Politics, for starters, is about power — who wants it and who gets it.
Illinois legislators held public hearings — if one can call them that — this week on Democrats’ proposed state House and Senate redistricting maps. If anyone was surprised by the partisan give and take between gloating Democrats and resentful Republicans, they should not have been.
After all, the aphorism that to the victor go the spoils is hardly new.
Democrats have political control of Illinois’ executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and they are unapologetically using their power to perpetuate their control. In their view, too much of a good thing is wonderful.
Republicans don’t have to like it. But they surely understand the
consequences of coming out on the short end. That’s why their complaints are summarily rejected as insincere bilge.
Indeed, one common response to Republicans complaining about aggressive Democratic gerrymandering is that Republicans wouldn’t be complaining if they had the power to draw their own GOP-favored maps.
In other words, Democrats are just doing to the GOP what the GOP would do to the Democrats if they could.
It’s impossible to argue with that claim because there’s plenty of precedent.
All across the country, states are planning to redraw their legislative boundary lines to account for population increases and shifts following the decennial census.
In those states that have not established bipartisan redistricting processes, the majority party — whether Republican or Democrat — is crafting maps that will make it easy for that majority party to remain the majority party.
But the D-versus-R mentality misses the point.
Left unmentioned in these partisan exchanges is the voters’ interest in having meaningful choices when they vote in legislative elections.
Politicians too often take the attitude that the office they hold is somehow a personal possession that they or their party is entitled to control in perpetuity. In fact, these power brokers are temporary occupants of an office that belongs to the public to serve its interest.
Unfortunately, the public’s vital interest in who represents them in Springfield is not even an afterthought in the current debate on redistricting. That’s why only a relative handful of Illinois’ 118 state House districts and 59 state Senate districts feature real competitive elections every two years.
More’s the pity, and, from all appearances, a permanent one at that.