Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:36

Gentrification is the old gerrymandering

The United States Supreme Court will rule on partisan gerrymandering for the first time since 2004, deciding whether Wisconsin Republicans drew electoral district lines with the unfair intent of strengthening their political presence in the state. Gill v. Whitford will be heard by the Supreme Court in the fall and could result in a ruling that will set the boundaries for drawing electoral district boundaries.

 

The case at hand is pretty straightforward. While 51 percent of Wisconsin voters were Democrats in 2012, Republicans won 60 of the 99 seats in the state’s Congress. Republicans say that’s because Democrats have the disadvantage of living in metropolitan areas like Milwaukee and Madison, which is true. Metropolitans are generally underrepresented given the populations in their districts compared to the populations of rural districts, and that’s not Republicans’ fault.

 

But there’s more to the story. Thanks to the work of University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, there’s a new way to measure whether district lines are fair representations of representation or partisan gerrymandering designed to be advantageous to the political party drawing the lines. The efficiency gap measures “wasted votes,” or the number of votes wasted in a district where one party wins an election easily.

 

For example, take those metropolitan voters in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin’s fourth Congressional district, which includes parts of Milwaukee, incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore won 77 percent of the vote in a race that didn’t feature Republican opposition. You could argue that Moore wouldn’t have required all those votes to win even if there was a Republican challenger. Those would be considered wasted votes, and voters living on the edges of Milwaukee should have instead voted in neighboring first, fifth and sixth districts to make races more competitive.

 

The same could be said for Wisconsin’s second district that contains Madison. Incumbent Democrat Mark Pocan wasted votes beating Republican challenger Peter Theron by almost 150,000. Move 100,000 of those wasted votes to the sixth district and Wisconsin would have one more Democratic Senator. And we haven’t even started looking at the state assembly.

 

If we look at the Milwaukee area again, there are two districts, the 14th and 21st, that had competitive races Republicans won in 2016. Each race was decided by about 5,000 votes. Wisconsin's 14th district is bordered on the east by the 12th, 17th and 18th districts. Those districts are closer to Milwaukee and all went Democratic. In fact, there was no Republican opposition in any of those races, so the Democrats needed just over 5,000 votes of the 58,000 wasted votes they got in those three races to take the 14th district. Had the east boundary of the 14th district been drawn closer to Milwaukee, the Democrats would have likely won that district.

 

Wisconsin’s 21st district is neighbored by the 20th district to the north, which went to the Democrats unopposed. Another 21,222 votes were wasted in the 20th district, and Democrats needed just 5,000 to take the 21st district.

 

It’s a similar story for Wisconsin’s 42nd district, which is neighbored by the 79th and 81st districts, which went Democrat by a combined 16,000 wasted votes. Democrat George Ferriter needed just 5,000 of those votes to swing the 42nd district blue.

 

The point is Wisconsin Republicans probably gained seats by drawing the district lines where they did, which is not supposed to happen. This is the Republicans’ fault because they were last to draw the districts, and the Supreme Court could rule that the districts must be redrawn to make races more competitive. That was the ruling in the lower court.

 

If the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court, it would set the efficiency gap as legal precedent when determining whether partisan gerrymandering has taken place. It would also give the party disadvantaged by the gerrymandering a better chance of righting the wrong and achieving more accurate representation throughout states. That’s no small accomplishment, but it’s not a solution by any means, because gentrification is the old gerrymandering.

 

Gerrymandering has been around almost as long as America, but even older than America is gentrification, which will continue to weaken the power of the minority vote despite a ruling on gerrymandering. While gerrymandering is the drawing of lines around communities, gentrification is actively creating communities by displacing other communities.

 

There’s nothing stopping a city council our county commission from purchasing land to build whatever they want to “improve” their city or county. Cities, counties and states don’t need your permission to build “improvements.” They can just buy you or your landlord out. If you live in a metropolitan area, you’re likely familiar with these projects and might have been displaced because of them.

 

New research by the University of Minnesota found that “over a third of low-income census tracts in Minneapolis underwent gentrification...and about a quarter of low-income census tracts in St. Paul gentrified” from 2000 to 2014. Northeast Minneapolis is the best example of gentrification in the area, which tends to happen in downtown areas near public transit. So the people who actually need the bus and train to get to work no longer have access to it or have to walk/ride even farther to work.

