I Wonder If GOP Leaders Think That Gerrymandering Is A Desirable Outcome
Boss Tweed would be so proud of the GOP right about now.
I have to admit that I’m surprised at the gall of the GOP in Michigan to sue the Secretary of State of Michigan, seeking to declare that state’s independent redistricting commission as unconstitutional. It seems that some Republicans in Michigan are very uspet that elected representatives can’t choose their own voters. According to Vox, the Michigan GOP is raising some very interesting arguments in court to show that the creation of such a commission is an abuse of power and that it violates their rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
The GOP isn’t just seeking to knock out the independent redistricting commission in Michigan, they appear to be going for broke to wipe out all of the independent districting commissions in every state that has them, to restore power to party insiders in their quest to retain control of the district drawing process. I wonder who they truly represent in this move.
It can’t be the people because, in the examples cited by the Vox article, all of the independent commissions were formed by as a result of voter-approved initiatives or referendums, a direct delegation of power from the people to the government. Their purpose? To remove the power of their respective legislatures to choose their own voters.
These independent commissions were designed with the express purpose of excluding big-time party insiders, to prevent them from controlling the process and using district boundaries to marginalize the voters. The fact that these independent redistricting commissions were formed at all is a clear indication of voter frustration and the GOP lawsuits are a very clear demonstration of the contempt that party bosses have for the will of the people.
These lawsuits pursued by the GOP also demonstrate something else: a very real fear of being relegated to permanent minority status. The GOP is very much aware that the demographics over the next two decades do not bode well for them. The Millennials, just now finding their legs, will soon find their mouths and brains to be of very good use in political struggle, and they are, in the majority, very liberal, a supremely frightening prospect for the GOP. It probably doesn’t help the GOP that they’re letting themselves be whipsawed by the older, somewhat whimsical and very conservative Evangelical Christian voters, either.
So while the Republicans play out their First Amendment arguments in court, I think it’s useful to remind them of one very important principle that is a priority in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the amendments thereto. All political power derives from the people. From the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (emphasis mine)
From the Constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (emphasis mine)
And the 9th Amendment to the Constitution:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
And the 10th:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. (emphasis mine)
So the way power is delegated looks something like this:
Power flows from top to bottom and all power is derived from the people, right?
Mindful of their little demographic dilemna, the GOP in Michigan, working so hard to kill trees in court, would like us to believe that political power flows like this:
This is (apparently) the ideal view of the way power should flow in the minds of the people who want to eliminate those offensive little redistricting commissions that claim to be so independent. And they’d really like to get this done before the next census.
Now I can’t read their minds, that’s true. But my impression is that the top brass at the Republican Party are loathed to let normal people like us have a shot at drawing district boundaries. I’d say that this is true of both parties, but right now, the GOP has control of the majority of governors mansions and statehouses in the United States, and they seem intent to cut districts in any way possible to maintain that power, despite their declining demographic prospects.
The independent redistricting commissions that we now have in several states were erected as protection from those party insiders. They were erected to give both sides a chance, to allow a more equitable sharing of power. And to allow the voters to choose how they would like to assemble in districts.
Oh yeah. I remember now. The party insiders at the GOP would have us believe that their right of association is more important than the right of the voters living in the districts, that they so boldly claim the sole authority to draw, to be more important than the right of the people to decide how they will be “assembled” into districts.
In this video, Larry Lessig, a professor of law at Harvard University points out that Congress shall be dependent on the people alone, neither the richer nor the poorer (for you originalists, he’s quoting Madison). That means that the power to draw district boundaries is vested in the people but eventually delegated to the States to decide whether or not to have districts at all.
That dependence principle also means that in order for Congress to be dependent on the people alone, those political insiders must not be allowed to draw their own districts, directly or by proxy, like a political party. The independent redistricting commissions discussed by Vox all require some non-affiliated members to take part in the district drawing process. And they all exclude party bigwigs for both big parties.
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that if Congress and the statehouses across the country have any power at all, it is only by a delegation of power from the people. There is no other place for them to draw their power from. If anything, the GOP’s spurious 1st Amendment arguments are “trumped” by the power of the people. I hope the Supreme Court takes note of this rather important point.
Considering the mercurial speed with which the Republicans in the US Senate have been filling the seats left vacant in the courts when Obama was president, it is no small wonder that they are now praising the “unelected bureaucrats” they used to bemoan. Their diligent work of packing the courts belies their confidence in democracy. It’s hard not to have the impression then, that to Republicans, self-determination is really cool unless you’re a Democrat.