A New Hope: SCOTUS to consider fixing gerrymandering

800px-The_Gerry-Mander_Edit

This morning, I was in the middle of reading an E.J. Dionne column tracing the history of the breakdown in civility in our politics — headlined “The destruction of political norms started decades ago. Here’s how it happened” — when I received news of something that could actually reverse the evil process he was writing about:

 

The bulletin said:

Supreme Court to hear potentially landmark case on partisan gerrymandering

The Supreme Court declared Monday that it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted.

The justices regularly are called to invalidate state electoral maps that have been illegally drawn to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes.

But the Supreme Court has never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering. If it does, it would have a revolutionary impact on the reapportionment that comes after the 2020 election and could come at the expense of Republicans, who control the process in the majority of states….

A revolutionary impact, indeed.

A lot of us realize that the perpetual contest between the parties started getting nasty in the 1990s. (Actually, it got bad here and there even before that, but the cancer metastasized in the ’90s — and got much worse each decade after.)

And a huge reason for that is that the parties — particularly the GOP, as the story above notes — got much, much better at drawing people who might vote for the opposite party out of “their” districts.

Consequently, general elections came to mean nothing, and primaries became contests to see which candidate could be more extreme. That poisoned the partisan atmosphere to the point that even races for non-district offices, such U.S. Senate and president, became distorted as well.

And as I’ve said so many times, to the extent there’s a universal cure what what ails us politically, doing away with partisan gerrymandering is it. No single thing could do more to restore our republic.

So I’m pretty pumped about this. You?

68 thoughts on “A New Hope: SCOTUS to consider fixing gerrymandering

  1. Doug Ross

    “No single thing could do more to restore out republic.”

    Except term limits. Which would help to get rid of the long (self) serving politicians who created the maps and drove the partisanship. A Congress without Pelosi’s and McConnell’s and McCain’s and Schumer’s would be a great start.

    Reply
    1. Mark Stewart

      This is not a fully formed conceptualization. It is a short-cut, feel good, response to something far more complicated and multifaceted.

      Term Limits is not a viable structural transformation. It just isn’t; and will not ever be…

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        Except for President and Governors, right?

        Whatever problems exist in our government, it’s blatantly apparent that they were created by politicians who have been in office the longest. Tenure = power, Power = ability to change laws to retain power.

        Just watch the old politicians fight redistricting tooth-and-nail on both sides, depending on which party is in power in a particular state. Just watch any proposal have loopholes written to protect one group or another. You think Jim Clyburn is going to support a district that ISN’T majority black?

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          I’d even settle for an age limit of 72 for any federal office. A purge of the close minded old people at the top would also be beneficial. We don’t need to watch John McCain stagger into obsolescence.

          Reply
        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, as early as the early 90s when he was first elected, Clyburn has said he’d be happy with a less-black district. Why? Because then the delegation might contain another Democrat, or even two.

          You want to get rid of legislators-for-life like Clyburn and Joe Wilson? Draw them into districts where the opposite party is competitive…

          Reply
        3. bud

          Whatever problems exist in our government, it’s blatantly apparent that they were created by politicians who have been in office the longest.

          Actually it is NOT blatantly apparent. Our current president is proof of that.

          Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            Trump is a symptom of the problems created by Pelosi, Boehner, McConnel;, Ryan, and Schumer. Trump didn’t create the system, he was birthed by it.

            Reply
            1. bud

              Doug, the system you decry so vehemently is based on the idea that the people choose who does their bidding in congress. So really your beef is not with the system but the voters. The exception of course is the electoral college where the will of the majority sometimes gets thwarted where the system can in fact deliver a bad outcome like Trump.

              Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Nope. Term limits would have the opposite effect. It would cause every single member of every single legislative body to be someone more extreme than the people they replaced. Everybody elected under less-partisan district lines would be gone. There would be NOTHING left to temper the insanity.

      Redistricting reform (which must start with the courts) comes closest to being that one thing that advocates of term limits think their idea is — a cure-all.

      Not that anything is a panacea, but to the extent there’s a solution that addresses most of the major problems, this is it….

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        “Term limits would have the opposite effect. It would cause every single member of every single legislative body to be someone more extreme than the people they replaced.”

        That’s a complete guess on your part. What you’re saying is that if we could magically term limit Jim Clyburn and Joe Wilson TODAY, that they would each be replaced by someone even more to the left and the right? I don’t buy that for a second. As it stands now, nobody even TRIES to take them on from their own party and never will due to the power of incumbency.

        For me, I’d be more than willing to take the chance if it meant getting rid of Clyburn AND Wilson.

        Reply
  2. Bryan Caskey

    If SCOTUS granted cert, then that means there should be at least four votes to potentially grant some relief. it will be interesting to see the legal arguments made. If the high court is going to make shift in jurisprudence on this issue and wade into what is admittedly a political issue, it could be a landmark case.

    It will certainly be interesting to watch Kennedy on this one. He could be the deciding vote.

    Reply
    1. Bryan Caskey

      “If SCOTUS granted cert, then that means there should be at least four votes to potentially grant some relief.”

      Actually, upon looking at the procedural posture a bit more, I’m not sure this is entirely correct. This isn’t a normal case in procedural terms. Typically, a case is argued at the district court level- the trial court. (For example, at the Federal Courthouse here in Columbia over on Richland Street.)

      Then, an aggrieved party can appeal to the appellate court for that district. In our example, that would be the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in Richmond, VA. the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals takes and decides (in some manner) every appeal that is filed. Thereafter, an aggrieved party has the Supreme Court left.

