Sleeping With Hogs…
The challenge for Gov. Martin O'Malley's redistricting exercise is not that of drawing a map which would serve the people. His challenge has been in drawing a map where he and incumbent Democrats get to choose the voters – ignoring the requests of citizen input because they know the voter quickly forgets.
In a pure world anyone who can do simple fifth grade math can draw congressional boundaries. It is actually an easy task where you divide the population by eight, then draw those citizens into parcels, staying within the fixed boundaries between our neighboring states and the Atlantic Ocean. Actually, it’s a simple mathematical and geographic exercise.
The problem lies with the addition of partisan politics and protection of incumbent elected officials. Redistricting then becomes political warfare – it becomes about wiping out "the other side" and protecting your assets, which is the current art of professional gerrymandering and the final objective for Governor O'Malley and his partisan cronies.
Congressional redistricting, unlike state legislative redistricting, has just two simple rules...no more. First is the one man, one vote rule, which is equal representation per congressional representative. Second is the creation of majority minority districts as warranted by overall population count. These are two very simple rules to follow. However, these allow the gerrymanderers to control who get which voters based on prior voting histories.
Like all addictions, single party gerrymandering eventually catches up with long term abusers. Governor O'Malley's committee has the problem of four incumbents living within 21 miles in an area loosing population. Their desire for pure partisan districts does not work unless those redrawn districts look blatantly and heinously rigged, benefiting the party in power and its incumbents in favor of a compact natural geographic and mathematically correct demographic makeup serving the people.
Under Governor O'Malley's map, if you lived in a Westminster suburb and worked in Hunt Valley (as many people do), in your 20-mile daily commute through the Worthington Valley you would journey through the following congressional districts, in the following order: Starting at home in District 8 – traveling through District 7, then District 2, then District 3, then back into District 7 and once again through District 2 before finally arriving in congressional District 1 at your workplace in Hunt Valley...even though your commute is your straightest path to work!
Confusing the citizen is, in fact, disenfranchising them. There is nothing in Governor O'Malley's congressional redistricting plan that even exhibits any effort of pretending to be representative government, much less serving the citizens of Maryland. His map serves his friends in the population-loosing Baltimore metro region and dilutes the population gaining Washington suburbs into Western Maryland.
This is an example of pure raw political power wielding to the maximum. It will happen as the governor planned because it will remain unchecked by the gut-less legislators Maryland's citizens have elected. The legislature has the power to overturn this plan but will not because most are afraid of later retribution from the governor.
Their fear is the next map – Legislative Districts – which will hit them at home. The Democrat legislators do not want to rock the boat; they know when the next maps descend from the governor's office on January 11, 2012, it will effect their chances for re-election. They, just like their congressional buddies, have the number one priority of self preservation. So, to insure best chances for re-election, they "kiss the ring" and continue to maintain their own local fiefdoms.
However, Republican legislators, along with many African-American Democrat legislators, will put up a good fight supporting maps showing greater deference to minorities. Both of these groups know and understand that minority groups are best represented when the rules are followed and partisan politics are checked at the door. (It's the way our Maryland Constitution is written, after all.)
Yet these two groups, even joined together in lock-step solidarity, will not break the stranglehold of power owned by the good 'ole boy Democrat network – of which Martin O'Malley has been elected the leader.
Over the course of the next few weeks, and continuing on into the up-coming 2012 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly, we will see who caves under pressure, who is bought off by other political favors and who in the legislative body stands their ground for their constituency.
My prediction is that all but a very few brave Democrat legislators will become pawns and players in the O'Malley game. African-American and other minority Democrat members will be enticed by money, power and promises – like always. Only the few unrelenting, yet rarely heard, Republicans will be left standing and, like always, they will once more be ignored.
The real losers in the "Great Decennial Gerrymandering of Maryland" will be, as usual, the citizens. They have been lead by Democrat leadership in Annapolis for so long they have become blinded and short-sighted – living in a political darkness as if serfs.
Every four years these citizens have the power to effect the changes they cry out for. Yet many voters have become – like those they look to for leadership in the legislature – too partisan to make changes, and so they suffer.
My grandfather, a farmer all his life, taught me this lesson: You go to bed with the hogs, in the morning you smell like hog manure. Maybe, after another night in the hog house, Maryland's citizens will want to wash themselves of partisan politics and the legislators who will rubber stamp these gerrymandered maps.