Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 13, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

MORE ON GERRYMANDERING....I continue to feel guilty about my post last week opposing Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to end gerrymandering in California. It was just so....hackish. Sure, I copped to my own hackishness, but even so I felt like I had to wash my hands afterward to keep from feeling like I was turning into a liberal version of Hugh Hewitt.

So I'm happy to recommend this column from Peter Beinart as an intelligent rejoinder:

California Democrats...should enthusiastically agree to implement his proposed change after the next census, in 2011. Given that Democrats will likely still control California's state legislature then, the switch could still cost them seats. But that's a price worth paying to try to build momentum for a national change in the way redistricting is done.

And the response shouldn't be limited to the Golden State. Democrats across the country should jump on the Schwarzenegger bandwagon, demanding that their states also take redistricting away from the state legislatures that deny voters a real choice over who represents them. In a state like Florida, where the GOP has absurdly gerrymandered to ensure a mass of safe Republican seats, such a change could bring real Democratic gains and perhaps even help put control of the House back in play.

....Openings like this don't come along very often. If Democrats don't seize it, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

But is Beinart right? If Democrats led a charge to end gerrymandering, would it sweep the nation or would it sweep only the blue states where they were leading the charge? Make no mistake: this is a very high risk strategy that assumes Republican leaders can be embarrassed into following suit. Maybe they can, but count me as still needing to see a sign somewhere to give me faith.

And that brings up another question that's been on my mind: could Congress pass anti-gerrymandering legislation at a national level? I'm not concerned with the politics of the legislation, just its constitutionality. Are there any legal scholars out there who can address this?

The Voting Rights Act places enormous constraints on how states can draw districts, and this leads me to believe that Congress could dictate general principles for drawing district lines if it wanted to. Is this true? If it is, why not have congressional Dems make this a national level crusade, which is where it belongs in the first place?

Kevin Drum 12:37 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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