The following is a guest post from 2-term Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Peter Rousselot. In addition, Peter ran for DPVA Chair last year, although unfortunately he was not victorious. Anyway, thanks to Peter for his thoughts on the Democratic Senate redistricting plan. Let’s hope this kicks off a much-needed discussion!
The Saslaw/Whipple Senate Democratic Caucus redistricting plan should be repudiated. You can check out their plan here.
The Saslaw/Whipple plan should be repudiated because it is the product of top down, hierarchical, dictatorial planning designed to protect individual incumbent Democratic Senators behind a supposed “firewall” to preserve a Democratic majority in the Virginia State Senate. This “planning” is bad policy and bad politics. The general public and editorial writers across the Commonwealth have the common sense to realize that this process is decidedly un-democratic.
Has the Republican majority in the House of Delegates done any better? Of course not! Their re-districting plan for the House of Delegates is just as bad or worse. So what? As Democrats, why should we join them in a race to the bottom? Why not strive for something better–and more effective too? Instead, we are cringing while our supposed Democratic leaders are bragging about being just as, or more devious than, Virginia Republicans.
What’s wrong with this picture?
The Senate Democratic Caucus plan was developed based on a long standing, but fundamentally flawed, perception of the right way to maximize the chances to elect as many Democrats as possible in Virginia. There is no question that one core mission of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) is to elect as many Democrats as possible in every general election.
However, DPVA ought to have no stake whatsoever in insuring (in between general elections) that any particular incumbent Democratic elected official gets to keep his or her current job. Instead, Democratic leaders ought to be working 24/7/365 to strengthen the grassroots of the Democratic Party so that any Democrat’s chances to win anywhere and everywhere are maximized. If incumbent Democratic elected officials want to retain the support of the Democratic grass roots, they should keep doing things to earn that support. If they do, they will richly deserve re-election.
What should be done now?
The Senate Democratic Caucus leadership loudly argues that we all have to hurry up and approve its respective incumbent protection plan. There’s no time to waste, they’ll say, because the necessary DOJ review of their plan will be time-consuming, and we have to get all this done in time for the August 23 primary date.
Don’t be fooled by their scare tactics. There is plenty of time to scrap both the Senate Democratic Caucus plan and the House Republican caucus plan, and instead to adopt one of the non-partisan re-districting plans developed by Virginia’s college and university students.
And you know what? If our legislators need more time to hold hearings in order to consider and adopt one of these non-partisan re-districting plans, there is an easy way for them to do it: all our Democratic incumbents and candidates can run in the current districts in 2011, and then in the new districts in 2012. Virginians have done this before in 1981 and 1982, and we can do it again.
Our new district boundaries have to last for ten years. How do you want to spend those ten years: living in hyper-partisan-drawn districts or living in districts drawn with the public’s welfare uppermost in mind? Wouldn’t it be worth one extra year of waiting in order to get the best result for the next 10 years?
How can you help?
Contact your State Senator and let tell her/him how you feel about this situation. Also, go to one of the few public forums which have been scheduled about these plans, and tell the Virginia Legislature to go back to the drawing board and start over. You can see a list of these public forums here.