A few weeks back I wrote a piece about the decision by Judge Terry Lewis throwing out the reapportioned congressional district map.
It suited at least one Republican incumbent and was custom tailored, as part of a Faustian bargain made with African-American Democrats, to guarantee Corrine Brown a seat.
That patently obvious observation touched off an angry letter to the Herald (not so the Twin City News where this column also runs) accusing me of being an Oracle of Asininity. An oracle is one through whom the gods speak and while I appreciate the compliment, I think Judge Lewis was closer to being an oracle than I. Judge Lewis and the Florida Legislature are of a similar mind for, as I write, the solons are busily trying to redraw a map that is honest and fair. That two districts were affected automatically means there is a ripple effect if you change the lines. Ms. Brown’s pendulous district, that started in Jacksonville and went almost all the way to Orlando in search of black majority voters, will be retailored having an interesting effect on neighboring districts. I’m sure there will be extensive hankie-wringing as to how hard it is. It’s tough to tweak and not get caught. I suspect this to be the case after being treated to Speaker Will Weatherford telling a TV reporter he was shocked to find the degree to which the previous lines had been drawn by Republican consultants. To quote the famous line from Casablanca, “ I am shocked, shocked!” It all adds to the melodrama.
If it weren’t so serious it would be funny. Tilting the table is as old as politics itself. The old Pork Chop Gang made sure that Wakulla County with 5,000 population had an equal voice in the Senate with Dade County. Republicans were confined to the back row of the House, not because there weren’t many, but because they were carefully excluded from the possibility of winning outside of Pinellas County. As the French say, “Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose.”
But if we are to grow up as a democracy this kind of nonsense has to stop and now’s as good a time as any. Florida is a swing state, split almost 50-50, but its Legislature does not reflect that fact and, until now, neither has its congressional delegation. Fairly drawn districts mean that extremists from the left or right lose, moderates win and we get reasonable, fair-minded lawmakers who understand compromise. When that happens we get sound, sensible laws.
Nationally we have rigged Congress to consist of two screaming heaps of extremists, true believers who think give and take is un-American and compromise is a dirty word. The result is that pointless, do-nothing assembly on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Florida has a chance to lead the way for the rest of the nation. Come August 20 Judge Lewis will consider delaying the primary giving the parties time to rethink running their weirdest “true believers” in favor of those who can compete in fairly drawn districts. Let’s hope when the Legislature adjourns the result will prompt others to say, “See, Florida can do it. Why not us?”