Okay, we’re exaggerating a little bit, but only a little bit. And we’re hoping that God, the gods, or the cosmic yin and yang of the universe punish us by proving us wrong.
But let’s be serious. It really doesn’t matter how much Donald Trump implodes. It really doesn’t matter how inconsistent, incoherent, or non-existent his policy proposals are. It really doesn’t matter how many women he has sexually assaulted. It really doesn’t matter how much it is exposed that his campaign is now employing the tactics and policies of the National Socialists of 1930s Germany. It really doesn’t matter if Hillary Clinton wins 80% of the popular vote. None of it matters when it comes to the Democrats winning the U.S. House of Representatives, for one reason: gerrymandering.
If there is one unabashedly-corrupt element in American politics it is gerrymandering.
Both major parties do it when they’re in control and the only ones who can fix it are the ones doing it. Each of us, in whatever state we vote in, thus has a responsibility for electing those committed to fixing it.
Let’s look at how directly it affects us in Prince William County. Here’s the map of Virginia’s 1st Congressional District, held by Republican Congressman Rob Wittman.
This is an example of what the Republican majority in Virginia’s legislature (who are the ones that set district boundaries) consider a compact, contiguous, community of interest. In fact, it’s drawn precisely to ensure that a Republican cannot lose the district. Republicans could run a hand tool named Alan Wrench against Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan and still win the seat.
Let’s look at one even closer to home.
This is Republican Richard Anderson’s 51st District in the House of Delegates.
Here’s an approximation of what the district, and a more reasonable idea of compact, contiguous communities of interest, looked like in 2009, when Anderson first ran for office against incumbent Democrat, Paul Nichols.
In that race, which featured an overwhelming Republican Tea Party wave that brought in Governor Bob McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and a host of new Republican members of the House of Delegates, Rich Anderson won by a mere 269 votes out of more than 15,000 cast – 50.8% of the vote.
He won on the back of the Republican wave, as many will recall, by running a smear campaign against his opponent, Paul Nichols, which included fraudulent TV ads and mailers insinuating that his opponent had been arrested years before for drunk driving. Of course, it was later revealed that Nichols was not only not driving in the incident that Anderson referenced, but wasn’t even in the car that got pulled over. Charges against Nichols had been dropped long before. But the truth didn’t matter to the evangelical Christian, Rich Anderson.
Once Anderson secured his victory he worked to have his district redistricted into the shape it is today, where the idea of a compact, contiguous community of interest lumps Lake Ridge together with, wait for it — Brentsville and Nokesville.
In his 2013 race against Democrat Reed Heddleston, Anderson won by 1,839 votes – 53.7% of the vote. Even without some of the Democratic precincts from the prior district and with all of the Republican ones, Heddleston beat Anderson in the old 51st District, but was beaten handily in the gerrymandered one.
In short, but for gerrymandering that makes a mockery out of the concept of communities of interest, Rich Anderson would have been a one term delegate. Instead, thanks to gerrymandering, Republicans could again run an inanimate object and win the 51st district over George Washington himself.
There is a bigger threat to American democracy than much of what we hear about in today’s Presidential race. It’s partisan redistricting of the kind that has given Prince William County the 51st district. If you care about this threat to American democracy, go to One Virginia 2021.