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GOP aide's redistricting analysis leaks.
October 13, 2003 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Another aide embarrasses the GOP? The WaPo reported this weekend about Joby Fortson's memo leak, and the Texas Democratic Party appears to have the whole email. While my own sensibilities are mostly offended that the U.S. Congress apparently doesn't have spell-check, it's hard nonetheless not to think also of Paul Tripplehorn's break-up and Kit Bond's aide's tacky website named for the plane that killed Dem Missouri gov Mel Carnahan. Discretion, valor, yadda.
posted by pineapple (38 comments total)

 
Proving once more that Republicans are kind of icky.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:26 PM on October 13, 2003


Going after the aides doesn't help. They'll make more.
posted by rcade at 12:28 PM on October 13, 2003


It's exactly this kind of evidence that will make the challenge under the Voting Rights Act so easy...
posted by Cerebus at 12:50 PM on October 13, 2003


Proving once more that Republicans politicians are kind of icky.

Give me a break. If you don't think both parties have being doing the same thing since time immemorial, I've got a new congressional district to sell 'ya. The WaPo article acknowledges this: "The analysis of the plan ... provides a rare public glimpse into the inner workings of the congressional redistricting process, which both political parties use to advance their own cause and hurt the opposition." The only reason we're hearing about this now is that e-mails have this remarkable ability to be forwarded well beyond the intended audience.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:13 PM on October 13, 2003


Give me a break. If you don't think both parties have being doing the same thing since time immemorial, I've got a new congressional district to sell 'ya

Feel free to supply your argument with some examples from recent history of anything remotely as slimy from the other side. I'm not implying it's not there, but I am curious to actually see some.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:16 PM on October 13, 2003


This sounds like typical gerrymandering to me. . . This goes on all the time, and just like this. This is also how politicos talk to one another. In both (all?) parties. This is not really news, just an interesting insight into the thought process involved in modern politics. Sorry. . .

And no, you're not going to find other "examples" of this going on for the most part. Most people actually show some concern over private, "not for public consumption," communications in this field. Look into *any* organization's private communications and you're likely to be offended by something in there too.
posted by BrandonAbell at 1:24 PM on October 13, 2003


Normally, of course, this sort of germandering goes on only once every ten years. Now it will go on every time legislative control of the legislature flips.
posted by deanc at 1:26 PM on October 13, 2003


paddonyou? and BrandonAbell, what deanc said is the whole point.

Yes, Republicans and Democrats both try to carve up districts to their advantage. But until now, they did it on a standard schedule -- every 10 years, whoever had more power had better opportunity. Now the GOP has decided to do what it wants as often as it wants.

And since the extra seven seats this manuever will gain is designed to keep the GOP in control of the House -- and put that slimeball Tom DeLay into the speakership -- this is a national issue.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:33 PM on October 13, 2003


Going after the aides doesn't help. They'll make more.

Well, then, we must find a cure for aides.
posted by jonmc at 1:37 PM on October 13, 2003


pardonyou?, you need a reality check.

Redistricting is supposed to occur once a decade. It is done in response to each decade's census data. In 2001, Republicans redistricted Texas according to the 2000 census. They took advantage of the situation, back in 2001, and gerrymandered by doing things like splitting up Democratically-voting Hispanic communities. I don't have a problem with that. I don't think any Democrats have a problem with that. It's how the game's played.

What's remarkable is how slimy and greedy those Texas Republicans are. It's remarkable that two years after they last gerrymandered a state the Republicans are literally cackling with glee as they gerrymander Texas yet again. It's remarkable that any Americans can so recklessly ignore the warnings of their Founding Fathers and abuse their responsibility and power as the majority party.

Now, pardonyou?, can you explain why it was okay to redistrict again in 2003?
posted by jbrjake at 1:38 PM on October 13, 2003


Feel free to supply your argument with some examples from recent history of anything remotely as slimy from the other side. I'm not implying it's not there, but I am curious to actually see some.

Brandon's point is correct -- I can't show you any internal documents like this one. But only because they haven't been made public.

