Monday, July 18, 2011

Gerrymandering is Bad, Regardless of Which Party Does It!

I want to thank the Washington Post for inviting me to write a column on redistricting for their Sunday edition. It was an opportunity for me to write about an issue that I care for a great deal. As I've been reading reader comments and e-mails I decided that I should follow up a bit on the issue and address (though indirectly) some of the reader comments.

I admit to not having much patience for dyed-in-the-wool partisans. Folks who think that their party is dedicated to goodness and light and that the opposition party is evil incarnate really need to wake-up to the reality that there is nothing inherently good or evil about the Democratic or Republican Party. Yet die hard Democrats are convinced that Republicans are out to control the country through any and all means and die hard Republicans are equally distrustful of Democrats.

Newsflash folks - the Democratic and Republican Parties share the same goal - the acquisition of power and influence within government. And both parties will used whatever legal means are available to them to acquire power. In states dominated by Democrats, like Maryland, Democrats use the redistricting process to game the system and boost party interests. Likewise, in a state like Texas, Republicans do the same.

A critique of Maryland's gerrymandered districts is not an attack on the Democratic party, it is an attack on the process. I endorsed the Republican map simply because it is a good map. Had the Kiwanis Club, or MaryPIRG, or the state Democratic Party presented the same, or a better proposal, I would have endorsed that map. But in this case, it was the Maryland GOP. That in no way suggests that I absolve the Republican Party of their equally egregious gerrymandering antics in other states.

Some folks told me that so long as redistricting is a partisan process and the GOP controls the process in states like Texas then it should be OK for Democrats to manipulate the process in states where they dominate. As a father, I've heard this argument many times except it goes "yea, but he started," "did not," did too." So I have little patience for an adult version of that childish justification being applied to something as important as representation in Congress.

A hand full of states, among them California and Iowa, have rejected partisan gerrymandering in favor of a non-partisan process. This is what I would I like to see in Maryland. I want to see more states follow the lead of Iowa and California and make this a non-partisan issue.

Of all the institutions of our national government, the House of Representatives was the one body most intended to embody democratic representation. No reasonable person could look at Maryland's 2nd, 3rd, or 4th districts and conclude that they were drawn to best represent the interests of the people. As Americans we should be outraged that the parties (Democrats and Republicans) manipulate something as sacred as representation in the manner that they do.

Gerrymandering subverts representation and subjugates the interests of the people to the interests of political parties. Perhaps that wouldn't be so bad if not for the fact that America is home to two dominant parties - each dominated by partisan ideologues.

So let me summarize. I oppose gerrymandering. I don't care if it helps Democrats... I don't care if it helps Republicans... It's an abuse of process... It harms everyone... and some things, in fact most things, are far more important than party loyalty.