Our own Jeremy Dibbell has done some outstanding work on the gerrymandering/redistricting story, both here and at Charging RINO, and I highly recommend his post in response to yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry.
My own take is below.
The Supreme Court yesterday “upheld almost all of Texas’ Republican-friendly U.S. House election district map,” according to the Houston Chronicle. More:
By a 5-4 vote, the court said the 23rd District in southwest Texas, represented by Republican Henry Bonilla, violated the Voting Rights Act because its design trampled the rights of some Hispanic voters. Reshaping the district, a task that apparently now is assigned to federal court in Texas, would force a change in at least one other neighboring district.
But the high court ruling preserved the other districts, in the Houston area and elsewhere, that were created by the Texas Legislature in 2003. This includes a Dallas-area district whose constitutionality was challenged by black voters.
The Supreme Court has essentially upheld what I will neologistically call partisanized democracy. These reconfigured Texas districts, after all, were dreamed up and drawn by no less a rabid partisan than Tom DeLay. And DeLay, as one would expect, drew them to benefit Republicans. As The New York Times put it, “the court rejected the larger premise,” that is, “that Texas Republicans had unconstitutionally reorganized the political map to solidify their majority in Congress”. But, as Adam B wrote at Daily Kos, this was nothing short of “politically-based gerrymandering”. As BooMan argues, there ought to be “legislation that will formalize [i.e., de-partisanize] the redistricting process”.
But what of racialized democracy? The Supreme Court ruled that Bonilla’s district had been gerrymandered to such a degree that it “violated the Voting Rights Act” and “trampled the rights of some Hispanic voters” (in the Times‘s words). It may have let DeLay off the hook for politically gerrymandering certain districts, but it didn’t excuse the anti-Hispanic gerrymandering of that one district. Does it not follow that DeLay himself “violated the Voting Rights Act” and “trampled the rights of some Hispanic voters”?
We may focus on the Supreme Court’s free pass on political gerrymandering, on partisanizing democracy, but it seems to me that the Republicans’ conduct with respect to Texas’s 23rd District is just as serious a problem. The Supreme Court must agree. It didn’t let them off the hook for that one. They — and DeLay in particular — may have been vindicated, at least in legal terms according to the decision of a partisanized court (the Times claims that “[t]he outcome was something of a vindication for Mr. DeLay”), but shouldn’t they be held accountable for what even this Supreme Court ruled they did wrong?
For more, see Steve Benen’s excellent take at The Carpetbagger Report: “This very well may turn out to be one of those be-careful-what-you-wish-for moments for the Republican Party.” Republicans “started this,” after all, and: “Republicans have really left Dems with no other choice. Dems didn’t want a re-redistricting war, but there’s simply no way the party can just stand back and watch Republicans gain seats in ‘red’ states without considering the same tactic in ‘blue’ states.”
All of which is bad for democracy. Democrats must indeed do what they have to do, but the ultimate victim of this escalating war of political gerrymandering will be the demos itself.