Just who is Gerry Mander?

The Community Connection - - OPINION - Low­man S. Henry Colum­nist

In a never end­ing quest to find an ex­cuse for the ab­ject fail­ure of its poli­cies and wan­ing po­lit­i­cal for­tunes the Amer­i­can Left is al­ways tilt­ing at phan­tom wind­mills. That is why the few re­main­ing Demo­cratic of­fice hold­ers and their apol­o­gists in the not-so-main­stream news me­dia are fix­ated on so-called “re­dis­trict­ing re­form.”

Un­able to ad­mit their pol­icy ideas are deeply un­pop­u­lar across a wide swath of the na­tion, and that their national tal­ent pool makes nurs­ing home recre­ation halls look youth­ful, they have seized upon the no­tion that if con­gres­sional and leg­isla­tive dis­trict lines were more fairly drawn they would ac­tu­ally be able to com­pete with the GOP.

In most states the party that holds leg­isla­tive ma­jori­ties and the gover­nor’s of­fice has the big­gest im­pact on the draw­ing of dis­trict lines. This is cer­tainly an ad­van­tage, but a myr­iad of court de­ci­sions have placed sig­nif­i­cant re­stric­tions on the process. Feed­ing this “re­dis­trict­ing re­form” frenzy in Penn­syl­va­nia is the fact Democrats are at or near an his­toric low in the num­ber of seats they hold in the Gen­eral Assem­bly. Repub­li­cans last year achieved a veto-proof ma­jor­ity of 34 out of 50 seats in the state Se­nate, and in the House the GOP has held steady in re­cent years at or near 120 of 203 seats.

Penn­syl­va­nia has 18 mem­bers in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, of which 13 are Repub­li­cans and 5 are Democrats. Given the fact there are over 800,000 more reg­is­tered Democrats than Repub­li­cans in Penn’s Woods the Left blames ger­ry­man­der­ing while con­ve­niently for­get­ting that Don­ald Trump and U.S. Se­na­tor Pat Toomey, both Repub­li­cans, won statewide con­tests last year. In other words, reg­is­tered Democrats are not con­sis­tently vot­ing for Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

When it comes to Democrats los­ing seats Penn­syl­va­nia is far from un­usual. Dur­ing the eight years of the Obama pres­i­dency — which fea­tured a cor­nu­copia of Left-wing pol­icy ini­tia­tives — Democrats lost a to­tal of 1,042 con­gres­sional and state leg­isla­tive seats.

Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s terms his party lost the 55-46 ma­jor­ity it had in the U.S. Se­nate and the 256-194 ma­jor­ity it en­joyed in the U.S. House. And Democrats hold the gover­nor’s of­fice in just 16 states, in­clud­ing Penn­syl­va­nia.

For cen­turies both par­ties have sought the po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage when they con­trolled the re­dis­trict­ing process.

Seek­ing to so­lid­ify their own seats Democrats turned to the courts to man­date the cre­ation of “ma­jor­ity mi­nor­ity” dis­tricts in which no Repub­li­can can­di­date could ever be com­pet­i­tive. That brand of ger­ry­man­der­ing was and is ap­peal­ing to the Left.

In Penn­syl­va­nia the Demo­cratic Party has be­come al­most ex­clu­sively an ur­ban party. There are of course heavy con­cen­tra­tions of reg­is­tered Democrats in Philadelphia and Pitts­burgh, and sig­nif­i­cant Democrat ma­jori­ties in smaller cities like Al­len­town, Erie, Scran­ton and Har­ris­burg.

As a re­sult ur­ban dis­tricts hold lop­sided Demo­cratic ma­jori­ties, while through­out the state’s sub­ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas dis­tricts are ei­ther dom­i­nated by Repub­li­cans, or are com­pet­i­tive with a slight GOP ad­van­tage.

Iron­i­cally, the only way to change that is for Democrats to ger­ry­man­der as they did for decades by bas­ing con­gres­sional dis­tricts in Philadelphia and Pitts­burgh and ex­tend­ing them out­ward to negate Repub­li­can­lean­ing sub­urbs. No amount of “re­dis­trict­ing re­form” can change this con­cen­tra­tion of Demo­cratic vot­ers.

By claim­ing the GOP has tilted the play­ing field the Left is able to avoid hav­ing the one con­ver­sa­tion it doesn’t want to have: the fact its poli­cies, when im­ple­mented, have failed. For ex­am­ple the Af­ford­able Care Act, com­monly known as Oba­macare, has proven to be any­thing but af­ford­able.

Over-reg­u­la­tion has stymied eco­nomic growth and re­sulted in the loss of fam­ily sus­tain­ing mid­dle class jobs. Vot­ers un­der­stand these ap­proaches have not worked, but the Left has dou­bled down rather than ad­just to eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity.

Re­dis­trict­ing oc­curs ev­ery ten years after the national cen­sus. With 2020 rapidly ap­proach­ing and the re­draw­ing of con­gres­sional and leg­isla­tive dis­trict lines to oc­cur shortly after look for the drum­beat of “re­dis­trict­ing re­form” to in­ten­sify.

It is not be­cause the Left wants fair dis­tricts; it is be­cause they can’t ad­mit to them­selves the real rea­sons for their fail­ure.

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