Monday, May 9, 2011

Colorado GOP Prepares to Play Victim Card on Congressional Redistricting

In Colorado we are entering the final 3 days of our annual legislative session, the first session in 10 years to feature a divided legislature with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans running the House. As we head into the final days of the session one major outstanding item remains on the agenda - Congressional redistricting. 

Yesterday on Twitter I asked,
Would like to see explanation for why seems so anxious to send redistricting to the courts. Compromise obvsly not an option.
Allow me to proffer an explanation of my own - the state GOP wants a court to intervene and the more lopsided the decision for Democrats the better.

With most legislative issues there is no escape route should the legislature fail to act. If the House and Senate can't agree on a budget to send to the governor then there simply is no budget until they agree. No other branch of government is going to swoop in and save them.

But with redistricting if the two sides can't agree then it is off to the courts where a judge will do the legislature's work for them.

The 2010 census shows that Colorado gained over 700,000 new residents (me included) in the last 10 years. That's not enough for a new Congressional seat but it is enough to require some tweaking of the districts. Democrats have proposed numerous maps that emphasize competitive districts - and, it should be noted, not even Republicans dispute that the maps are genuinely competitive. Republicans though have proved intractable to any sort of compromise and have fought to skew the districts for partisan advantage. The GOP team sent to bipartisan negotiations wasn't actually authorized to agree to terms. The GOP Speaker of the House, Frank McNulty, has consistently undermined negotiations in other ways as well and publicly declared that he sees no hope for compromise nor any reason to bring the legislature back for a special session in order to finish their jobs.

The GOP's intention to refuse any compromise on redistricting has long been clear, but the question remains - why?

Quite simply it's a safe political bet. The population shift in Colorado hasn't been such that we need a major redrawing of our maps. In reality the maps that the Democrats have proposed, with their emphasis on competitiveness, will likely form the basis of any court decision. So if you're the Colorado GOP and compromise or a court decision both get you to essentially the same place why compromise? Instead you can demagogue the Democrats in the legislature, demagogue the judges and courts who have imposed their (read, partisan) will upon the process and fund raise off of the issue for the next 18 months.

The Colorado Republican party figures it can't lose - and given the overwhelming sense of victim-hood amongst its base I think that is a smart and safe bet.

Cross-posted at Progressive Majority

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