Gerrymandering a problem nationwide

On Feb. 16, the Daily Herald featured a guest column by Bill Brady, Republican state senator from the 44th District. He passionately argued for a fair map for Illinois. This newspaper evaluates some candidates on how fervently they support a fair map. A fair map makes sense in a democratic republic, or in any political entity that describes itself as democratic. The Daily Herald reminds its readers that facts matter. However, facts acquire meaning from their context. The political context is that one way the Republican Party maintains control in this country is through undemocratic gerrymandering.

The statistics of gerrymandering's effects in Illinois as cited by Brady seem "mild," compared to Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio or myriad other Republican-controlled states. In spite of huge differentials between vote percentage and actual representation, the U.S. Supreme Court declared gerrymandering "remained out of reach of the Constitution." This is the same Supreme Court that had no trouble appointing a president and overruling the Florida state Supreme Court. No difficulties granting for the first time corporations personal liberty rights to buy politicians and to deny women contraceptives. No difficulties gutting the Voting Rights Act.

These court decisions to remove guardrails for a functioning democracy are reminiscent of the Supreme Court's rulings during Reconstruction. Then, the Court peered through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to say 5,000 lynching victims and the denial of the right to vote was "out of reach of the Constitution," a matter for the states.

The effect of gerrymandering is that one party never fears an opponent from the other party but is wary of an even more extreme challenger within his or her party. The result is an incentive not to compromise. The public wants both parties to work together but that remains a pipe dream unless gerrymandering is outlawed nationally.

Ed Plum


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