Open Thread for Monday, May 22, 2017

The 1812 editorial cartoon from which we get the term "gerrymander."

The 1812 editorial cartoon from which we get the term “gerrymander.”

Not much that’s interesting out there, but here are some talkers:

  1. Justices rule North Carolina improperly relied on race in redistricting efforts — Whoa! If they’re not going to allow that, then there goes every district in South Carolina. And it can’t be too soon. Reapportionment reform!
  2. Trump said what?!? — That’s the headline on a Jennifer Rubin column — one she could use at any time these days, but here she specifically marvels at what Trump said in denying he had revealed the source of code-word intel he gave the Russians: “I never mentioned the word or the name Israel in that conversation.” This puts Trump on the level of my granddaughter when she was about 2. One day her baby brother started crying suddenly and my wife asked her what had happened, since he couldn’t talk. Her reply: “I didn’t kick him in the head!” (He’s fine, by the way. We celebrated his 5th birthday over the weekend. She’s 7 and, unlike our president, way too smart now to incriminate herself that way.)
  3. Flynn takes the Fifth, declines to comply with Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena — That pretty much states it.
  4. Officials: Visitor releases boa constrictor in Congaree park — But that’s not the good part. The good part’s in italics here: “A visitor who thought boa constrictors were a native snake species in South Carolina released one in a Midlands park.” Really? Really? Who would own a boa constrictor and not know where they come from?
  5. Lawmaker apologizes after saying Louisiana leaders ‘should be lynched’ for removing Confederate statues — Well, golly gee… As long as he said he’s sorry… This is getting prominent play on The Guardian because they love stories that make Americans sound like malevolent hammerheads…
  6. You should go give blood — That’s what I’m about to do in a few minutes. I’m giving platelets again, as I do about every two weeks…

18 thoughts on “Open Thread for Monday, May 22, 2017

  1. Karen Pearson

    Do we need to sue the state or somebody to get our redistricting declared unconstitutional? Or can we manage this another way?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Why is there Original Sin?

      Basically, it’s just a long-standing reality. Courts have upheld doing that in the past, so they do now. It’s really one of the most outrageous things that the law allows. and it’s done immense harm to our political system — harm that has gotten dramatically worse every 10 years. Each of the last few times we’ve redistricted, the software has been much more sophisticated than the last time around, allowing lawmakers to even more carefully shape their districts to favor their party.

      Which in South Carolina is more or less indistinguishable from choosing by race. You want a Democratic district? Make it black. Want to guarantee Republicans? Make it white (with rare anomalies such as Shandon).

      At least, they will look that way. I suppose we can now choose precincts or smaller groupings by how they actually voted, and leave race out of the calculation — that’s certainly the way I’d do it. But if you do that, in general you’re going to end up with super-white and super-black districts.

      Frankly, I’m less concerned with the racial aspect. I’m more concerned with the harm these super-partisan districts are doing, in terms of driving both parties away from the sensible center. Sure, I want lawmakers to have both black and white voters in their districts, but I’m even more concerned that their districts are ideologically diverse, and reflect the larger community. If you get that, then whatever the color of the voters’ skin, you’re more likely to have leaders who reflect, and work to further, the interests of the whole community….

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        But I didn’t answer your question — mainly because I’m not familiar with the original arguments that led to courts allowing party, and incumbent protection, to be considered in redistricting.

        Frankly, the idea that courts allow lines to be drawn to protect incumbents is one of the most shocking I’ve ever encountered in observing and studying our system. Once courts allowed that, they abdicated a huge responsibility to check the legislative branch. You’d think that if we have a judiciary for anything, it would be to keep lawmakers from rigging the rules to favor their personal re-elections.

        The court case that first approved incumbent protection was Burns v. Richardson. A few minutes searching didn’t give me the reasoning…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          In searching for the reasoning on Burns v. Richardson, I ran across several references to the problem of districts being drawn to dilute minority representation.

          But of course, the evils we deal with today result from the OPPOSITE practice — from concentrating minorities into electoral ghettos, thereby making the surrounding districts super-white.

          The starkest, simplest example is Jim Clyburn’s (and it’s appropriate to call it “Jim Clyburn’s” because it is his for life, as long as he wants it) 6th Congressional District. Our lawmakers gerrymandered it so as to pack as many of the state’s black voters into it as possible — thereby making the state’s other six districts safe for Republicans.

