions you’ve suggested and winning in 2018 might help, but 2020 is the census year and will be followed by redistricting.

    Part of winning is mind-set. It helps to believe that winning is the top priority. In that area Repubs seem to be far more sensible than Dems.

  12. LynnN, I agree that voting for a third party may end up helping elect the spawn from hell, but I wish that weren’t the case. I’d love to see a real progressive party shake up the Dems, but as things stand nobody can get past that blockade by the two big parties. We have a couple of Independents in the House but they have to align with one of big parties so it’s not much difference.

  13. Lynn, Democrats deserve responsibility for not doing well in state and local elections, but that does not equal a share of the blame for Republican gerrymandering.

    Gerrymandering is an anathema to democracy. My friend and I have decided that one of the first things we will use our super powers for is a constitutional amendment mandating that redistricting be done solely by a computer algorithm that will not take political party affiliation into account. Mikey, we should probably get on that soon.

  14. Voter ID is a good idea, and the point is well taken that people have had a long time to get their ID. If they’re not interested in politics, then I don’t regard it as my job to get them interested.