The Supreme Court had the chance to make right one of the two main reasons our political system suffers from such dysfunction. Time and again the way political districts are constructed, through partisan means, has proven to be a roadblock to governing. Immigration is one such example.
Due to partisan redistricting 70% of Republican congressional districts around the nation have less than 10% Hispanic/Latino voters. There is not a need in most GOP districts to confront the issue in a meaningful way as those members of congress do not have constituents who are personally involved with the issue. In some cases that can be explained, but in many others it is due to crafty manipulation of district maps. That type of political chicanery creates far more problems when it comes to solving issues than perhaps anything else; other than the heavy amounts of campaign money that is allowed to be raised. But when people get angry about immigration they seldom consider the root cause of why it seems so intractable to solve.
So it is with great regret that I need to post that the Supreme Court ruled against the challengers opposed to partisan gerrymandering, the practice in which the party that controls the state legislature draws voting maps to help elect its candidates. Reading the rulings would allow a person to think the 5-4 majority closed the door on such future claims.
The drafters of the Constitution, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, understood that politics would play a role in drawing election districts when they gave the task to state legislatures. Judges, the chief justice said, are not entitled to second-guess lawmakers’ judgments.
“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” the chief justice wrote.
Opening the barn door wide now with a license for partisan chicanery is a seriously flawed ruling. And both parties will use this ruling to their full potential, which makes this judicial mistake on par with the Citizens United ruling. The very foundation of our republic requires fine tuning and respect for modern means of living. When the Founders made their decision they did not have computers which could seek ways to best manipulate boundary lines for political outcomes, or communication technology which could be used to spin partisan talking points. A role of a justice on our nation’s highest court is to know how to frame the past with the present. Today the court’s majority failed that test.
Readers know I have long argued that it is not correct for politicians to select their voters. I have countered the partisans desire to do that very thing with the idea of placing a redistricting commission into power, such as what Iowa has successfully done for decades. While I understand the role as to why the “political question” doctrine was started and continues, I also am aware that a system of laws and procedures for a nation like ours must have updates and revisions to meet the times in which we live. The political dysfunction we observe on a hourly basis screams for such action.
Most people in our nation, if they even see the headline about this case in their news feed or on the evening news, will pay a mere few seconds to the content. Then it will be on to something else, and it will not register again. For the sake of the nation that is a very sad outcome because what occurred today was a most abysmal body slam on our democracy.