(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To This Post)
Being our semi-regular weekly survey of what’s goin’ down in the several states where, as we know, the real work of governmentin’ gets done, and where they must bust in early May, orders from the DA.
This semi-regular weekly feature must still be concerned with the various shenanigans playing out with redistricting, or reapportionment, or the long, amphibian legacy of former Vice President Elbridge Gerry. Our guide in this effort must always be Ari Berman of Mother Jones, who has tracked the odd critter for many years and in many places. We follow him first to Texas, where the state legislature has raised the ancient creature to Godzillian proportions.
Republican House candidates won 53 percent of the statewide vote in 2020 but would hold a projected 65 percent of seats under the new lines, which were approved by the state Senate redistricting committee on Monday. The number of safe GOP seats would double, from 11 to 22, while the number of competitive districts would fall from 12 to just one. Nine Texas House Republicans, including Van Duyne, currently hold seats in districts won by Biden or where Trump won by five points or less, but they’re all drawn into districts that Trump would have carried by double digits. This will push state and national politics even further to the right, as Republicans worry more about primary challengers than Democratic opponents.
Those are the macro atrocities. At the micro level, the size of the Texamander becomes even clearer. Again, from Mother Jones:
Perhaps the most shocking example of gerrymandering occurs in the statehouse map in Bell County, home to Fort Hood, a large military base north of Austin. Republicans split the city of Killeen, which is 40 percent Black, into two bizarrely shaped districts—with one donut-shaped district encircling the other—to protect two white GOP state representatives. “The only motivation for chopping Killeen up is that [if they didn’t], African Americans and Latinos would be able to elect the candidate of their choice,” Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe told the Texas Tribune.
(Brief Guy Clark Lyric Interlude: “And she took up with this drummer in some good time Texas scene/And she loved him till the day they shipped him back home to Killeen.” Thank you.)
Elsewhere, the process in Virginia is close to collapse. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
On Wednesday, the commission could not agree on what it is trying to accomplish from a political standpoint. It deadlocked on separate 8-8 party-line votes on whether to seek a map with five Democratic-leaning districts, five Republican-leaning districts and one toss-up district, or a map with five Democratic-leaning districts, four GOP-leaning districts and two highly competitive districts.
The deadlock raised the likelihood that the bipartisan commission of eight citizens and eight legislators, established through a constitutional amendment that Virginia’s voters overwhelmingly backed, will fail to agree on maps of the state’s congressional districts or its legislative districts, leaving both tasks to the state Supreme Court.
For some time, “independent bipartisan commissions” were the hot number among solutions to the problem of the ‘Mander. But, since there’s no such thing as a bipartisan anything anywhere anymore, some of them have turned into fool’s gold. Michigan voted in an independent commission a few years back, and civil rights leaders there are up in arms at the new maps that it produced this year. From the Detroit News:
The proposed maps for the state House, state Senate and U.S. House fail to preserve the ability for minority voters to have a voice in government, argued Johnson, who is a member of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's cabinet. "They dilute minority-majority districts and strip the ability for a minority voter to elect legislative representatives who reflect their community and affect any meaningful opportunity to impact public policy and lawmaking," he said.
Other commentators argued the Michigan Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission's proposed maps dilute the voting power of Detroiters by putting residents of the overwhelmingly Black city into districts with nearby Oakland and Macomb county suburbs. They urged commissioners to create districts that are majority Black and majority Detroit residents to protect city residents' ability to elect people who represent their needs.
And then, of course, there’s Wisconsin, where everything seems to get both worse and more obvious by the day. From Wisconsin Public Radio:
The People's Maps Commission's proposed district lines would still give an edge to Republicans when it comes to which party controls the Legislature. That's because of Wisconsin's "political geography," where Democrats live more closely together in cities while GOP voters are more spread out.
The commission heard public testimony on redistricting during a series of virtual meetings and took submissions from the public on what the next map should look like. "We trust that our transparent and deliberate process will more clearly reflect the communities where Wisconsinites live, work and vote," said People's Maps Commission chair Christopher Ford.
Republicans had said previously that they won't pass any maps produced by the commission, but Vos indicated in his statement Wednesday that the Legislature "took into account" plans submitted to the panel. Vos also set up his own redistricting portal recently to take similar submissions from the public.
Vos has also indicated that the Legislature intends to pass its redistricting plan before Nov. 11.
The new Wisconsin maps will cement Republican domination of the state legislature for another decade. And this whole thing is headed into the deepest jungles of Depositionland. These commissions are turning out to be yet another good political idea that never stood a chance against the prion disease afflicting one side.
In other news, the latest hot development pandemic-wise seems to be police and firemen leaping in front of TV cameras in order to quit rather than submit to the tyranny of a mandated stronger immune system. This symptom of the pandemic erupted acutely in the state of Washington, where Governor Jay Inslee has been the model of how a governor should act and has been ever since the state got seriously slugged by the first wave of the virus. This has not meant much to the 127 state police officers who were canned this week for being publicly insubordinate, including this guy, who I am happy is no longer carrying a gun in any official capacity. From the Washington Post:
In a parting message broadcast across the agency’s dispatch system, he announced that he was “being asked to leave because I am dirty,” referring to his defiance of the state’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for government employees. The 22-year veteran thanked his colleagues — and offered some choice words for the governor. “This is the last time you’ll hear me in a state patrol car,” said LaMay, 50, who recorded his remarks. “And Jay Inslee can kiss my a--.”
With that, he dropped the radio. Staring into the camera, he said, “That’s it.”
Good for you, pal. I’m happy for the citizens of Washington. And, incidentally, the anti-vax agitation among the country’s police unions is yet another reason why police unions have become such nests for the retrograde that they hardly seem to truly be representing the best interests even of their membership.
And we conclude, as is our custom, in the great state of Oklahoma, whence Blog Official Dust Bowl Bowler of the Year Friedman of the Plains brings us the latest on what the state’s attorney general has been up to recently. From Fox23:
“There are currently no rules that require employers to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for employees. I urge Oklahoma employers to disregard the Biden Administration’s wishes to the contrary. In the event federal emergency rules are issued that place such an unlawful demand upon employers, our office will be joined by other state Attorneys General across the country to quickly sue and seek an injunction against any implementation or enforcement,” said O’Connor.
O’Connor also said that religious, medical, and personal exemptions could be approved by employers.
“Wishes to the contrary” is a very nice way to hand-wave the Supremacy Clause, AG O’Connor. There will be lawsuits, which this genius likely will lose, and Oklahoma taxpayers will have to pay for them, over and over again.
This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.
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