In Coming Showdown on Redistricting, How Much of a Show Will It Be, and Who Will Go Down?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

In the Massachusetts legislature, Republicans hold only five seats in the 40-member Senate and 31 in the 160-member House. Their ability to inhibit the movement of Democrats on almost any issue is, how do you say, limited.

On the issue of Congressional redistricting, however, Republicans have the ability -- and this year they seem to have the appetite -- to bedevil their friends on the other side of the aisle in a major way. Republicans understand that, if they make a big play on redistricting, their dream result may not benefit their party in electoral votes. But they'll probably do it anyway just to make the Democrats sweat and squirm.

Due to anemic population growth, Massachusetts is set to lose one of its 10 seats in the U.S. House, so the borders of every Congressional district need to change for the next election cycle. The authority to make those changes rests by statute with the legislature.

Here's what the Republican rumblings on redistricting come down to: If we have to redraw all the Congressional district boundaries, shouldn't we at last impose some geographical sense on the lot of them? Especially, shouldn't we eliminate the several weirdly shaped, elongated districts in the east, which lumber across the map like dragons and each grab a chunk of heavily Democratic Boston? And, while we're at it, shouldn't we create a single district encompassing metropolitan Boston, an all-new district where minority voters would finally have a good chance of electing someone from their community?

Unless you are one of the Congressmen whose district snakes into Boston, this is a compelling argument. Be sure, though, that no incumbent Democratic member of the U.S. House is looking forward to an argument on these terms. Republicans will keep saying it's time that the vibrant minority population of Greater Boston had its own voice in the Congress, and the Democratic incumbents will keep saying they've done a good job of representing all the people of their districts. (They'll also keep complaining that Republicans are cynical and disingenuous for trying to confine politics in 2012 to racial frameworks.)

Interestingly, Democrats are going to have to match wits on redistricting with Dan Winslow, the former chief counsel to Mitt Romney, former district court judge, newly minted Republican state representative from Norfolk, and putative candidate for governor in 2014. Winslow has been retained by to lend his considerable legal expertise and political skills to its proposal for a minority-majority district in Greater Boston. In the coming showdown over redistricting, Republicans will decide how much of a show it will be. Democrats will decide who is going down.

No comments:

Post a Comment