by A Siegel
For far too long, the Washington Post‘s editorial page has demonstrated a shallowness about Virginia that has been jaw-droppingly painful at times. As a 10th District resident, the Post’s 2016 endorsement of life-long conservative operator and last-term-in-office Trump-enabler Barbara Comstock remains the poster-child of The Post‘s editorial board’s failure to grok Virginia.
When it comes to Virginia, the (Com)Post struck again this morning, with a poorly thought-through call for the legislature to vote for a deeply flawed constitutional Amendment because, well, much better to seem to be doing something (even if poorly structured and risky for democracy) than to create an appearance of doing nothing by calling a time-out so that we can do something right.
The quick reminder of what at play in the legislative session’s last hours.
- There is a Constitutional Amendment that needs to pass (for the second time) the legislature to be put in front of the voters come this November.
- What started with a good-faith effort to create a truly nonpartisan path for ending gerrymandering and fostering better democracy in the Commonwealth, after a decade of abusive Virginian Republican efforts to deny Virginians a fair say in elections, had a poison pill added at the last moment during the 2019 legislature. Most people didn’t realize its poisonous nature until after it had passed.
- In short, the amendment creates a redistricting commission where any two politicians can sabotage the group’s work and throw the entire process to the Virginia Supreme Court. The Republican-dominated Supreme Court could then act, as it wishes, without any binding rule sets and with no review path or appeal authority.
- A Constitutional Amendment, theoretically intended to end partisan power over redistricting (to end gerrymandering), would put the ultimate (non-reviewable, non-appealable) authority in one of the most structurally partisan bodies in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- As to that last point, the Virginia Supreme Court is composed primarily of Republican appointees including a former Republican Senator and the sister of a Republican Senator. This is far (extremely far) from anything justifiably described as a non-partisan expert body.
Recognizing the problems inherent in and risks of this structure, an alternative is in play: legislate for a nonpartisan process for the coming post-census redistricting, while working on a less-vulnerable-to-political-gamesmanship Constitutional Amendment to guide the process for the decades to come.
Though The Post recognizes this Amendment is “imperfect,” it attacks “Virginia Democrats” who seek to avoid locking into the Constitution a seriously “imperfect” process and who are offering up much stronger “anti-political bias” non-partisan processes as engaged in “political opportunism.”
The Post‘s editorial board’s perspective on the redistricting Amendment is painfully shallow thinking when it comes to Virginia and, more broadly, when it comes to remediating serious problems with American democracy.