By | December 4, 2019

By , NC POLICY WATCH

It may be difficult to say how you are feeling this morning, two mornings after a Superior Court panel — facing the impending launch of the 2020 election cycle — choked down another GOP-manipulated map for North Carolina congressional districts.

But because there are not, in this moment, 10,000 people on the steps of the Legislative Building frothing over the latest malpractice in Raleigh, it is safe to assume there are many in this state who are not simply angry enough.

Perhaps this reflects that roughly half of North Carolina is willing to acquiesce to gerrymandering as a necessary evil because, in this instance, it favors the candidate or the political party of their choosing.

Or perhaps it reflects that half is simply too acclimated to injustice, too inured to Republican leadership, that they have accepted the cruel math that says nearly half of the state should vote Democratic and land a Republican-dominated delegation anyway.

Because there are not, in this moment, 10,000 people on the steps of the legislative building frothing over the latest malpractice in Raleigh, it is safe to assume there are many in this state who are not simply angry enough.

There is a third option too: that North Carolinians have taken the long view — that they have seen the prevailing winds in the United States, in states like PennsylvaniaVirginiaArizonaOregonCaliforniaArkansasMichigan, and, yes, North Carolina — and they see gerrymandering, and not representative democracy, as the endangered species.

Let us all drink down your optimism then, for while it may not be hard to see some logic in judges’ time-constrained ruling on Monday, it is nigh impossible to see justice in it.

“As a practical matter,” Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway said, while reading the court’s opinion Monday, “there is simply not sufficient time to fully evaluate the factual record necessary to decide the constitutional challenges of the congressional districts without significantly delaying the primary elections. It is time for the citizens to vote.”

There is a way to have empathy for the judges’ plight in this case and sympathy for our own.

But, with all due respect to judges Ridgeway, Alma Hinton and Joseph Crosswhite, you are under the impression that an unfair election is better than a delayed election.

There are precious few people outside of the Republican caucus and these judges’ chambers who believe that to be true, precious few who have resided in the state of North Carolina for the last several years and witnessed the majority’s lack of discernible respect for good government.

The judges are under the mistaken impression that an unfair election is better than a delayed election.

It seems likely that the General Assembly’s new maps — meet the new gerrymander, almost the same as the old gerrymander — will give Democrats the opportunity to pick up two additional seats, but the GOP would probably retain eight of North Carolina’s 13 congressional seats.This is not an accident. To twist Einstein’s words, God and this legislature do not play dice, which is precisely the problem. It is not the outcome in question: that North Carolina, a moderate purple state with a sizable percentage of conservative voters, elects a Republican majority in any election is no wonder. It is ever how this legislature arrived at that outcome.

“This map perpetuates rather than eradicates the constitutional violations,” Stanton Jones, the plaintiffs’ attorney told judges Monday.

Those organizations and individuals who have fought gerrymandering in the courts thus far can boast of victories in overturning state legislative districts and, at least marginally, pushing the state to fairer congressional elections. They will of course be targeted by those who point out North Carolina’s mounting legal bills, but it should be said those bills came due when leadership swept through their bullishly inequitable voting maps. After all, do not blame the injured party for seeking restitution. Blame those who caused the harm in the first place.

There are legislators within the GOP and the Democratic Party working even now to advance gerrymandering reforms with a chance to survive, and these are ideas that, make no mistake, represent considerable improvement.

But after this latest outrage, after Republicans passed through another round of methodically malicious congressional maps without a single Democratic vote, the legislature cannot be trusted with this duty. It should be removed from its hands altogether as other states have done.

Yet we find ourselves in the loathsome position of voting, yet again, with a set of congressional maps drawn with the intention of creating a desired outcome for the majority party. The majority leadership has, based on its lusty embrace of partisan and racial gerrymandering, lost all devotion to representative democracy. These lawmakers might have once carried a torch for our august form of government, but long ago embarked on a torrid affair with oligarchy and haven’t had the courage or decency to ask representative democracy for a divorce.

These circumstances today should inspire more than a lamented sigh and a desolate shrug of the shoulders. It should inspire righteous anger.

To be clear, I do not hope for the sort of anger that feeds violence. I mean to conjure the anger that fuels your most justified advocacy, the fire that brought tens of thousands to Raleigh on a weekly basis for Moral Monday and the fire that inspires us to inform every single citizen why gerrymandering, whether it’s your party or their party, will ruin us all.

Gerrymandering, in the long term, may be a greater danger to this country than any rogue commander-in-chief or foreign foe or economic privation can manage, because it deflates any hope of change from the start. The only thing gerrymandering inspires is an untouchable leadership and a listless electorate. Governments that do not fear the people become governments feared by the people.

I am often hesitant to refer to anything as “un-American,” because it is such an obtuse and, frankly, doltish attack. This country may be great, but it is conflicted too and it is prejudiced and hypocritical and histrionically romanticized and resistant to critique, so it requires a great deal of unpacking to discover what exactly makes something “un-American” anyway.

Gerrymandering, in the long term, may be a greater danger to this country than any rogue commander in chief or foreign foe or economic privation can manage, because it deflates any hope of change from the start. The only thing gerrymandering inspires is an untouchable leadership and a listless electorate. Governments that do not fear the people become governments feared by the people.

But I find no reason for pause when describing a gerrymandered government to be, at its core, un-American. Gerrymandering has flourished in this country’s dark, dank corners for decades, but there is nothing to suggest the United States’ founders envisaged tolerating a voting process so mulishly corrupt.

“Nothing changed from when we walked in here,” Jane Pinsky, a longtime advocate for government reform, told Policy Watch Monday after judges’ erstwhile ruling. “Which is that we need long-term change.”

That change will not come without big, bold advocacy, without committed voters and a determined resistance and a persistent legal strategy and, yes, anger.

Feel that anger. Indeed, feel it white and hot in your guts. Because if there is anything in this moment that plays to the majority leadership’s advantage, if there is anything that our unrepentant gerrymanderers want you to feel, it is nothing at all.