Redistricting: Redefining “Middle”

Minnesota’s redistricting process – mandated by constitutions all up and down the governmental food chain to reallocate our congressional and legislative representation after accounting for changing populations – usually goes a little something like this:

  1. The party in the power in the legislature draws maps that favor their desired outcome, more or less.
  2. The opposing party draws maps that favor their desired outcome, more or less.
  3. Either neither of them wins legislative approval, or the sitting governor (generally) vetoes the legislature’s final product.
  4. The process goes to the courts, which draws its own map, imposes it on the state, and leaves behind some legal precedents and pseudo-legal guidelines (“preserve communities of interest”, “keep districts compact and contiguous”, etc, etc) for the next time through the process.
  5. Lather, rinse and repeat.

And we’ve followed that basic process this time.  The GOP-controlled legislature, led by Rep. Sarah Anderson, drew up a congressional and a legislative map.  According to Kent Kaiser of the “Draw The Line Minnesota” (henceforth DTLM) “Citizen’s Commission on Redistricting” (which I”ve written about at some length in the past – about the commission’s sham nature, Kaiser’s protestations about the commission’s process and DTLM’s opacity, and in the end about the joke they played on us all), the Legislature’s map hewed pretty closely to the precedents set over the past forty years or so of court decisions on the subject.  It did seemingly create a map with four safe-ish conservative seats, three safe DFL seats, and a fairly swing-y district.  The DFL association of various non-profits checkbook advocacy groups that does all the ground work for the DFL cried foul, of course.

Wrongly, I suggest.  The parts of this state that lean DFL – Duluth, the Twin Cities, the Range – have shrunk, at least partly due to people moving away from them and to the parts that actually work.  Which are largely GOP-leaning; the exurban Metro from the third tier of ‘burbs on out, the Rochester area, the drive-through land between Maple Grove and Saint Cloud.  Places with responsible, frugal, in-their-limits municipal government and good schools.

“Draw The Line Minnesota” (DTLM) submitted its congressional and legislative maps next.

And then, finally, last week, with much ado, the DFL’s current caretaker, Ken Martin, released the DFL’s official submissions (congressional and  legislative), to a chorus of catcalls…

…from the DFL.  The plan lumped Betty McCollum and Michele Bachmann into one large (and conveniently DFL-dominated) east-metro district – without telling McCollum:

The Minnesota DFL Party submitted a congressional redistricting plan Friday that would place Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum into a district with GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann…The plan has prompted McCollum’s chief of staff to send an e-mail criticizing the proposal.


“The DFL Chair and his high-paid lawyers have proposed a congressional map to the redistricting panel that is hyper-partisan and bizarre,” McCollum’s chief of staff Bill Harper said in the email. “Their plan ignores the judge’s redistricting criteria and it insults established communities of interest, particularly in the Twin Cities East Metro. Congresswoman McCollum has faith in the judges on the panel to draw fair political boundaries that will serve the best interests of all Minnesotans.”

That answers the question “is Bettymac capable of thinking a thought that isn’t blessed by her party’s higher-ups, anyway.

Dave Mindeman of mnpACT wonders:

I can’t decide for sure what the DFL strategy was here. Obviously, the elimination of Bachmann from a safe district was the main goal, but alienating your solid incumbents is an unnecesary side bar. As far as numbers go, a tweak to shore up Walz and another tweak to make Cravaack a little more vulnerable would have accomplished pretty much the same split guaranteed….a 5-3 DFL majority. The DFL lines work to that 5-3 with eliminating Bachmann….the tweaking of current lines would have been a 5-3 without Cravaack.

Mindeman, like a lot of DFL pundits, accepts it as a matter of faith that they’ll beat Cravaack next fall, in much the same way that they accepted that he’d get 30% of the ballot in 2010.  But that’s not really the subject of this post.

No, it’s that I, too, wonder what the DFL’s strategy is.

And to explain the strategy, I think I’m going to refer to the newly-minted “Berg’s Twelfth Law of Hyperbolic Empiricism”.

To wit:  “The humorous or hyperbolic explanation of “progressive” behavior is likely, in direct proportion to the recklessness, extralegality, deviance or confrontiveness of the “progressive” actions being analyzed, to be the correct explanation“.

And knowing that, the hyperbolic reason – “they are trying to release something so far removed to the left that the courts, applying their traditional Scandinavian conflict-aversion to the issue, in trying to split the difference between the DFL and Legislative plans, will find “the middle” is about as far to the left as the DFL really wanted in the first place”.

I’d put money on it.

3 thoughts on “Redistricting: Redefining “Middle”

  1. Wouldn’t the Bachmann-McCollum matchup be worth paying for? Imagine Betty! having to do more than trotting out the same 24 lawn signs let alone having to spend more than a thousand bucks on a campaign. Just think of the debates!

  2. Tom A,

    In theory, sure. But as the DFL drew the district lines, it voted 62% DFL in the last election. So Betty wouldn’t actually have to campaign next year, either. The whole point of the exercise was to get rid of Bachmann. It’d work.

  3. I believe Bachmann has stated that she will not run for Representative next year. Anyway, redistricting is only partisan when Republicans make a proposal.

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