Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mess With Texas

Pitchers and catchers (and Justices) report... It's not quite as good as baseball season, but the start of a new Supreme Court session means blog-fodder and usually makes for some good Dahlia Lithwick columns.
...While the courts have interceded in cases of racial gerrymandering, the Supreme Court has never been able to clarify (despite loads of mulling) what role it might play in cases of purely political, partisan gerrymandering. The legal problem is, in effect, that partisan politics is fine, until it isn't. But no one knows where that line is, or what to do when it's breached.

Alas, we all know that the Texas redistricting/gerrymander plan was total bullshit, dirty and against established rules limiting redistricting to census results...but that doesn't mean it was unconstitutional. The way Lithwick lays it out, this plan would likely have survived the old Court intact, and I think the challenges have virtually no chance for success now.

History seems to indicate that the only way the Courts will step in a overrule this stuff is based on race and civil rights violations. When the plaintiff argues that the plan was implemented for "only one reason...that was to maximize the number of Republicans," John Roberts is right to ask, "then where's the discrimination based on race?"

The plaintiff warns that if the Texas gerrymander is approved, the country will be launched down a "dangerous road," wherein there's a "partisan festival" of gerrymanders, tit-for-tat around the country. That's true, and it's very bad, but I'll be shocked if the Court decides to stop it.

Much like Kelo v. New London, the Court will come down on the wrong side. Wrong in the sense that it's not what I want, it isn't right or just, but unfortunately, they will ultimately be ruling correctly in the legal sense. In Kelo the Supremes upheld an absolutely shitty law, and screwed over a lot of people and set bad precedent, but it was the right decision—New London followed the law—and now states all over the country are scrambling to overhaul similar shitty laws. Short-term result: bad for the plaintiff. Long-term for everyone else: good.

I'm not so sanguine about a positive net result form this case, however. This case will just further poison an already toxic partisan political atmosphere and will more likely escalate the problem than remedy it.


S.W. Anderson said...

And if you're right, I'll be left with the late William Bendix's signature line in one of TV's earliest sitcoms, "What a revoltin' development this is."

Maybe the answer is for reform-minded people at state level to either give nonpartisan redistricting commissions a try, or else change the system to do away with winner-take-all results.

Mr Furious said...

Non-partison commissions is the way to go.

Pooh said...

So many redistricting shennanigans that I can't keep them straight, but is this not the one that implicated Sec. 5 of the VRA? (Based on what I've read about this one, I think I'm thinking about two seperate issues.)