Thursday, December 26, 2013

Flipping over the gerrymander

Via's link to a Scranton Times-Tribune editorial, I arrived this evening at state Sen. Daylin Leach's demonstration of the awesome power of gerrymandering:
On top is the actual, GOP-made gerrymander of PA Congressional Districts. 13-5 Republican. Below is a drawing I did of a legal 13-5 Democratic gerrymander. I flipped 8 Congressional seats with every single PA voter voting exactly the same way. So who here is relevant, the voter? Or the guy drawing the lines?

The Times-Tribune editorializes:

The answer is to make congressional and legislative districting apolitical, inherently favoring neither party.

I think I know what the T-T means to say, but jeez, what a dunderheaded way of saying it. Make districting apolitical? Nothing in politics is apolitical. Inherently favor neither party? How would that work, exactly? To take one example, Pittsburgh last had elected a Republican mayor in 1933. You let the facts on the ground stand, the Democratic machine will simply maintain in perpetuity the lock it has on the city - which is roughly as strong as the one the Republicans have in the hinterlands. Does that inherently favor neither party - or merely recognize the huge pre-existing favors they've built into the system for themselves?

It would take better causistry than I'm capable of to spin an answer to that one.

What the Times-Tribune means to say is something less unattainably idealistic, namely: "get redistricting out of the hands of the party bosses." And that would be a worthy goal, even though it wouldn't accomplish either of the aims offered in the quoted sentence.

What it would accomplish is ... well, here's how Sen. Leach puts it:
My takeaway from this map is how accurately it would represent the Commonwealth’s various regional interests in Congress, compared to the current map. It is a map where the issues big urban areas have in common with smaller, denser  deindustrialized cities and towns get a lot of strong advocates in Congress, and the big empty areas where nobody lives get the representation of 5 Congressmen, as they deserve.
"As they deserve." As Sen. Leach no doubt knows, those are fighting words. Many of the voters in the middle of the state (a) are convinced of their moral superiority to the Sodom that is Pittsburgh and especially to the Gomorrah that is Philadelphia; (b) live in fear of being sucked dry by the Big Cities' appetite for tax dollars. Asking them to acquiesce to a fair representation of Pennsylvania's urban interests is akin to ... well, they don't call it "Pennsyltucky" for nothing.

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