Change of Heart of Gerrymandering Reform

CHANGE OF HEART ON GERRYMANDERING REFORM….I’m in a pickle. I’ve been feeling guilty ever since my churlish dismissal of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to end gerrymandering in California, and yesterday’s article in the New York Times on the subject just made me feel worse. The Times reports that anti-gerrymandering efforts are gaining traction across the nation, and success in California could go a long way toward moving the cause forward. That seemed like a good opportunity for me to have a public change of heart about the whole thing.

But then I read in the LA Times this morning that the biggest opposition to Arnold’s plan is coming from….Republicans:

The fear is that tinkering with the California congressional boundaries could jeopardize Republican control of the U.S. House. By some estimates, the state’s 20-person GOP congressional delegation opposes the governor’s effort 4 to 1.

….”California now has more clout in the House of Representatives than at any time in previous history,” said U.S. Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Rocklin), referring to the committee chairmanships held by California Republicans.

“It would seem to me self-defeating if we set in motion forces that could result in the loss of seats in California, which in conjunction with a loss of a handful of seats elsewhere in the country could spell a return to the minority for Republicans in the House. I just don’t think that’s a risk worth taking.”

That sucks. If I change my mind now, it looks like I’m only doing it because reform might help, not hurt, Democrats after all. Talk about partisan hackery.

Sigh. But I guess I might as well suck it up and officially change my mind anyway. Gerrymandering in the age of the personal computer has become a scourge, and something needs to be done. California is a good place to start, and I hope Arnold succeeds.

And here’s a thought for Republicans who are opposed because they’re afraid neutral districts will cause them to lose a few seats. In 2010, when the next redistricting is scheduled, California will still have a Democratic legislature and quite likely a Democratic governor as well. If you’re afraid of what a neutral redistricting will do, just imagine what a genuinely partisan gerrymander could accomplish. Can you spell “oblivion”?

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