 

But brown people moving to suburban or rural areas should even out the vote there, right? Wrong. Minorities had a voice in metropolitan areas because they had power in numbers. Those numbers being spread around suburban and rural areas dissipates the power of that collective vote. Those displaced people also lose local representation that’s been dedicated to their interests. They were a member of the majority when it came to their local community, and they are now a minority in a new community. Just like the local elected officials in the cities, the local elected officials of the suburbs and rural areas have the interests of the majority in mind.

Those same Wisconsin Republicans who allegedly committed partisan gerrymandering will simply resort to “improving” their communities and spreading the minority vote around into suburban and rural districts via gentrification in the future. Even if the Supreme Court rules the Wisconsin Republicans were in the wrong, gentrification makes gerrymandering unnecessary, because if you can move the people instead of the lines there’s no need to move the lines. Moving the lines is just cheaper and easier, for now. That’s why gentrification is the old gerrymandering.

 

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

 

Published in News & Information

Only in America could a man assault a journalist and end up winning an election. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was reportedly “grabbed...by the neck with both hands and slammed...into the ground,” by newly elected Representative Greg Gianforte in Bozeman a day before Montana’s special election for the lone, at-large House seat. Gianforte started punching Jacobs while on the ground, according to a Fox News crew that witnessed the attack and cooperated with authorities.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin donated $250 to Gianforte's campaign and announced he was charging Montana’s newest representative with misdemeanor assault. Gianforte must appear in court by June 7. If convicted, he faces a maximum jail sentence of six months and a fine of up to $500.

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert said he would have to review the case before commenting on whether the misdemeanor assault charge was appropriate, but he can alter the charge if he feels it’s necessary.

“I understand this young man went to the hospital...I only know about the case from watching the media and reading the newspaper,” he informed.

Lambert is in his 34th year as the Gallatin County Attorney and said he has “no reason to take issue with” Gootkin’s decision.

“The sheriff and the deputies that work for him have a lot of integrity...to my knowledge the investigation was thorough,” Lambert said.

Of the roughly 377,500 votes cast in the Montana special election for the at-large House seat, nearly 70 percent were submitted prior to the alleged assault occurring. So Montanans now realize how early voting can be bad. There is no recourse for the Montana Democratic Party, either, which comes through loud and clear in the statement they released, Friday. You cannot recall a federal official thanks to the U.S. Constitution, and a Constitutional Amendment would be highly unlikely. Montanans who want to take back their vote for Gianforte must wait until 2020 to do so.

The incident in Montana is certainly indicative of the state of American politics and the American people. Americans seem to be embracing the arrogance that is perceived by citizens at home and abroad.

The biggest problem I have with this Montana special election fiasco isn’t that I’m a journalist and fear this will happen to me or more of my fellow journalists. It will. It’s not that Gianforte won the election. I expected that. Had he lost having received more than five times in outside contributions ($5.6 million) than his opponent, Rob Quist, it would have been national news even if the alleged assault had not occurred. It’s not that there’s no recourse for the Democratic Party or those who would have changed their early vote given the incident. But had anyone of us done what Gianforte did in a professional setting we’d be fired on the spot, and Congressmen and women don’t get fired. Whether it’s assault or murder, an elected, federal official will remain an official until the end of his or her term, barring a resignation.

Gianforte was on the clock, so to speak, when prepping for a Fox News interview on Wednesday. Ben Jacobs was simply doing his job and asked a simple question with no audible malice in his voice. Ben Jacobs acted professionally, and Gianforte responded like a bully. The saddest thing that has come from this is the number of people openly supporting the bully and demonizing the bullied. It’s not a good look for Montana or America.

The questions won’t get easier for Gianforte, so he’ll have to do something about that temper, or the D.C. press will chew him up and spit him out. I don’t foresee a long political career in Gianforte’s future, though, and when he’s up for reelection three years from now, I hope Montanans and the media don’t forget his unprofessionalism and irresponsibility. I don’t think I’ve been more ashamed to call Montana home or more happy to live and work in Minnesota.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly on Feb. 13, 2016, it sparked a standoff between Democrats and Republicans that rivaled that of the OK Corral. Senate Republicans refused to confirm a replacement on the grounds that President Barack Obama was a lame duck president and that the new president should choose a successor. Obama famously responded by saying, “Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term; neither should a senator,” and nominated Merrick Garland a month after Scalia passed.

