Saturday, June 25, 2011

Redistricting’s partisan political games continue, only now on the GOP side

QUINN: Stamps of approval
I will be the first to admit that the political boundaries drawn for the upcoming decade – including the Congressional districts that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law on Friday – were put together through a process controlled by Democratic politicians for their own partisan benefit.

It was one of the perks of winning control of both chambers of the General Assembly, along with Illinois governor, during the 2010 election cycle.

BUT THAT DOES not make the fact that the Republican political critics who are now bashing the boundaries and threatening litigation to try to overturn the process are not equally partisan in their own right.

I am fully aware that what these GOP officials really want is to somehow gain control of the reapportionment process so that THEY can be the ones who put together boundaries for their own partisan benefit.

Anybody who claims to be motivated by high-minded ideals is lying. What they want are boundaries that put into check their political opposition – and nothing more.

The fact that state law put Democrat-leaning officials in control of the process this time around is just one of those quirks of fate. A few more thousand votes back in November – and we would have Gov. William Brady vetoing the Illinois Legislature’s congressional map (along with the Legislature boundaries that Quinn signed into law earlier this month).

THAT WOULD BE just as partisan an act as what happened.

If anything, what particularly disgusts me were some comments made by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who appeared on WLS-AM to lambaste those dreaded Dems who have imposed their urban will upon all of us. Or at least that’s the way he’d like us to think about this issue.
KIRK: Wants GOP to dominate

Kirk confirmed the previously-spoken rhetoric about the legal challenge that will be filed in the federal courts; likely by some group of Latinos who lean GOP and will be the front for the party on this one issue.

Kirk predicted eventual success for such a lawsuit because it, “will likely be brought before a Republican judge who picks two other judges to sit on a panel, and they will review the legality of denying Latino voters their full representation in Congress.”

HE ALSO SAID he would expect a ruling sometime in October or November, with chances of success being “pretty good.”

The latter part about “pretty good” is the rhetoric we expect him to say. Be optimistic, regardless of what one really thinks.

But it is the former part that bothers me – the part about a “Republican judge” (as in a federal judge appointed by a Republican U.S. president) picking the panel that will decide this matter.

What it really means is that he wants a process that is Republican-rigged to decide this issue. How is that not as blatantly politically-partisan as what happened in the General Assembly this spring?

THE SIMPLE FACT is that the Illinois Constitution creates a process by which state officials determine the Legislature and Congressional district boundaries. Provided that lawmakers can show they followed that process and did not deliberately try to underplay the representation of any particular group (or overplay the significance of any other), then the maps comply with the law.

There is no one version of a political map that is legal, with all others being illegal.
JOHNSON: Accepting reality?

Which is the thought that may well have gone through the head of Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Ill., earlier this week when he told his hometown News-Gazette newspaper in Urbana, “We’re going to file a lawsuit, but it’s not going to succeed.”

The legal action is for show so that the GOP partisans can claim to have tried something. But then they can blame it on “liberal” courts that won’t perceive “common sense” in the isolationist way many of them do.

INSOFAR AS THE actual maps are concerned (particularly the congressional boundaries), I will be the first to concede that they put officials from the Chicago metropolitan area in a position to control the state. Although considering that nearly half the state's population is in Cook County and two-thirds in the metro area, it's not the most absurd concept.

Those city-based officials are going to have their districts stretch well into the suburbs. And suburban officials from Democrat-leaning areas are going to have their districts stretch well into the fringes of the Chicago area where urban and rural converge – and the rural officials will no longer be able to predominate.

If anything, Will County (the place with a 39 percent population growth during the past decade – the largest-growing county in Illinois) is typical. Instead of having a member of Congress who centers around Joliet and that county, it is now split up into several districts that will be represented by Chicago-based officials.

But considering that the character of Will County these days is merely as an extension of the Chicago suburbs, perhaps it only makes sense that the county provides extensions of city- or inner-suburb-based districts.

AS FOR THE idea that rural legislators and Congress members are being pitted against each other, that happens every decade when new boundaries are set. Johnson, a former state legislator before heading for Washington a decade ago, may well be the most adult official by accepting his new boundaries, and getting himself an apartment to help him make day-trips during the upcoming campaign season to the parts of rural Illinois that are new to him.

If only all officials could be as mature as the “Gentleman from Urbana,” perhaps we’d get more from our government.

Then again if they were really mature, they wouldn’t be politicians.


No comments: