I got to thinking about all the exciting races coming up in the general election. It didn’t take long; it’s a very short list. Thanks to redistricting, and the safe districts created by it, gone are the entertaining hours spent watching candidates completely ignore what they had said to their base in the primary to run to the political center in the general election — where elections used to be won or lost.
Because of redistricting, they’re now elected by the extremes of their respective parties. The political center no longer sees competitive races in the general election. They’ve stopped turning out. Sadly, they’ve even stopped paying attention.
The “anti-incumbent” buzz was fun while it lasted, but it didn’t amount to much. You can occasionally generate some excitement with Tea Party talk, but that movement has evolved into an ideological marketplace dominated by political operatives with sharp elbows who know all the tricks and are willing to use them. These are the same folks who have been pushing the GOP ever rightward for decades.
The Gold Dome is about to draw the lines once again. This time, let’s pay attention. Let’s bring back competitive general election races. We need to draw these guys out into the open for a final round of questioning before we hand them the keys to the till and allow them to put their hands on the tiller.
Our next big policy discussion will center on transportation. There’s a link. Instead of creating the new layer of appointed bureaucracy the current transportation bill promises, let’s align districts along transportation corridors and communities of interest. Particularly congressional districts, given that they are closest to the printing presses of Washington, DC.
It will be tough to resist the impulse to “do something about transportation” given the conditioning we’re about to endure. The many thousands attached to the transportation alphabet soup bureaucracy we’ve created and their “new urbanism” futurists already are doing the pee dance about all sorts of sexy options we’ll have. The buzz is extreme, the graphics breathtaking. We’re going to turn the 41 corridor into “Cape Cobb.”
To many, transportation projects are just so “Easter Island.” With all the available space in half-completed strip malls and retail centers around the county, there’s little confidence that new projects will result in new jobs once completed — other than a phalanx of security guards to watch over them and keep them safe for the promised time when private sector capital returns. Given recent economic numbers, betting on spaceships returning to Easter Island may be a quicker payout.
It will be your Republican elected officials under the Gold Dome who will draw the lines this time, as they did the last. When you see them, tell them we’re eager to see compact districts along communities of interest. Drawing fair lines should be easy with the clever software they use. It’s like a Pac-Man game in which they use the mouse to gobble up voters to create safe districts for themselves. What’s left over is safe for the other side. If they can’t get the software to do it for them, ask them to talk to the good folks at the Cobb County Board of Elections. They’ve become experts at minimizing our drive time to the polls. Isn’t this what drawing the lines ought to be about?
Tell your Republican elected officials to put away the demographic charts and studies of past elections when they draw the lines this time. Suggest they study distances and neighborhoods instead.