But I think I can do you one better anyway. Consider the U.S. Supreme Court case of Shaw v. Reno, in which the Court considered the constitutionality of a North Carolina district that had been drafted by Democrats. I can't put it any better than Justice O'Conner herself:
The second majority black district, District 12, is even more unusually shaped. It is approximately 160 miles long and, for much of its length, no wider than the I-85 corridor. It winds in snake like fashion through tobacco country, financial centers, and manufacturing areas "until it gobbles in enough enclaves of black neighborhoods." ... Northbound and southbound drivers on I-85 sometimes findthemselves in separate districts in one county, only to "trade" districts when they enter the next county. Of the 10 counties through which District 12 passes, five are cut into three different districts; even towns are divided. At one point the district remains contiguous only because it intersects at a single point with two other districts before crossing over them. ... One state legislator has remarked that " `[i]f you drove down the interstate with both car doors open, you'd kill most of the people in the district.' " ... The district even has inspired poetry: "Ask not for whom the line is drawn; it is drawn to avoid thee."
posted by pardonyou? at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2003


Embarrassing to Republicans? I think not.

Republicans, in my opinion, are much less ashamed of "in your face/all's fair" style of playing politics. Democrats delude themselves by thinking they can score points by "shaming" Republicans about these transgressions. Republicans know that this kind of hardball works because it is the kind of alpha male "toughness" is really what Americans crave in their leaders. Anything that makes a liberal howl is good, even if you have to fire the aide to cover your tracks.
posted by jamsterdam at 1:50 PM on October 13, 2003


pardonyou?, you need a reality check ... Now, pardonyou?, can you explain why it was okay to redistrict again in 2003?

You might want to re-read the post. The initial post -- and my response to it -- both dealt with the embarassment caused by the leak of the aide's email, and the perceived sliminess of its contents. It had nothing to do with the frequency of redistricting. Personally, I don't think it was "okay to redistrict again." But I wasn't defending the GOP to begin with, either.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:54 PM on October 13, 2003


pardonyou?, yes, everyone knows both parties gerrymander. *yawn* Hell, "gerrymander," if I recall correctly, was coined before the Democrats and Republicans were even parties.

Your argument might make sense if we were discussing Texas' 2001 redistricting (which went to the Supreme Court too, I believe).

But we're not.
posted by jbrjake at 1:55 PM on October 13, 2003


pardonyou?, you said in your first post on this thread:

"If you don't think both parties have being doing the same thing since time immemorial, I've got a new congressional district to sell 'ya."

And they haven't been doing the same thing since immemorial. This is totally different from the "same thing." The "same thing" happened after the 1990 and 2000 censuses (censii?). What's going on now is extraordinary.

You also said "Brandon's point is correct" in your second post. Brandon's point was:

"This sounds like typical gerrymandering to me. . . This goes on all the time, and just like this."

That point is wrong.
posted by jbrjake at 2:01 PM on October 13, 2003


jbrjake, while I agree with your sentiment 110%, I think it's only fair to point out that the Texas Dems actually had control of the state legislature in 2001, and gerrymandered as usual. The GOP blocked the Dems' proposed maps using techniques similar in purpose to the 2003 Dem walkouts, then the maps went to the courts (par for the course).

Still, I don't think that dilutes the opinion that the greed of the Texas Republicans this year has been unprecedented.
posted by pineapple at 2:05 PM on October 13, 2003


Republicans know that this kind of hardball works because it is the kind of alpha male "toughness" is really what Americans crave in their leaders.

What some Americans crave. This "hardball" crap says to me that these guys care far more about power than wise use of it. Which is pretty typical stupid "alpha male" behavior, and unfortunately, right wing politics.
posted by namespan at 2:09 PM on October 13, 2003


And they haven't been doing the same thing since immemorial. This is totally different from the "same thing."

Again, "same thing" in terms of gerrymandering for political benefits, not upping the frequency of redistricting. The former is what the linked article and this post dealt with. The latter is the point you raised. And I don't disagree with you (although I don't know enough about this situation, and pineapple seems to indicate they didn't just one day wake up and say: "You know, we should do this every three years now!")
posted by pardonyou? at 2:18 PM on October 13, 2003


Redistricting Scorecard. Watch the gerrymanders romp!
posted by iceberg273 at 2:23 PM on October 13, 2003


The Texas Republican Party Platform
posted by homunculus at 2:29 PM on October 13, 2003


pineapple, thanks for correcting me. Can you give me any more info, though? If the Democrats controlled the legislature, how come the commitee chairs in charge of the 2001 Texas redistricting were Republican, in both houses? The bottom line is, both in 2001 and 2003 Texas was redistricted, and even if the Democrats were in control, the new boundaries helped the GOP. I just googled my way to a June 2002 AP article by Gina Holland that says so flat out:

"The justices, without hearing arguments, affirmed congressional and state legislative boundaries that favor Republicans."

