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View Diary: First, kill all the 'gerrymander-ers' (154 comments)

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  •  Yes. Our founding fathers (16+ / 0-)

    set up a system of checks and balances because they were leery of concentrated power.

    But they also set up a strong, effective national government because they had first-hand experience with the perils of a weak, ineffective system (the Articles of Confederation).

    In both cases, they assumed a certain level of good faith.  Not that they assumed political opponents would be noble or self-sacrificing, but that they would play by the rules and, even in opposition, have a general consensus that the good of the country trumped their political goals.

    Our system works when that good faith exists.  It was in place at least from the depression through George HW Bush's Presidency.  (Example -- the Democrats would have been justified in impeaching Reagan for Iran-Contra, but they forebore for the good of the country.  And Reagan was willing to compromise with Tip O'Neill even on matters of (his warped) principle.) This good faith, let's make the system work mentality started breaking down with the election of Clinton and the resulting rise of Newt Gingrich with his win at all costs, damn the institutions of government mentality.  Hence the Starr report and the impeachment.  It only got worse with Bush's legal coup d'etat and the vilification of Democrats as terrorists.  We have now gotten to the point where a sizeable percentage of the elected officials from one of our two major parties calls the legitimacy of the government, democracy, and our elections into question.  

    The system no longer works because one of the two major parties is no longer dealing in good faith.  They don't respect the outcome of elections, they don't care about the harm their actions will cause -- all they care about is accomplishing their political goals, whether for a warped extremist philosophy or for pure power.

    "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

    by RenMin on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:54:39 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  There are really just a few ways for dealing with (6+ / 0-)

      traitors, and they are not pretty. But, the next time an elected official calls for civil war, secession, or the assassination of the President, I think law enforcement needs to make an example of that person that literally brings them to make tearful public apology. I also think the President needs to stop tolerating people who negotiate with him and then immediately go bad mouth him in public, questioning everything from his patriotism, honesty, and even his citizenship. I think he should just say the deal is off unless repubs come back to the table with negotiators who are mature, adults...and not cowardly, little trash talking traitors.  

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:11:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Court setup the Gerrymandering Tactics. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ian Reifowitz
        •  Sure, SCOTUS ruled it is ok to Gerrymander (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ian Reifowitz

          as both parties do it.

          Had they ruled that the citizens are entitled to be able to select and influence who represents them by a fair system redistricting of those representatives we who be able to vote the crazies out of office.

          With the SCOTUS ruling, we are unable to get ride of the extremists. Who in-turn Gerrymander the voting districts to prevent all accountability to voters.

          •  Is Partisan Gerrymandering Unconstitutional? (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chuck utzman, Ian Reifowitz, RenMin

            Is Partisan Gerrymandering Unconstitutional?

            While the Supreme Court has consistently found certain types of racial gerrymandering to be illegal, it has a much more ambiguous record on partisan gerrymanders in which voters are grouped or split based not on race but on their political orientation.

            In his time on the Supreme Court, Stevens consistently opposed so-called partisan gerrymandering, but he was often in the minority.

            While the Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional and could be challenged in court, it set such a high standard of proof that it made legal challenges of such districts extremely difficult. Since then, the Court has remained divided on whether there is any viable way to set a judicial standard for what makes a given district an illegal gerrymander.

            Stevens has long argued that some kind of standard — based, to begin with, on the principles of compactness and contiguity — is possible.

            "This is one of my major disappointments in my entire career: that I was so totally unsuccessful in persuading the Court on something so obviously correct," Stevens said.

            As we explained in an investigation of special interests and redistricting, and in our latest music video, the ways that politicians manipulate districts are so well-known that political insiders have a special gerrymandering vocabulary: Politicians can "pack" certain communities into a single district, "bleach" out minorities, "crack" troublesome voting blocks between different districts, "kidnap" a troublesome representative by putting his or her house in a separate district from his or her former constituents, or "hijack" a district by redrawing the lines to pit two incumbents from the same party against each other. (For more details on these tactics, check out our Devil's Dictionary of Redistricting.)

            While Stevens has long judged these kinds of tactics unconstitutional, other justices have been more skeptical. Justice Antonin Scalia has argued that the "fairness" of districts is not "a judicially manageable standard," and that there is no constitutionally discernable basis for deciding whether a district is an illegal partisan gerrymander.

            It's worth noting that even Stevens' suggestion that courts base their evaluation of districts on the traditional principles of "compactness and contiguity" is problematic. While compact and contiguous districts may look good on a map, they aren't necessarily fair.

            These seemingly "neutral" standards "really are incredibly arbitrary," said Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan group. The shape of a district may be easy to judge at a glance, but odd-looking districts may simply reflect the real shape of a community.

            And judging districts to be "illegal gerrymanders" just because they're filled with voters who support one party would also be a mistake, Gaskins said. "It can be that communities of interest line up along partisan lines."

            Despite the difficulty, Gaskins said, "we all want to see a workable standard under which these claims can really be adjudicated."

            So far, this "workable standard" has proved elusive.

            While the Supreme Court opened the door to partisan gerrymandering challenges in 1986, it set a high bar: Plaintiffs would have to prove that the shape of a district demonstrated "both intentional discrimination against an identifiable political group and an actual discriminatory effect on that group."

            But this standard proved nearly impossible to meet in practice. As Whitney Eaton noted in a University of Richmond Law Review article:

            The twenty partisan gerrymandering cases that followed Bandemer resulted in the federal courts denying relief in each and every one, leaving commentators to conclude that its "standards are fundamentally unworkable and incorporate such ambiguous and unclear commands as to be unfit for any manageable form of judicial application."

            In a 2004 partisan gerrymandering case, the Court deadlocked on the question of whether partisan gerrymandering, given the difficulty of establishing a standard, should be subject to judicial review. Four justices argued yes — but proposed very different standards for how to tell whether a district has been gerrymandered. Four justices argued no, and one, Anthony Kennedy, argued that while no standard for judging what makes a district "fair" had emerged yet, it might be possible to find one.

            In the Supreme Court's most recent consideration of partisan gerrymandering, in 2006, the confusion persisted.

            While defining partisan gerrymandering has always been difficult, the Brennan Center's Gaskins said increasingly sophisticated mapping software makes the issue more problematic — and more pressing.

    •  You hit the nail on the head. Good faith (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Subterranean, tekno2600, roadbear, RenMin

      is required. Just as in the Parliament of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth -- one member could issue a "veto," which would nullify all legislation passed in that session. This was supposed to be for extreme emergencies, where one's liberty was being violated. Of course, once the veto was abused once, that was the end, b/c it kept getting abused. It became a tool for outside interests (Russia, Austria, Prussia) to destroy Poland-Lithuania.

      Our system also relies, as you said, on good faith to not gum up the works. That good faith is gone. Period.

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