After utterly zero consideration of the enormous flaws of the congressional redistricting map commonly known as “the incumbent protection plan,” Governor McDonnell has signed it into law. Thank you so much, Mr. Governor and our representatives in the General Assembly, for rolling over on this tragic stupidity so Congressmen can feel more safe and comfortable.
My new district is a perfect demonstration of the flaws in this plan. I am now in the 1st Congressional District, represented by Congressman Rob Wittman. While he’s a fine man doing a good job in Congress, his district stretches all the way from Route 66 in Prince William County all the way to the edge of Newport News, looking somewhat like a cubist banana. While the district didn’t look much better before redistricting, the General Assembly made this even more strangely shaped when it had the opportunity to inject some sanity into Congressional District lines.
Sanity in this case would look like keeping localities intact, keeping districts compact, and as much as possible not splitting localities into multiple districts where their voice gets diluted. There’s precious little of that sanity in this plan.
The 11th District looks like a three headed Cerberus, carefully gobbling up Reston, Centreville and Woodbridge/Triangle while hugging Alexandria an an attempt to make sure the awful Gerry Connolly has a long and pathetic career misrepresenting Virginia. The 10th District gets even more strangely shaped in order to gobble up any potentially Republican precincts that weren’t needed to add unnecessary extra political oomph to Rob Wittman. About the only district that looks somewhat more sane this time is the 8th District, where Jim Moran won’t have to burn up quite as much fossil fuel as he travels his district in search of more Jews to insult.
Strangely shaped districts hurt the elected officials who represent them, regardless of what the careful analysis of data used to construct these shows. It unnecessarily antagonizes constituents, it makes it harder for activists on the edges of a district to participate in district operations, and it reinforces the idea that politicians are inherently corrupt and care for nothing but their re-election. As for me, I’m far more inclined to be active in 10th District activities which generally happen in conveniently nearby Loudoun County than accept an invitation to go to Williamsburg so I can have something to do with my own district.
So-called “non-partisan redistricting” will not solve this problem, a completely naive concept that somehow you can remove political interests from something so inherently political by creating a temporary bureaucracy every ten years. Trying to get the politics out of redistricting is about as likely as trying to get special interest money out of campaign finance by regulating campaign contributions further. It’s not going to happen. About the only thing “non-partisan redistricting” would likely do is make sure that the people making the decisions aren’t directly accountable, which is an invitation to make things worse.
Accountability here is the answer. If you’re not asking direct and pointed questions to your local elected officials about why they supported this gerrymander we will continue to see abuses long into the future. The only thing that will prevent this sort of abuse are entrenched memories within the minds of elected officials about how they caught hell for this, or perhaps who they saw lose critical support over the issue to the point it impacted their re-election. Politicians respond to anger directed at them. The response you get from them is proportional to the amount of heat they feel.
Alternatively, you can sit on the couch and do nothing. When this happens again in ten years and you end up in a district that includes Tazwell County, you’ll only have yourself to blame. It’s your choice.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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