There's nothing wrong with this of course, but it just shows how this year's redistricting is about greed, not following tradition. Back in 2001, according to Texas Monthly in an article by Patricia Kilday Hart, the Senate redistricting panel's Republican chair, Jeff Wentworth, was quoted saying:

"Truthfully, I am not here as the agent of the Republican National Committee," says Wentworth. "I don't want to trade a one-party Democratic Texas for a one-party Republican Texas. I want true competition and a true two-party system."

Compare that to the leaked memo.
posted by jbrjake at 2:33 PM on October 13, 2003


pardonyou?, I know I raised the issue of re-redistricting. I just think it's central to this debate, and that it can't be ignored. Because this isn't business as usual, the process is fundamentally different. There's a reason Democrats were shocked at this memo.

Let's use an analogy. Say someone retired from the Supreme Court or died and Bush replaced him or her with Robert Bork. And as he was doing it, it came out in the media his reaction was "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha." Big deal. He's getting some amusement out of using the processes of government to further his goals.

Now say no one retired or died on the Supreme Court. And Bush just got antsy, scared that no one would retire while he was President and he'd not get to alter how the government functions on a permanent basis. So instead, he just decided to follow FDR's old plan and add new seat to the Court in order to get another reactionary on board. And then he was quoted as saying: "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha." There's a difference, there, I believe.

Obviously, I'm using the "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha" about Doggett as representative of the tone and tactics of the whole memo. The tone resonates differently depending on whether or not you acknowledge the players are breaking the rules.
posted by jbrjake at 2:49 PM on October 13, 2003


(I apologize in advance for the length of the following post. This was my first-ever FPP, and coincidentally I know a lot about this whole mess, so I feel obligated to reply in full. Y'all can smack me around if I'm breaking protocol.)

pineapple seems to indicate they didn't just one day wake up and say: "You know, we should do this every three years now!"

To clarify my position: the Texas GOP didn't "just one day wake up" -- they waited till they had the majority in both state chambers (for the first time in decades). It would never have been an option before this biannual state legislative session.

As for doing this "every three years" -- I certainly do not think the GOP wants a biannual redistricting effort to become the new standard. I believe that they do not think for a second that the Dems will come back into power before 2011 (the year of the next scheduled redistricting). Further, I believe that when the Dems do come back into power before 2011, and immediately set about undoing the widespread damage of 2003, the GOP will cry all kinds of foul.

What I am watching with special interest is to see what happens in the other state legislatures with unified power. That this worked in Texas, home turf of the President and the House Majority Leader, was a benchmark, a big fat green light, as iceberg273's link would indicate.

Upon preview: jbrjake, that Holland article is correct. The Texas redistricting process is a labyrinth of crazy even when it is not done "off-season." Hopefully, this will help:

In 2001, the Dem-controlled Lege drew the maps as scheduled. The GOP minority blocked the Dem-favored maps, so new lines weren't drawn by the time the session adjourned. (Of course, Governor Perry didn't find that a compelling reason to call a special session)

So, at that point in 2001, the maps got kicked up to the state Legislative Redistricting Board... composed of then-Attorney General (now U.S. Sen.) John Cornyn (R), Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander (now Strayhorn) (R), then-Lt. Gov. (now state Sen.) Bill Ratliff (R), then-state-land-commissioner (now Lt.Gov) David Dewhurst(R), and then-House Speaker (now state Rep.) Pete Laney (D).

