Thursday, July 21, 2011

Now the courts get their say about new political boundaries across Illinois

Let’s be honest.

What bothers Republican Party establishment officials about the new legislative and congressional boundaries is that they reflect the growing influence of Chicago deeper and deeper into the suburbs.

ALL THOSE DISTRICTS that start within the city limits and extend out to Will or DuPage counties can be argued to reflect the modern reality. People with city origins are moving farther and farther out into the suburbs and are keeping some of their old urban ways with them. Isolating Chicago is not only silly, it’s wrong.

All the rhetoric being spewed by GOP officials about how the Democrats who gained complete control of the redistricting process this time around and used it to inhibit Latino and African-American voters is just a lot of trash.

I have expressed this thought before, and am expressing it again because of the lawsuit filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago that challenges the new Illinois Legislature boundaries. A companion lawsuit that challenges the new Illinois Congressional boundaries is expected to be filed in coming days.

I’m hoping that the courts ultimately strike down this lawsuit because the stink of all its legalese reeks more harshly than limburger cheese.

THE BOTTOM LINE is that the process of reapportionment, as outlined in the Illinois Constitution, gave Democratic officials control of the process, and they used it to their advantage – just as Republican officials would have done had they managed to gain any say over what happened.

So unless one can find that the process was violated, the legal merits of this lawsuit are minimal. The fact that one political party got dumped on in and of itself isn’t reason to overturn the new boundaries.

The Republican-inspired lawsuit tries to make claims that non-white people will suffer politically. It claims that two more Illinois House districts could have been turned into ones that favor African-American chances of electing legislators, while as many as six districts could have been drawn differently to favor Latino chances of increased political empowerment.

But I couldn’t help but notice that none of the major groups that usually have experts who could knowledgably talk about such issues are having anything to do with this lawsuit.

THE LATINOS AND black people who are supportive of this particular lawsuit are independent – as in they don’t have ties to anybody. For all I know, they have personal grudges against the groups and are willing to align themselves with the GOP label this time around if it helps them gain something for themselves.

They shouldn’t be taken to speak on behalf of Latinos (or black people) as a whole.

Now I don’t doubt that the people who ultimately designed the legislative and congressional districts had self-preservation in mind when they created these political boundaries.

I am aware that some of the biggest names of the white ethnic political establishment (Madigan, Burke, Lipinski) will be representing districts that contain significant numbers of Latinos. With a few changes, those districts could have been improved – but only at the risk of that establishment.

BUT LET’S JUST say that I doubt the sincerity of those who are challenging this establishment.

Perhaps it is because I remember the redistricting process for the 1990s – the one period that Republicans gained control.

They talked all high-minded about how the first thing they did was drew the African-American leaning districts, then prepared the rest of the state around them.

But what they really did was drew those districts in ways that caused political strife within the city, then drew the rest of the districts in ways that “hemmed in” Chicago proper, as though they didn’t want its ways spreading to the rest of the state.

WHICH MEANT THAT the minority (as in racial) districts were included in areas that were meant to be relegated to the minority (as in political) party.

I’m sure that the GOP establishment is willing to see another black or Latino legislator or two, so long as they are part of a minority political party that has no say in the way things operate.

Because what truly bothers them are those districts that stretch out from the edges of Chicago into the suburbs. But like I wrote before, that is just a reflection of reality.

Chicago, the city, isn’t growing. But Chicago the metropolitan area is, and into places that once would have been thought of as too distant to be urban. Penning the city up and trying to keep its influence out is not a reflection of reality.

AND AS FOR all those Republican elected officials who were put into new districts where they will have to run against one of their incumbent GOP colleagues, I’m sure any GOP-approved map would invariably have put some Democratic officials against each other come the 2012 election cycle.

That’s just one of the realities of electoral politics.

It certainly isn’t a legitimate enough reason to justify having a three-judge panel get involved in overturning the maps – unless the courts want to get themselves involved in allegations that they are playing partisan politics in Illinois.


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