Editorial: Both parties play the dirty gerrymandering game

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The post-census redistricting process now underway around the country presents an important test for centrists to either live up to fundamental ideals such as fairness and choosing what’s best for the country, or go for the jugular the way the extremists in both parties do. Nice folks who play by the rules tend to finish last in politics, especially when it comes to the kinds of gerrymandering designed to determine election outcomes favorable to the dominant party in power.

Fairness, in a utopian political world, means letting each candidate make the strongest case for her or his election, and letting the voters decide. American democracy works best when a variety of political viewpoints are considered, with the best ideas rising to the top regardless of which party presents them.

Back here on Earth, everyone knows it doesn’t work that way. The redistricting process is focused purely on ensuring partisan domination, which these days is a formula for more extremism.

In Texas, where the Republican Party reigns supreme, politicians are busy crafting maps to incorporate two new House seats resulting from the state’s population gain. There’s nothing fair about the mapping process. The maps dip into Democrat-dominated areas of cities like Austin and Dallas to split them apart, divide racial groups, and ensure that Republican populations overwhelm the mix.

In Ohio, judicial ethical rules require Ohio judges to recuse themselves from hearing cases involving their close family members, or “whenever the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

But the recusal law doesn’t apply to members of the Ohio Supreme Court. That means there likely is no way for groups behind the high-stakes lawsuits challenging new Ohio state legislative maps to try to block Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine from ruling on maps that were approved in part by his father, Gov. Mike DeWine.

In Illinois, a Democrat-dominated state that is losing population, politicians tasked with eliminating a congressional seat are making sure it’ll be a Republican who gets ousted. The two most likely targets appear to be Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville or Rep. Adam Kinzinger of suburban Chicago. Just because Democrats hold the power to delete one of these jobs doesn’t make it right, especially when voters of their respective districts chose Republicans to represent them.

Davis has had his ups and downs because he tends to lurch between being exceedingly rational on some issues while blindly siding with Republican extremists on others. He defended Joe Biden’s election victory but refuses to participate on a select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection launched to block the election outcome.

Kinzinger has denounced Trump at every turn and currently serves on that same committee.

Logic would suggest that the district most worthy of elimination would be one in which the incumbent seems less prone to thinking independently and defending democracy over blind partisanship. But in today’s politics, logic and fairness take a back seat to winning at all costs.

Once upon a time, America performed at its best when centrists among Republicans and Democrats found ways to work together, compromise, and put the nation’s best interests first. But those days won’t return as long as those fighting for what’s right are thwarted at every turn by partisan demagogues. If both sides insist on playing the game this way, the void between America’s political extremes promises only to grow wider.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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