Other voices: Ruthless by design

Published 11:58 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2021

North Carolina Republicans are shocked, shocked that anyone would think there’s any blatant partisan racial and political gerrymandering going on in the shameful district maps that they’ve just passed by a party-line vote.

Never mind the pattern of breaking up blue-leaning urban areas into pieces that effectively dilute both Black and Democratic voting power.

Never mind the slicing and dicing of Guilford, Wake and Mecklenburg counties each into three districts.

Never mind the calculated divvying as well of Greensboro into two districts, with the largest piece attached to a heavily conservative district that flows all the way to Banner Elk, the hometown of incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx. Her nest would be feathered with a comfortable GOP majority while shoving first-term Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning of Greensboro into a virtually unwinnable district. (Manning’s district currently contains most of Forsyth County and all of Guilford.)

Meanwhile, a district containing Winston-Salem and Forsyth County would take in more rural areas as well, from Yadkin County south to Lincoln County, again favoring Republican candidates.

Divide and conquer. Stack the deck. Load the dice. And then shrug and feign ignorance anytime someone calls you on it.

What? Us? Gerrymander?

“I’m not considering political data, electoral data, in the drafting of these maps, so I have no idea what their outcome is going to be,” Rep. Destin Hall, a Caldwell County Republican who is House Redistricting Committee chairman, has said … with a straight face.

“Do they think we’re stupid?” Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State, told WRAL-TV.

If the maps remain as they are, Republicans would likely win 10 or 11 of the state’s 14 congressional seats in a roughly evenly divided state that Donald Trump won by 1.3 percentage points in 2020. Of those 14, only one is considered to be highly competitive.

The maps will erode minority voting power as well, in a state that has grown increasingly more diverse. As NC Policy Watch notes, more than a half dozen Black lawmakers in the General Assembly could lose their seats if the new maps stand.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which analyzes district maps throughout the country, gave the Guilford, Wake and Mecklenburg maps an overall “F” rating for blatantly tilting districts to favor Republican candidates.

Beyond the obvious unfairness of it all is the serious harm this does to representative government. One of the reasons the country is as fiercely divided as it is today, and Congress rarely gets much done, is the extremism encouraged by highly partisan districts. Moderation becomes a cardinal sin, punishable by a hard-left or hard-right primary opponent.

Still, Republicans insist that they neither used racial nor political data in determining the new lines.

“Since political data was not considered in the map-drawing process, we would have no way of knowing the political leanings of the districts,” Lauren Horsch, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, told WRAL in an email.

Of course not. They didn’t have to. They already knew what they needed to know. They already knew which counties were heavily Democratic and that each has large concentrations of Black voters.

Meanwhile, Republicans are fully aware that this game of thrones blatantly violates what they claim to be their core principles: succeeding on one’s merits and letting “the market” drive results.

Clearly they don’t believe they can win a fair fight in fairly drawn districts, so why have one? Why even pretend to create a level playing field when affirmative action for Republican candidates is so much easier?

As they should, the maps will be challenged in court. The latest was filed Wednesday by a coalition led by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters.

To be clear, two can play this game. And they do. Democrats are pushing gerrymandered districts in Illinois, Maryland, New York and Oregon. They did the same in North Carolina for decades when they controlled the legislature.

But the Republicans’ are now the offending party in North Carolina, and their ruthless efficiency has taken gerrymandering to new heights — or depths, depending on how you view it.

As for doing the right thing — what’s right got to do with it?

This is about power, pure and simple, and keeping it … by any means necessary. It’s the state’s residents who will have to suffer because of it.

— Winston-Salem Journal