The Democratic Governors Association wants to back President Obama’s call for an end to gerrymandering.
I’m all for it. However, it’s not because the Democrats are for it. The practice has been used for political purposes since the beginning of the Republic. By both major parties.
The president was correct in his final State of the Union speech to demand an end to the practice of drawing districts to create a desired political outcome.
It’s just that Republicans who control most state legislators these days have turned the practice into an art form. Some of the congressional and state legislative districts in Texas, for example, simply defy all forms of logic.
There used to be a term used to describe how these districts should be constructed. It’s called “community of interest.” It means that all the residents of a particular district should have issues in common. They should be primarily rural or urban in nature. That’s how it’s supposed to go in theory at least.
But some of the districts in this state snake their way around street corners, winding their way from, say, Austin all the way to the Rio Grande Valley. What does someone living in, say, Laredo have in common with someone living in suburban Travis County?
There once was a time when Democrats ran the show in Texas. The 1991 Texas Legislature, thus, redrew congressional districts and created something of a monstrosity right here in the Panhandle. They split Amarillo in half, putting the Potter County part of the city into the 13th Congressional District and the Randall County portion into the 19th Congressional District.
The Legislature’s purpose? It was to protect Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Sarpalius’s seat in Congress. The Legislature peeled off enough Republicans living in Randall County and put them into a district served by Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, who lived in Lubbock.
The notion worked through one election cycle; Sarpalius was re-elected in 1992. Then came the 1994 Contract With America election. Sarpalius got beat by Republican Mac Thornberry.
There went the notion of protecting a Democrat.
The principle of gerrymandering really does stink, no matter who’s doing it.
There ought to be some rhyme or reason to the districts we create after every census is taking. The way it’s done now is meant to keep power in the hands of whichever party is in control.