June 2017
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Stephanie C. Fox

Goodreads

Gerrymandering is Legal. It Has Ratf**ked Our Democracy. That Must Be Changed.

Redistricting. Gerrymandering. Ratf**king.

All of these words deal with the same topic, but increase the intensity of the action.

And they decrease the level of ethical behavior expected.

None is to be expected of the last, and not enough of the second one.

All this and more is discussed in David Daley’s book, released in mid-2016:

Ratf**cked: How Chris Jankowski Turned the Electoral Map Bright Red Until 2020

It’s legal, it’s breathtaking, and much of it happened in plain sight. The Democratic majority was ratfucked.

David Daley. RATF**KED: THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE SECRET PLAN TO STEAL AMERICA’S DEMOCRACY. New York: Liverlight Publishing Corporation, 2016.

The man whose name became the partisan redistricting verb – gerrymander – Elbridge Gerry, was a Massachusetts politician who lived from 1744 to 1814.

Elbridge Gerry, American politician who lived from 1744-1814. His name became synonymous with politically motivated drawing of district lines.

A few facts about him seem only fair to highlight, beyond his connection to redistricting:

Gerry attended the Continental Congress, but refused to sign the new U.S. Constitution because it lacked the Bill of Rights, which he later participated in drafting. He was an anti-Federalist. He served as Massachusetts’ governor for one term. He was James Madison’s vice president.

About the redistricting and his historic moniker of an association with it:

During his term as Governor of Massachusetts, the state’s legislature was mostly from his own political party. It created new district lines aimed at enhancing their own party’s control over state and national offices. Governor Gerry had not been pleased with this, but he signed it into law nonetheless. The effect of these redrawn district lines went to such an extent that one district so strongly resembled a winged salamander that it was called a “gerry-mander”.

The word gerrymander was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette newspaper on March 26, 1812. It depicted a salamander-esque creature in the shape of voting districts. (Wikipedia)

Voting districts are required to be compact, contiguous, and contain voting populations of equal size to one another.

Unfortunately, because humans want things their own way, they have figured out a way to add greed to the mix.

It is thus possible to engineer political dominance into the maps.

It has always been possible to do this. All that was required was data, pen, and paper.

However, today things can be done with a few keystrokes and a click of a mouse.

Gerrymandering can be done in an instant.

Every 10 years, a census is taken: 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, and so on.

Thereafter, voting districts are redrawn.

It isn’t as simple as it merely being possible to do the deed; deeds require money.

Whichever side has the most money wins now.

Citizens United v. FEC, 588 U.S. 210 (2010) has unleashed unlimited dark money to fund this effort by removing limits on the amount of money that any one donor may contribute to any political campaign or effort.

Justice Kennedy wrote the Judgment of the Court.

Justices Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas joined him.

Justices Stevens, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Breyer dissented.

There is something very undemocratic and very plutocratic about this.

A plutocracy is a government by the wealthy. It has no underlying philosophy beyond greed and control of resources for the wealthy few.

This is why I call the wealthy, the greedy, the unethical of our society “Farmers” with a capital “F”: because they view everyone else as either a resource to be manipulated for their own ends, or as a weed to be erased if and when we become troublesome.

Here we are in the early 21st century with the Untied States of America being ruled – not governed – of, by, and for the interests of the wealthy.

It is time to become troublesome.

No one’s thumb should be on the scale of power, skewing the balance off-kilter…nor that dramatically and blatantly so.

But the GOP’s thumb is doing just that, and it is very important to fully understand how it does that. The why is the quick and easy part.

Every greedy and unethical plot has a plotter, or a group of plotters.

In this case, it had a Plotter-in-Chief: J. Christopher Jankoski of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).

J. Christopher Jankowski – GOP Gerrymanderer

This guy cares nothing for democracy and everything for cheating and gaming to get what he wants. He is ardently and desperately in love with his methods. The horrifying thing is that they work. When I watch or read stories about overcoming a problem, I find that the villains have the most to teach, and if they run their mouths, it is wise to listen and take detailed mental notes. This one was behind the plan called REDMAP, for Redistricting Majority Project.