          For that reason, there’s never a real general election contest in any of them.

          It will be interesting to see whether the special election in the 5th is at all competitive, given that it’s the last district to elect a white Democrat (although there’s been another remap since then), and the extraordinary circumstances of what’s happening in Washington right now.

          But the odds are still against Archie Parnell, I would think…

        2. Mark Stewart

          I think the Supreme Court is starting to realize this. Their decision in this NC case directly contradicted an earlier Court ruling on one of the same districts. I read that some are upset that the Court didn’t respect the precedence; but it seems clear that a re-evaluation of this legal reasoning is probably actually the most important issue in this generation before the Supreme Court.

          I understand why they granted this gerrymandering latitude decades and decades ago; but now the technology used is a clear and present danger to democracy when wielded for strictly partisan – and incumbent – purposes with such scalpel-like precision.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          He may or may not have been, but gerrymandering certainly keeps him in office, just as it keeps the incumbent Republicans in the other districts.

          The gerrymandering in his case is so extreme that I recall him telling us in the early ’90s, shortly after he was first elected, that he really didn’t need his district to be THAT black and Democratic; he felt he could win with less. He didn’t need the GOP to be quite so generous to him. But of course they weren’t doing it for him; they were drawing those voters out of their districts…

  2. bud

    3. This is a puzzling issue. How is it that documents written in the past are eligible for 5th amendment protection? Seems like a pretty black and white issue. Either incriminating documents are or they are not. (Common sense suggests no so long as they are written prior to the legal action) Seems like this should be a well established legal principle. But I’m just a statistician. Numbers are much easier to understand.

      1. bud

        Ok then a simpler question. Does Flynn have a case for keeping the documents out of the proceedings? The 5th does get messy. If he does seems like Flynn just might walk therefore denying Clinton suppportes the satisfaction of chanting “Lock him Up!”

        1. Mark Stewart

          Flynn’s attorney is just flouting the reality that it will be both difficult and then very slow for the wheels of justice to begin grinding on Flynn’s contempt of Congress.

          It sets a really, really bad precedent, too; one the Congress should be quick to see as an affront to their Constitutional powers and responsibilities. I’m just not sure they will with the speed needed,

  3. Norm Ivey

    #4: Your response was my immediate response as well. The guy didn’t catch it in the wilds of SC, did he? I’d like to know what the consequence for his actions are.

    People who adopt non-traditional animals and pets (thinking snakes and birds here mostly) often adopt them for the image factor–I have a python at home–rather than for a love or attachment to the animal. They don’t consider the eventual size of these animals. Your python may one day have your neighbor’s corgi for breakfast. It’s even worse with parrots. These are animals that can easily outlive the owner. You have to plan for the animal’s care after your death.

    Dogs and cats are ubiquitous enough that most people have a pretty good idea of what to expect from these pets in terms of size and lifespan. They give some affection back to the owner, so the owner is more inclined to care for the animal. Snakes, birds, and fish don’t develop a relationship with their owner. Nobody should own these animals unless they have a deep love for the class of animal, not the individual specimen.

  4. Karen Pearson

    Maybe “The Guardian” likes to dwell on these incidents because our elected officials insist upon saying them, usually very loudly and/or very publicly. I doubt that they are going into bars or other gathering places and noting every blockheaded thing the average American says. Bottom line: if we stop electing “malevolent hammerheads” they might stop publishing such things.

  5. bud

    1. The 3 headed hydra that keeps the GOP in power despite growing disapproval by the people:

    1. Gerrymandering
    2. Voter suppression
    3. Electoral college

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Which is completely unimportant. I don’t care which stupid party holds power.

      The problem is that our legislative bodies, from the state to the federal level, consist increasingly of extremists. The GOP has too many people like Mick Mulvaney, and too few like Bob Inglis (who was once considered extreme himself by many, but later seemed more a centrist). The Democrats have too many like Nancy Pelosi, and too few like John Spratt.

      And so the country, and our government, are fractured.

      THAT’S why gerrymandering is a bad thing. It creates districts in which only the primary matters, magnifying the power of the purists on the fringes.

      It’s more noticeable on the GOP side because they’ve been way more successful at the redistricting game since about 1990, which has caused their party to experience more of the movement toward extremes…

      1. Mark Stewart

        Which has the perverse result of pulling the party apart…

        But only after the damage is done to our system of representation and balance.

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