The Blame Is Ours

Earlier this year, I wrote two recommendations for people applying to be on Virginia’s redistricting commission. Even as I wrote the letters, I knew that neither of these people had a chance of being selected. It wasn’t because they weren’t smart enough, dedicated enough, or ethical enough; it was because they weren’t partisan enough. And that is why the redistricting commission is failing.

The commission was doomed from the start, and the effort to remove politics from the equation, in reality, has only entrenched partisanship more deeply into the process.

In the past, the state legislature had to draw up the lines for the redistricting map. At first glance, this may look to be a self-serving process in which elected officials get to draw up their own perfect little fiefdoms. However, if their constituents were unhappy with the actions of their representative, they had the power of the ballot box to keep these folks in line. Checks and balances. Just the way Mr. Jefferson intended it.

The new commission has removed the accountability while doubling down on the partisanship based on who has been appointed. No longer is it the representatives that draw the maps. It is a group of eight unelected commissioners, four delegates, and four state senators. This may look balanced, but party identification was a part of the application, so in a state without party registration, these aren’t just run-of-the-mill citizens. They’re party loyalists, and that loyalty runs deep.

First, the commission failed to agree on a legislative redistricting map, and now it seems that failure will be repeated in regards to the Congressional map. Although the commission’s website states that they are working to protect “communities of interest,” it has become painfully apparent that the only community they are interested in is their own political party.

But is this really the fault of the commissioners? Are they purveyors of partisanship or victims of it? When masks, vaccines, and even truth itself are partisan, can we really expect any different from a group of people whose job it is to divide up the state in such a way so as to not give their political adversary an advantage?

As Harry Truman wrote, “The country has to awaken every now and then to the fact that the people are responsible for the government they get.”

The world in which the commissioners are attempting to complete their assigned task is one of all of our making, so we should not be surprised when it reflects that world. However, that is not to say that we should not hope for better, work for better, and expect better not only from others but from ourselves as well.

One of the biggest hurdles to get over when one is involved in politics is facing the potential disdain of your own party members. Everyone wants to return from a political battle either with their shield or laid out upon it having fought the fight until the bitter end. “Compromise” is not treasure enough for the waiting throngs; they clamor for complete victory or loss with unadulterated virtue. Anything less, and a partisan might as well not return home at all.

With all of that in mind, now is the time for these commissioners to screw their courage to the sticking place and get the job done. It is time to put down the shields, slings and arrows, time to beat their swords into plows and cut the sod of political inertia. Only then will they be able to make progress. While these commissioners may not return to whoops and cries of victory from their party, they should rest assured that the quiet whisper of history, the type that grows louder with the passing of time, will sing their praises and stand in wonder at their accomplishments and self-sacrifice.

However, should they fail, they may be able to come home claiming to have fought the good fight, but in truth, they only fought the good.

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