“The New Maps Are Here!” Like the Steve Martin line “the new phone books are here!” everybody’s checking out the next ten year’s political landscape. This year in Michigan, the redrawn voting district maps forecast a very bumpy ride, much like Martin’s in The Jerk.
From the County level to the state, the lines have been radically redrawn, and the political world has been put through a blender. By whom and to what end? At the state and Congressional level we have the secretive “Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission” or MICRC. This body was created by a coup-like state Constitutional Amendment shot through by referendum and the ‘People Not Politicians’ group.
Technically it’s supposed to be filled with folks who have no political experience or opinions, doing the most sensitive and vital election work–like a bunch of Homer Simpsons at Chernobyl. They’re not all ‘independent’ either—one Bernie Sanders guy somehow got through. The results look like you’d expect. Michigan’s losing one Congressional seat anyhow, but Detroit City is carved up.
Instead of the traditional two “majority-minority” districts, African American Detroit is split up and parceled out. It’s conceivable that no Black Congress Reps could come from those districts. How does this pass the Voting Rights Act? The Commission’s lawyers say it’s not necessary for Black representation to be Black representatives. We’ll see what the courts make of it.
The State Senate and House districts are even more grotesque. After raising the term “communities of interest” the Commission drew districts that would make an old-style gerrymander guy blush. The new State House and Senate make a joke of communities of interest. For instance, my home, the new 5th, goes from Birmingham down through Royal Oak and Berkley, south to I-96, at Hubbell and Fullerton. The new 8th goes from south Oakland Mall to Eastern Market. Detroiters are livid about being sliced and diced this way. And there are lawsuits in the offing.
So, who wins from this sort of Frankenstein surgery? The MICRC Commission folks swear on a stack of Bibles it won’t benefit any political party. We shall see. If the new Legislature magically flips to Dem majority, we’ll know someone’s whistling ‘Mission Accomplished.’ But the grotesque dismemberment of communities of interest does disadvantage one sort of candidate: the homegrown local elected official.
Right now, most public servants follow a certain path. They come out of community groups, PTAs, homeowner associations, service clubs. They serve on local boards, then get elected to city councils and school boards. Then they move to the County, or state. Maybe farther. These are locally based, home-grown politicians who come from and have ties to the communities they represent. You know them and they know you.
Take for example, Brenda Lawrence. She had a career in local government, served as Mayor of Southfield. She lost a Lt. Governor race, but successfully ran for Congress. She’s a home-grown representative of her community. As for Debbie Dingell, her Michigan roots are as public and well-known as they come. John Moolenaar is a Midland boy, came up through the state House and Senate; used to live across the street from my parents.
But contrast with Haley Stevens. She showed up here, chipper chipmunk with a big smile, DY-rect from Washington DC where she said she’d saved the auto industry. Yeah, she grew up in Rochester, but she might have as well been from Neptune. What she did have was oodles of money. From where? Ditto Elissa Slotkin, who was supposed to come from the CIA or somewhere.
This looks to me like the model for winning these new jumbled communities: outside money and special interests. These will be the essential ingredients for running a winning campaign in a Frankenstein district where the communities have been chopped apart, switched round, and sewed back together. The winners of this system will be the sources of that outside money and the special interests who can direct resources to the candidates.
Sort of like the ones who paid for People Not Politicians in the first place.
Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself!