Editorial: Gerrymandering doesn’t represent us | TribLIVE.com

Editorial: Gerrymandering doesn’t represent us


Whether you are in a casino or a courtroom or state house, stacking the deck is wrong.

You don’t get to load up your hand with aces. You don’t get to put your best friends on your jury. And you aren’t supposed to carefully, surgically carve out a constituency that is exactly the people who will keep voting you into office and exclude the people who won’t.

That’s what gerrymandering is. It isn’t breaking the rules. It’s taking the rules and rearranging them into something that does what you want it to do, like a ransom note cut letter by letter out of other words.

And so some people were surprised when the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled this week that gerrymandering on the basis of party wasn’t something they could control.

The very obviousness of political gerrymandering makes that understandable. It’s out there. It’s not secret. Redrawing the lines with state elections is often an openly stated goal. How can the Supreme Court not recognize that?

Because it is possible for both sides in an argument to be right.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan was right in her stinging dissent, saying “The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government.”

Representative democracy doesn’t work if it’s not representative. If we exclude women, we have rules made that don’t understand women’s needs. If we exclude people based on their race or ethnicity or cultural background, we do the same. We have something that has all the words from the Constitution, but is made up of jagged pieces snipped from here and there.

But Chief Justice John Roberts was also not wrong in his majority opinion: “We have no commission to allocate political power and influence in the absence of a constitutional directive or legal standards to guide us in the exercise of such authority.”

The Constitution doesn’t specifically say the portioning of districts has to be fair to the minority political party. We protect people on the basis of those other things that are innate to who they are.

But politics can change on a dime. Your vote doesn’t have to correspond to your party. Look at today’s politics, where moderates on both sides say their parties have receded from the middle like a tide, retreating to further and deeper fringes. There is no way to draw districts around that.

The court needs legislators at all levels to either spell out better laws that protect people of all parties, or be willing, when they are the majority, to be fair to the opposition.

And if they won’t, we have to show them all that we care more about representative democracy than we do about winning, and regardless of district or state or party, vote in people who won’t stack the deck.

Categories: Opinion | Editorials
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