Chris Jankowski’s plan was this:

Pay more campaign money to state election campaigns than previously. State election campaigns are less glamorous than national ones, but it is at the state level that districts are drawn. Therefore, to secure GOP control of as many seats in the House and Senate of the U.S. Congress as possible, and to secure control of as many Electoral College votes as possible, a party must win as many STATE seats as possible prior to the 10-year census cycle. The idea is to be seated in time to prevail when redrawing voting district lines.

Chris Jankowski (assisted by Karl Rove, advisor to former president George W. Bush) succeeded at this plan by not only persuading donors to go along with this plan, but also by running dishonest campaigns, pouring the bulk of the money into the last few weeks of each one to pay for flyers full of misstatements and lies about Democratic candidates. There was no time to fully explain the truth to misled voters, and they lost their seats.

The pieces were thus in place for a ratfucking.

David Daley is the editor-in-chief of Salon magazine. He traveled the nation to gather the material for Ratf**ked, studying Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, and a few others, though they didn’t get whole chapters, and a software program called Maptitude.

Maptitude is the redistricting software put out to the tune of $5,000 to $10,000 that Caliper Corporation of Newton, Massachusetts (see http://www.caliper.com/).

Describing how Maptitude (http://www.caliper.com/maptovu.html) works, Daley says:

“These lines look complex, and the thinking behind them is. However, the data and technology make ratfucking almost as easy as one-click ordering on Amazon. It has made rewiring our democracy as simple as outbidding a rival on eBay, with the additional similarity that the side with the most money wins the prize.”

Pennsylvania has compressed its Democrats into its cities, with a few representatives representing the bulk of the state’s human population. Meanwhile, the rest of its territory, which is mostly rural, is divided up among Republicans. The end result is that it sent 13 Republicans to the U.S. Congress to the Democrats’ 5, also reflecting the state’s Electoral College makeup.

It did this in 2010 by redistricting – gerrymandering with such ferocity and greed that the term “ratfucking” really is the most apt one to use to describe what was done.

This was possible because enough Republicans had won seats in the state legislature to push the ratfucking agenda through.

The results are visually startling, and even outright comic, except that laughter isn’t the forthcoming reaction. The 7th voting district of Pennsylvania has a blocky shape that is easily recognizable as Donald Duck kicking Goofy. Maptitude was not trying to create Disney-character-shaped districts, but it did.

Pennsylvania’s District 7 – Donald Duck kicking Goofy shape – Drawn in 2010.

It is now possible to drive north, starting in the 13th district, cross the 7th for a mile, and come out into the 6th. All this is aimed at keeping the liberal Democratic voters compressed into the 7th District, including the city of Philadelphia and its upscale suburbs.

That district has become so infamous in its patently obvious gerrymandering that it is an internet meme:

North Carolina has done the same thing to its university towns – the Democrats are thus hemmed into small areas, while the Republicans have the bulk of the state, and the most members to send to Congress. With 535 seats in it, that adds up.

Another interesting aspect of ratfucking in that state comes to light in Daley’s book: African-American voters are compressed into an area in the northeastern part of the state that resembles a snowball thrown at a windshield, one that has splattered onto it and started to fall.

This was quite deliberate, of course. For decades, as Democratic incumbents – white ones – held most of the seats in North Carolina, both the GOP and African-Americans were underrepresented. Then along came Chris Jankowski. A deal was struck: with redrawn districts, and campaign money strategically spent, there would soon by a majority of GOP representatives with a minority of Democrats, many of whom were newly elected African-Americans, but…not with enough clout to make a difference in policy. Ratfucked again! Black faces, but not in control of anything. Oh, yay…

In the space of a decade, people move around, though. They get jobs elsewhere, buy houses, get different apartments, and so on. Hence, the reason for redrawing voting lines. The Democrats and the GOP are strongly motivated to position themselves to control those lines in 2020. Whoever has the most money has the best chance of success.

What’s in the future of gerrymandering?

A genetic algorithm – one that notes your every click, like, save, purchase, search, you name it.

Oh, yay…the computer might as well be a telepath, directed by an unethical, greedy cheat.

Oh wait…it already is.

In fact, it just was.

As I have written more than once about this, Cambridge Analytica did that last year. I have done more than one blog post on that.

It is thus so easy to redistrict – due to software and algorithms – that the human urge to gerrymander is a foregone conclusion, and by either side.

Thus, our politicians are able to pick their voters.

It should be the other way around.

We have a lot of work to do to restore that balance.

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