Garland is a moderate by general consensus, but it wasn’t enough to convince Republicans to make the judiciary work on behalf of Americans. You can find how an empty seat has affected cases since by following this link. Basically, there were two ties that adversely affected working immigrants and unions.

Here we are over a year later with the Republicans getting exactly what they wanted: Neil Gorsuch, a consensus conservative judge, breaking the tie on a church-state case.

The separation of church and state is long-standing, federal law. Tax dollars are not spent in support of religions, but the federal government won’t stop you from raising money as a church – going as far as to make churches exempt from paying income taxes. A church can even donate money to super PACs that aren’t supporting a specific candidate, but no one is really enforcing this, with the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission calling their organization “more than dysfunctional” and saying the likelihood that the laws being enforced is “slim.” Donald Trump would like to make churches the new super PACs, according to The Atlantic. That opportunity has arrived in the form of the church-state case Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.

Trinity Lutheran is a church-run preschool that applied for a state grant to fund a playground upgrade for safety reasons. They want to put that forgiving material made out of old tires in the playground so kids don’t end up with brain injuries, etc. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. You can see what they currently have in the playground just by visiting the website, and it’s pretty terrible. But the state in which Trinity Lutheran operates, Missouri, has a state constitution clause that forbids tax dollars from going to churches, which is also perfectly reasonable. The latest decision upheld Missouri’s state constitution. The church must raise its own money to upgrade the playground. They are a private school after all, and if they actually took advantage of all this media attention, they’d probably be funded for the entire year already.

The case could be thrown out entirely because the Supreme Court put off scheduling the case because of the empty seat, and since, Missouri’s Democratic attorney general lost an election and was replaced with a Republican, who announced he will change the state’s policy and allow churches to receive grant money from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Then there’s no case, right? Attorney Irv Gonzalez of the Know Your Rights talk show thinks so.

“If they change the policy then I think they should not hear the case … If he changes the law today, then there’s really no issue,” he said.

Not so fast. That change to the state’s policy wouldn’t be permanent. It would be subject to change every time there’s a new attorney general. If the Supreme Court rules, though, it would become permanent nationwide. You see why these nine judges are so important and why having just eight is a real problem? Just look back at the FEC’s six chair people and how ineffective that has been. Those people can’t even talk to each other.

So, here we are at a crossroads, with a ninth and final traveller determining which path America takes for the foreseeable future. Does the consensus conservative Gorsuch side with state’s rights or religion? Everything points to religion. Furthermore, the hundred or so federal judges Donald Trump has or will appoint and another 70 that will likely retire during Trump’s first term will make sure more church-state cases are heard by the conservative Supreme Court. Gonzalez doesn’t foresee sweeping changes to church-state precedent, though. Unless, of course, 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passes away in the next four years.

Americans need to realize that Republicans didn’t just hijack the Supreme Court, but they hijacked nearly 200 more courts at other levels throughout the country. President Obama made 54 federal nominations to the 112 empty seats that Senate Republicans refused to confirm. Winning the White House was imperative for the power play to work, but Trump slapped the puck through the Democrats’ five hole – Hillary Clinton – with perhaps an assist or two from the Russians, who say they’re going to the Olympics regardless of what NHL owners declare. With a Republican-led executive, legislative and judiciary branches, what’s next?

Churches will be allowed to donate directly to political officials, whom, of course, will be members of the religious right. Freedom of religion will infringe upon free elections, and religions and corporations will battle together to elect politicians who put more money in the pockets of priests and CEOs. Everyday Americans will continue to suffer, but it won’t seem like it as long as they have their precious devices, television and internet access. Whether their use of those devices is monitored and sold to advertisers matters little to them. Fewer and fewer people will vote, because why waste an hour every two years when both candidates are working against you? Believe it or not, your vote means more now than ever. Use it.

Editor's Note: An update follows.

Donald Trump went to work filling those open seats on Monday, May 8.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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