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Democracy and History: Time to Rhyme

I’ve heard it said that history never truly repeats itself it just rhymes. From the looks of it, 2021 appears set to be a year of rhyming in regards to partisan gerrymandering. As further proof that neither side is free of this crime against democracy and stain on the functionality of our republic, the Democratic Party in Illinois is set to gerrymander even more egregiously than after the 2010 census.

In a recent editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal Steve Chapman writes “Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on a vow to take reapportionment away from politicians and turn it over to an independent commission. But that didn’t happen, and when the general assembly sent him district maps that exemplified partisan gerrymandering he signed them into law.” It looks like the Illinois Democrats learned from their Republican neighbors to the north in Wisconsin. They learned the lesson that no small gerrymander will do, when you have the power go for the jugular.

Chapman goes on to write “shams are the norm in this process, where lawmakers celebrate the glories of democracy while scheming to make elections an empty formality. Democrats in blue states are more than willing to ignore their good-government allies to cement their control in state legislatures”. This strikes home to me as a “good-government Allie”, but I’ve never been under any allusion. I know that those who gain power fear to lose it and would abandon any supposed “allies” at the earliest convenience. And yet the fight must go on.

And now for Wisconsin’s own rhyming. Republican lawmakers in both houses of our state legislature voted unanimously to pass a resolution that would use Wisconsin’s current, extremely gerrymandered maps, as the basis for any new maps drawn this year. In other words, they want to keep as close to the gerrymandered maps they created last time as possible. They know this year they face a veto from the Governor, so this is all posturing in an attempt to build the court case for their gerrymandered maps.

Jon Plumer, our assembly representative, and Joan Ballweg, our state Senator, both voted for this resolution. I reached out to both of their offices before the vote asking them to vote no. Senator Ballweg’s office did not respond, Plumer’s office responded stating that my “opposition was noted” for whatever that was worth. I find it highly unlikely either office received emails or phone calls encouraging a yes vote as gerrymandering generally polls poorly among the general populace. That means our representatives in the state assembly were listening to their leadership instead of to their constituents which is hardly surprising at this point.

Representative Plumer’s recent e-mail newsletter encouraged citizens to draw their own maps as did his newsletter a month or so ago that I linked to at the time. I also stated at the time that it was too soon to tell if the effort was being made in good faith. I think after his recent vote for the resolution and the fact that the resolution was brought forth at all is beginning to provide us clarity for the answer to that question.

I will end by sounding a warning. The lights are flashing and all the signs indicating perils ahead for our democracy are brighter than ever. There is more danger here than we know and gerrymandering, and the attitude of elected officials that enable and endorse it, lies at it’s heart.

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