Opinion | Democrats try to end gerrymandering and save democracy from Republicans – The Washington Post
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has been working hard to end the scourge of partisan gerrymandering, and on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he will begin the process to move toward a vote on Klobuchar’s bill, the Freedom to Vote Act.
You can think of this step as a vote on whether to take a vote on whether to put out the fires that arsonists are setting around the country.
In a letter to his colleagues, Schumer extolled Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) for laboring tirelessly to win over Republicans to this cause:
I can hear Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cackling from here.
All the hosannas to Manchin are painfully ironic, because he (along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona) is the reason this bill won’t become law, and the Republican gerrymandering efforts going on right now will be so successful.
That’s despite the fact that he supports the bill. To continue our metaphor, Manchin’s position is that he sincerely wants to put out all those fires, but only if the arsonists agree to do so. If he and Sinema would consent to reform the filibuster and allow the majority to prevail on the bill they support — even if it was just a carve-out for electoral reform — this bill could pass within days. But they won’t.
Are you disgusted? You ought to be.
The gerrymandering provisions in this bill are a revised version of what Democrats have suggested before. Rather than requiring states to use nonpartisan commissions to draw congressional district lines, it allows states to set up their own such systems. But the bill establishes a standard that disallows partisan gerrymanders that deliberately give one party disproportionate power, then creates a legal procedure to challenge and overturn them.
As we speak, Republicans around the country are amply demonstrating why it’s so important that partisan gerrymanders finally come to an end.
In recent years, the poster child for the pathology of gerrymandering has been the Wisconsin legislature, which Republicans gerrymandered so effectively that in 2018 they won only 46 percent of the votes for the state assembly but held 64 percent of the seats. But now Texas is ground zero for the attack on democracy.
In a state that is rapidly changing, becoming less white and more liberal, Republicans are using their control of the government to lock in their current majorities. The goal is to make their power permanent, so that no matter how much the state changes and how unpopular their party becomes, it will be all but impossible for them to lose control.
In their proposed congressional map, they would eliminate almost all electoral competition in the state; only one true toss-up district out of 38 will remain, and Republicans will likely control 24 seats. Within a few years Texas will probably be equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, yet Republicans will hold two-thirds of the House seats.
In their redistricting for the state legislature (which the federal government has no say in), it could be even worse. Election reporter Ari Berman noted the racial makeup of the new Texas maps:
Gerrymandering is an old practice, but that doesn’t make it any less repugnant, if you have even the barest commitment to the principle that the people should elect their leaders. And with the comprehensive voter data and sophisticated software available today, those with limitless contempt for majority rule can create almost any electoral outcome they like.
I have searched in vain for a genuine defense of partisan gerrymandering. People might argue that some solution to it is itself problematic, but no Republican will say gerrymandering is a good thing. They can’t come up with a disingenuous argument to defend it, let alone an honest one.
Yet we know without doubt the fate of the Freedom to Vote Act. The cloture vote will fail; though perhaps one or two Republicans will vote to begin debate on the bill, there will be nothing approaching the 10 Republican votes necessary to overcome their party’s own filibuster.
Manchin’s “conversations” will drag on for a while, until the Republicans inevitably refuse to go along with anything that would increase electoral competition. After all, if they didn’t insulate themselves from the will of the people, where would they be?
Some of those allegedly moderate Republicans will justify opposition to eliminating gerrymandering with snide GOP talking points about a “Democrat power grab,” surprising those naive enough to think they were ever negotiating in good faith. Then Manchin will insist for the umpteenth time that the filibuster is the guarantor of the Senate’s noblest traditions of bipartisan problem-solving.
This is where you’re probably saying “So what are we supposed to do?” The only answer is to elect a few more Democrats to the Senate so the filibuster can be reformed and legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act can actually pass — while they hold the House, of course. Which is exactly what Republicans hope to make impossible, no matter what the voting public wants.
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