Friday, March 25, 2011

Redistricting Committee Tour Continues

I was in Fort Wayne last night to discuss redistricting with interested citizens. The turnout at IPFW was good and the discussion lively. There was some print & TV media coverage, and I was quoted in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
Commission member Mike Kole, a Libertarian, said that incumbency trumped partisan politics in redistricting. He said Republicans would rather keep safe seats than increase their numbers if it meant incumbents running against one another in reconfigured districts.

“It’s not about party. It’s about self,” Kole said.

The quote came in response to discussion on the conventional wisdom of gerrymandering. After attending several such meetings, I got the impression that people tend to think that gerrymandering happens to protect or unfairly create political power for the party in power. Yes, that's part of it, but I believe it to be secondary.

Probably the most eye-opening revelation I have had thus far was in listening to former Indiana House member Bill Ruppel. Bill is a Republican, but he doesn't mind to tell the story of how the party in majority holds a special meeting of their caucus, whereby the members are given pushpins and directed to a large wall map. They place the pin where they live, and the districts are drawn to protect them as incumbents.

In my opinion, if a fair district map was drawn for the Indiana House, that did not take into account where incumbents live, the Republican Party would likely gain 6-10 seats in 2012. So, why wouldn't the Republicans be all over this? Because, again, in my humble opinion, you would see at least 30 incumbents from both parties gone in 2012, because the fair redistricting would result in some districts with two (or even three!) incumbents in them, and other districts with no incumbents in them at all.

That's why I said that self comes before party. If party was the primary concern, the Indiana GOP would be leading the crusade for fair redrawing of the maps. This explains why, when then-Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican, called for fair redistricting in his 'Rethinking Redistricting' initiative, he was blasted by members of his own party. Sure, they didn't blast him directly on point. They just blasted him. Preservation of personal power is the underlying reason for whatever they actually said.

The Indiana Citizens Redistricting Committee will host two more public meetings:

Tuesday, March 29, in Terre Haute
Thursday, March 31, in Evansville

More info on these meetings via this link.

At last, the Indiana House & Senate is going around the state with meetings at incredible inconvenient dates & times: today and tomorrow. Do they really want public input? Putting meetings on a Friday during business hours? On a Saturday morning or afternoon?

If you go to one of the meetings the House & Senate is hosting, be sure to ask them why incumbent protection ranks higher than incumbent blind drawing of the district maps.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Heh- "Fleebaggers"

I'll repeat my position that the Democrats walkout from the Indiana legislature is a surprise gift to me. I never expected any kind of gridlock, but here it is, and I love it. No laws being passed = no reduction in liberty.

That said, I find this website hilarious. "We keep track of 'em so you don't have to." Oh, I love the ease and speed of self publishing online.

In other news, the Indy Star's Mary Beth Schneider at last touched on a future consideration for this walkout, in this article:

The fear that House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long share: If Democrats, outnumbered 60-40 in the House and 37-13 in the Senate, think they are winning this battle of wills, boycotts could become a regular legislative tactic across the nation. Much the same way, Democrats point out, that minority Republicans have used the filibuster in the U.S. Senate to prevent votes on things they don't like.

That would mark a departure from past practice. Walkouts have been used by both parties. But they typically focus on a single issue and end after a couple of days when the majority makes a few tweaks that let the minority declare victory and return. Not this year. (bold is mine)

What a wonderful gift that would be! I'm not dismayed at all. This is perfect! No new laws passing? Excellent!

2-party partisan politics has been such that when one team employs a tactic, the other team decries it... until they are on the other side, and then they happily employ the same tactic they had until recently decried, justifying it with a Charlie Sheen-like righteousness. So, you gotta know that the next time the Democrats have a majority in the Indiana House, the Republicans will walk out for the entire session. This becomes the safest bet in politics.

The other side of that coin comes to pass in November 2012. Will voters reward or punish Democrats for this action? I'm betting that every Democrat who walked out will now have a Republican running against them, and the top campaign issue will be the walkout. Some districts are so solidly Democrat that it won't matter, but others could be swayed.

So, let's assume for consideration's sake that the voters do punish enough of the walkout Democrats such that the Republicans gain a quorum-ready majority. What do you think the Rs will do with their legislative agenda? Think any compromise will be part of the plan? I conjure images of ramrods.

Even if the voters don't punish the Dems, the redistricting that will take place this year is controlled by the Republicans. In my estimation, if the maps are drawn blindly, without partisan consideration, the Republicans gain at least 8 seats in the Indiana House. If they gerrymander it? Maybe 12-15 seats? In any case, my opinion is that, barring some amazing shift that suddenly makes the Democrats exceptionally popular, or an incredible shift to the Libertarian Party occurs, the Republicans are going to have that quorum-ready majority in both the Indiana House and Senate. The Republicans are seething right now. I expect a full cram-down in 2012.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Isn't It Rich?

Rah-rah, Amtrak! Yeah, passenger rail! Obama pushes this pet project, and Joe Biden gets a little action- the station in Wilmington, DE is to be named for him.

So, all the brass go out to the station, including Amtrak's CEO. Of course, he traveled by train. Would the CEO of Amtrak travel to one of his own stations any other way? From the Daily Caller:
One problem: the CEO of Amtrak got stuck on the train.

ABC News Deputy Political Director & Political Reporter Michael Falcone tweeted at approximately 10 a.m. that the Acela train he was riding had been “delayed” in Baltimore and that he was sitting next to Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman.

Falcone tweeted, “Acela to NY delayed for ‘unknown period’ Should I feel better that the Amtrak CEO is sitting next to me?”

It quickly became apparent that the CEO’s presence wouldn’t fix the train. A subsequent tweet from Falcone noted, “BAD sign: Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman just got OFF the train to take a car to Wilmington.”

“Amtrak CEO abandoned his own train to make ribbon cutting ceremony for Joe Biden station in Wilmington,” Falcone reported. “When I told Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman it was a bad sign he was ditching the stranded Acela, he chuckled.”

An Amtrak spokesman offered “no comment” to ABC News on the incident.

Interestingly, ABC's own online coverage of the event did not bother to note the manner of Boardman's travel. How is it that an ABC reporter could be an actual eyewitness to an interesting story line, and then the coverage not include it?

The conclusion is left as an exercise to the student.