That 5-member group (with 4 R's) drew the maps that went to the Supreme Court for review, hence the inherent Republican bias. Make more sense?
posted by pineapple at 2:59 PM on October 13, 2003


What really bugs me about redistricting is that even when judges draw up the lines, there is still gerrymandering. Why wouldn't it be easier to just use a computer to come up with relatively square districts with nearly identical populations?
posted by norm at 3:02 PM on October 13, 2003


pineapple, ah ha! Thank you for that informative reply--and congrats on your 1st FPP. By the Trackback, I'd say you can rest easy knowing it was a good one.
posted by jbrjake at 3:14 PM on October 13, 2003


What really bugs me about redistricting is that several other states have successfully implemented bi-partisan independent citizen commissions to draw the lines. Why do we let the bodies who stand to gain the power from the maps draw the maps in the first place? Texas moderate GOP state senator Jeff Wentworth proposed a bill to create such a commission, but he was shot down by his party-mates, quelle surprise. (and now I'm going to stop posting).

(thanks, jbrjake! I'm all blushy.)
posted by pineapple at 3:20 PM on October 13, 2003


pardonyou?: In Shaw v. Reno, "Appellants alleged not that the revised plan constituted a political gerrymander, nor that it violated the 'one person, one vote' principle, ... but that the State had created an unconstitutional racial gerrymander." It doesn't make sense (at least to me) to portray that case as political gerrymandering when it took place as an attempt to remedy racial discrimination. In fact, I'd argue that the Democrats' attempts at racial gerrymandering have made it easier for Republicans to win majorities in state congressional delegations.
posted by subgenius at 4:06 PM on October 13, 2003


norm: Because it is also considered important to cluster voters by communities of interest; i.e., rural dairy farmers, coastal fisheries, suburban, urban. The assumption is that these communities fare better with representation that is sensitive to their interests rather than diluted among other interests in a geographically ideal boundary.

I.e., districts in general must meet three tests: They must be equal in population, they should be geographically compact and contiguous, and they should be culturally homogenous.
posted by Cerebus at 4:16 PM on October 13, 2003


It doesn't make sense (at least to me) to portray that case as political gerrymandering when it took place as an attempt to remedy racial discrimination.

Black districts = Democratic districts. I don't think anyone really believes the N.C. Democrats designed the districts just to "remedy" racial discrimination, consequences be damned. If the districting benefitted the Republicans, why did the N.C. Republican Party file the lawsuit? And the case was first filed as a political gerrymandering case, but that was dismissed. If at first you don't succeed...
posted by pardonyou? at 7:18 PM on October 13, 2003


Black districts = Democratic districts. I don't think anyone really believes the N.C. Democrats designed the districts just to "remedy" racial discrimination, consequences be damned.

They were more-or-less ordered to create a couple of majority-black districts by the Department of Justice in their capacity of enforcing the Voting Rights Act. Which isn't necessarily a crazy thing to do -- what they said was on the order of "We think that if you were actually ignoring race, you'd have two or so majority-black districts. So STOP SCREWING AROUND and GO MAKE THEM."

Either way, North Carolina was not offered a choice in the matter.

If the districting benefitted the Republicans, why did the N.C. Republican Party file the lawsuit?

Creating the majority-black districts had the effect of pulling black voters out of other districts (or "bleaching" them), which made it easier for Republicans to take a couple more. You lose one district and get a better shot at 3 or more, that's a good deal.

And Shaw v. Reno wasn't filed by the Republican Party, it was filed by Shaw, a law professor at Duke.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:37 PM on October 13, 2003


To be someone who claims NOT to be Republican, pardonyou sure does actively argue the Republican viewpoint every single time. Anyone else notice that? Is it confession time?
posted by nofundy at 5:20 AM on October 14, 2003


And Shaw v. Reno wasn't filed by the Republican Party, it was filed by Shaw, a law professor at Duke.

You're right, the N.C. Republican Party filed the original suit challenging this districting, Davis v. Bandemer. But what's the difference? Either way, the Republicans challeneged the districting, something I doubt they would have done if it benefitted them, as subgenius hypothesized.

nofundy: To be someone who claims NOT to be Republican, pardonyou sure does actively argue the Republican viewpoint every single time. Anyone else notice that? Is it confession time?

Do you even bother to read my posts, or is your brain so wired to only accept us/them, black/white, 0/1 that it can't conceive of someone who criticizes both political parties? Just as a refresher, here are some of my statements in this thread:

If you don't think both parties have being doing the same thing ...

Personally, I don't think it was "okay to redistrict again." But I wasn't defending the GOP to begin with, either.

