Why, yes – I did spend a bit of time talking redistricting over the weekend, now that you mention it.
On the NARN, it was my pleasure to interview MNGOP Chair Tony Sutton and his deputy, Michael Brodkorb (punctuated by a surprise appearance by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker; I’ll be posting the podcast link as soon as I find it) about the redistricting process and all the outside money the left is pouring into Minnesota to try to skew the process in their favor.
And then, last night, I drove out to Ramsey to appear on “The Late Debate” with Jack Tomczak and Ben Kruse. I was on a panel with Gary Gross of Let Freedom Ring, Mike Dean of “Common Cause Minnesota”, and Kent Kaiser, who is part of Draw The Line Minnesota’s (DTL-MN) “Citizens’ Commission”. In the interest of accuracy, I’ll note that in my piece last week, I lumped Kaiser in with the Commission’s liberal hypermajority, because I personally didn’t know any better; Kaiser is of course well-known in GOP circles as one of the good guys; I regret the error…
…especially since he was the unquestionable star of last night’s debate.
I’m not going to try to reconstruct the whole thing from memory – you can check out their podcast at their site, and Gary Gross did an excellent rundown of the proceedings over atLFR.
I’ll recap this bit, though; I walked in there with two main points: I walked out with four:
Who’s Politicized?: As Kaiser noted, the GOP legislative majority’s proposal follows the letter of the law, and the spirit of the last several judicial decisions, pretty closely. The DFL’s map was…well, nonexistant. They never drew one up.
It was Governor Dayton’s veto that was, as Kaiser noted, exceptionally politically capricious.
And this entire process recaps a pattern we started seeing during the 2008 election, and rose to a crescendo in last year’s gubernatorial race; the DFL isn’t so much a political party as it is a political holding company, outsourcing its actual policy and boots-on-the-ground work to its “strategic partners” – the unions, and the array of astroturf pressure groups like “Alliance For A Better Minnesota”, “Take Action Minnesota”, MPIRG, and “Draw The Line”.
Outside Money: Behind all of Draw The Line and Common Cause’s noble chatter about getting people involved – nay, getting them interested - in the redistricting process, the fact remains that a raft of “progressive” organizations are doing their level best to try to jimmy the redistricting in their favor, in a census period in which GOP-leaning districts exploded and DFL-districts continued withering. The demographics aren’t a state phenomenon – and either is the left’s effort; “Draw The Line” is a regional, not state, entity, focusing on trying to attenuate (at least) the gains the GOP should get from pure demographics. More below.
Competition: One of DTL-MN’s priorities – because it’s one of the priorities of its supporting groups (Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the MN Council of Non-Profits and Take Action MN), is “competitive elections”. On a policy level, this goal – making sure that politicians are accountable to electoral pressure from their voters – is laudable enough.
It’s at the implementation level that it either breaks down or shows its ideological stripes, depending on your point of view. Minnesota is a divided state – but not evenly or consistently divided.
Let’s look at the example of a hypothetical state of about five million people, which is closely divided on a statewide basis – but where the division stacks up as follows:
- An urban core – three, really – of about a million people that votes about 70/30 Democrat.
- An outer-suburban and exurban ring that votes, in a good year, maybe 52-55 percent GOP. Let’s assume a huge year, and say it’s 55-45 GOP.
- The rest of the state – about half the population – which, to arrive at the sort of dead-even split that the last three statewide elections have shown, would be divided about 52-48 in favor of the GOP.
Of course it’s not hypothetical at all. Minnesota is exactly that; a couple of big blue boils, the Twin Cities and Duluth, two Congressional and 20 legislative districts that routinely deliver 70+% to the DFL, surrounded by an exurban ring that, in a blowout year, might go 55-45 GOP (only two GOP-owned legislative districts topped 70% GOP, as opposed to 20 for the DFL), and an outstate that tips a little bit GOP, but is close enough to send Tim Walz and Collin Peterson to Congress.
So to make Minnesota “competitive” across the board, the legislative map would have to look like a couple of bicycle wheels, with spokes radiating out from the Marshall-Lake Bridge (and Canal Park in Duluth) all the way out to the state’s borders; the Congressional map would look like a big Key Lime (mmm, Key Lime) pie.
That is, of course, not acceptable practice. New boundaries must, as much as possible, preserve existing community boundaries.
The answer, of course, is that Common Cause want the Republican parts of Minnesota to be competitive, and to leave the DFL-dominated Twin Cities and Duluth, and their 20 districts, pretty much alone.
“When did you stop beating your minorities?”: As Gary noted at LFR last week, there is a noxious little bon mot tucked away in the DTL-MN’s site: ”Historically, redistricting has been done out of the public eye, without meaningful public input, and used to dilute the voting power of communities of color“.
The next sentence helpfully adds “Minnesota has a reputation for fair and clean government, but we believe we can do better“.
So if Minnesota has a “reputation for fair and clean government”, why mention trait that was a part of redistricting in Mississippi and Illinois and Alabama? Because any thinking person knows that it’s immaterial to Minnesota’s history, right?
Of course; but the quote wasn’t included for the benefit of the thinking and literate audience; it was included to provide an inflammatory, polarizing soundbite for the ignorant – TV reporters and Strib columnists, for example – to latch onto. Otherwise, if it has nothing to do with Minnesota’s history, why include it at all?
That said, it was a fun time, and a generally good debate. Up to the end, anyway.
I have been duking it out with Mike Dean of Common Cause for quite some time, mostly on Twitter. I have been inviting him on the Northern Alliance to discuss Common Cause’s agenda and funding for a little over a year now; like many Twitter arguments, it’s been curt and acerbic.
And I’ll cop to the fact that I’ve had a bad attitude about Common Cause. While they are disingenuous about being “non-partisan”, that’s fine; it’s a free country, you can say anything you want. Hell, I can call myself “non-partisan” – but, of course, I don’t. More importantly, most of my impressions of Common Cause were formed in the early-mid 2000′s, when they agitated for a lot of really noxious policies, especially
campaign finance reform speech rationing.
In person, Dean’s a heckuvva nice guy. And he held his own pretty well, and stayed on his point, for the first 118 minutes of the show,. One of the points on which he stayed was an idea on which we all agreed at the beginning of the show; that we all wanted people to get more literate about and involved in the redistricting process, across the political board.
And so with that in mind, I reiterated my invitation to Dean to appear on the Northern Alliance one of these next weekends.
He turned it down – and then kept going. ”What do we gain from it?” he asked, noting that in my blog’s coverage of Common Cause I (paraphrasing him closely ) published “fairy tales” and “made things up”.
Nope. Never. In almost ten years, this blog has published things I don’t reasonably believe to be true only when I’m pretty clearly writing satire. No exceptions.
Oh, I may err at times, and on a point or two I was in fact wrong; as Dean noted, the Joyce Foundation doesn’t get money from George Soros. But I can concede that point, without changing the conclusion that actually matters; while Joyce (and Common Cause MN, which is supported by Joyce) may not get money from Soros or his various shell groups, its’ goals nationwide are indistinguishable from those of the Open Society Foundation, Media Matters, the Center for Independent Media or any of the other Soros joints; to slap a phony “non-partisan” sheen on a partisan pressure industry.
So at the end of the day – literally, at two minutes to midnight – it became clear what the real mission is. It’s not to reach out to people of all political stripes. It’s to reach out to those who don’t know what their stripes are, but who can be inveigled into exerting themselves to fight against a vague, sorta-racist boogeyman.
And so the battle will continue.
Thank to Ben Kruse and Jack Tomczak for the invite – and to AM1280 for letting me appear off of Salem turf for an evening.