Again, "same thing" in terms of gerrymandering for political benefits, not upping the frequency of redistricting. The former is what the linked article and this post dealt with. The latter is the point you raised. And I don't disagree with you...

Care to point one single instance in this thread where I "argued the Republican viewpoint"? At most, I argued that both political parties are equally slimy and reprehensible when it comes to redistricting. But I know, you're either with us, or you're against us, right?

And since you made my political persuasion an issue, let me list some of the issues that prevent me from considering myself a Republican: anti-death penalty; pro-legalization of marijuana; pro-studying controlled regulation of other drugs; pro gay-rights, including marriage; pro-choice; stridently pro-stem cell research and therapeutic cloning; anti-racial, gender, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation discrimination; stridently pro-First Amendment; and I'm strongly opposed to the current administration's fiscal policy (although to be fair, I don't consider it to be consistent with traditional Republican policy). I'm sure there are several more, but is that enough for you? Hey, I'm flattered that you pay such close attention!
posted by pardonyou? at 6:41 AM on October 14, 2003


Both parties are not equal when it comes to redistricting -- the Republicans have broken long-established precedent by jerrymandering in the middle of the decade, and I think that's a huge escalation of this sleazy aspect of politics which will make things appreciably worse. Give them some well-deserved credit.
posted by rcade at 7:52 AM on October 14, 2003


Black districts = Democratic districts. I don't think anyone really believes the N.C. Democrats designed the districts just to "remedy" racial discrimination, consequences be damned.

Then why would they create districts with a majority of minority voters who are likely to vote for democratic candidates, when they could simply spread those votes around in other districts? This may have been directed at that political base, but it came at the cost of making other districts more conservative.

If the districting benefitted the Republicans, why did the N.C. Republican Party file the lawsuit?

Because it was likely to increase the number of African American representatives in Congress?
posted by subgenius at 10:42 AM on October 14, 2003


Then why would they create districts with a majority of minority voters who are likely to vote for democratic candidates, when they could simply spread those votes around in other districts?

Because blacks make up a minority of votors statewide. If you "spread them out" you dilute their power as a block. If you can gerrymander a district to include a majority of black voters (which would be hard to do absent racial gerrymandering), you've created a sure-bet Democratic district. As a Democrat, which would you rather have: four districts with 4,000 whites and 1,000 blacks each, or three districts with 16,000 whites and 0 blacks, and one district with 0 whites and 4,000 blacks?

If the districting benefitted the Republicans, why did the N.C. Republican Party file the lawsuit?

Because it was likely to increase the number of African American representatives in Congress?


In other words, the Republican party is inherently racist? They'd rather sacrifice congressional seats than have more blacks in Congress? Sorry, don't buy that one.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:43 AM on October 14, 2003


If you can gerrymander a district to include a majority of black voters (which would be hard to do absent racial gerrymandering) ...

I don't think it would be hard to do in many urban areas of the country, thanks to white flight.
posted by rcade at 12:42 PM on October 14, 2003


As a Democrat, which would you rather have: four districts with 4,000 whites and 1,000 blacks each, or three districts with 16,000 whites and 0 blacks, and one district with 0 whites and 4,000 blacks?

I'd take the four districts with minority presence. I'd rather have four Congresscritters that need to compromise with me on my issues in order to get elected than only one.

Of course, your example presupposes that black (and white) people vote as a bloc. This assumption is a racial stereotype, and you might want to evaluate your holding of it.

In other words, the Republican party is inherently racist?

Well, it could be argued pretty effectively that the assumption that blacks vote en bloc is, in fact, racist; and it is indeed Republicans making this assumption in this case.
posted by Cerebus at 5:38 PM on October 14, 2003


Of course, your example presupposes that black (and white) people vote as a bloc. This assumption is a racial stereotype, and you might want to evaluate your holding of it.

Obviously. That's why it was a hypothetical. That's what hypotheticals do -- they make simplistic assumptions to analyze deeper issues. There are also far more than 5,000 people in a Congressional district -- perhaps I should evaluate that assumption of mine, too?

Of course, any poll will show that black voters vote for Democrats in a much higher percentage than white voters vote for any one particular party, but obviously they don't vote in a "bloc."
posted by pardonyou? at 6:37 AM on October 16, 2003


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