      However, the Supreme Court doesn’t take every case. Of the thousand and thousands of petitions they get, the Court only takes about 75-80 each year in a process that is called certiorari. Basically, for almost all cases, the Supreme Court decides whether or not it even wants to consider the case.

      Mostly, the Supreme Court takes cases to resolve “circuit splits” (For instance, say the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals came to a different legal conclusion than the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did. In that case, there would be differing federal law in South Carolina and California.) The Supreme Court can then decide one of those cases and unify the law.

      In this particular case, that’s not what happened. The Plaintiffs (challenging the gerrymander) brought their action under a particular part of the federal code that implicated a three judge panel at the first level – as opposed to just one judge. This federal procedure then has a direct appeal to the US Supreme Court, skipping the step of going to the Court of Appeals. Accordingly, I’m not sure how discretional this case was or was not for the US Supreme Court.

      Another thing to bear in mind – The Plaintiffs (the folks challenging the gerrrymander) won at the three judge panel, 2-1. So the aggrieved party are the folks who drew the lines. Normally (and this isn’t a normal case) when the Supreme Court takes a case, it’s to change something. That’s because if the Supreme Court is happy with the lower court’s result, they can just do nothing and the result stands.

      Accordingly, it’s possible that the votes to take the case (if that was done, and I’m not sure about that point) could have been to take this case and reverse the lower three judge panel.

      Having said that, it’s not a knowable thing to know why a case is being heard. Only the Justices know that, and they don’t talk about it.

      But it’s an atypical case, procedurally speaking. Is everyone sufficiently confused now? :)

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        “For instance, say the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals came to a different legal conclusion than the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did.”

        In that case, I would think SCOTUS would simply say, Duh, what did you expect?

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Of course, my joke is based in the conventional wisdom back when I followed these things more closely than I do now — which is that the 4th was the most conservative circuit, and the 9th consisted of aliens from Mars and/or Venus.

          That could have changed somewhat. In fact, I think I read something lately that seemed to indicate it HAD changed…

          Reply
          1. Bryan Caskey

            Yeah, the 9th is more less the same, being still heavily dominated by judges appointed under Democratic Presidents. However, the 4th is very much transformed from its old conservative reputation. Obama put a lot of judges on the 4th Circuit, and a fair assessment of it would be that it tilts toward that viewpoint.

            Trump could change that, though. There are a fair number of vacancies on the federal bench.

            Reply
  3. Mark Stewart

    This is at least some part of Washington holding the Constitution before party.

    This isn’t a Republican or a Democratic issue. This is an American issue as to how we are going to maintain a fair and level playing field for political ideas. I hope a landmark ruling does come of this. We all need one.

    Reply
  4. Bryan Caskey

    “This is at least some part of Washington holding the Constitution before party.”

    Well….I’m not entirely convinced that politics is unconstitutional. Doing something for purely political ends may certainly be a bad idea in policy, and it may be destructive to the functioning of Congress as a deliberative body that is capable of compromise….but there’s not a line in the Constitution about good ideas and bad ideas.

    Political gerrymandering has been around since the founding of our country. There were allegations that Patrick Henry tried to (unsuccessfully) gerrymander James Madison out of the First Congress.

    The picture at the top of this post is from 1812, I believe.

    It’s also noteworthy that the Constitution provides a remedy for gerrymandering. Art. 1 Section 4 of the Constitution does give Congress the ability to “make or alter” the districts. So, there’s a political way to resolve the issue without necessarily going to SCOTUS.

    I think that’s a problem for people who want to see SCOTUS as a place where you can go to get rid of bad policies and ill-conceived laws. As Justice Marshall famously said ““[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Marbury v. Madison

    Sometimes the law says that the judiciary has no business getting involved in political questions.

    I’m not saying that I’m in favor or political gerrymandering. I think I’ve been quite clear that it’s a bad practice. However, as someone who has respect for the rule of law, I do not believe it is appropriate to equate “bad idea” with “unconstitutional”.

    Show me a legal way to get there, and I’m all ears. I just think the path is fraught with problems.
    1. How does the court decide what is a political gerrymander and what is not? That’s not the province of a court.
    2. Where’s the line?
    3. What’s the limiting factor?

    These are all difficult questions that anyone advocating for a judicial solution to this issue must grapple with and address.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “The picture at the top of this post is from 1812, I believe.”

      Here’s Wikipedia on that cartoon:

      Printed in March 1812, this political cartoon was drawn in reaction to the newly drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor the Democratic-Republican Party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists. The caricature satirizes the bizarre shape of a district in Essex County, Massachusetts, as a dragon-like “monster”. Federalist newspaper editors and others at the time likened the district shape to a salamander, and the word gerrymander was a blend of that word and Governor Gerry’s last name.

      Reply
  5. Scout

    You are just begging for a Star Wars quote here, calling this A New Hope. So I will do my best. Let’s just pretend that Obi Wan is talking about legislatures that gerrymander instead of Mos Eisley here:

    Reply
    1. bud

      Bryan this case probably is an interesting one that would make for a lively discussion of the constitution and case law. Since I’m not really all that familiar with case law and can only offer a layman’s gut sense of the case I would be outclassed in any academic discussion. However, given the horrible decisions made by the SCOTUS in recent years I don’t believe the law much matters. If 5 justices agree on a ruling they can craft an argument to suit that ruling. The SCOTUS is the one branch of government that I’m more cynical than Doug about actual doing their job as the constitution intended. I pretty much gave up on them with this decision:

      Glossip v. Gross, No. 14-7955, 576 U.S. ___ (2015) was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held 5-4 that lethal injections using midazolam do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court found that condemned prisoners can only challenge their method of execution after providing a known and available alternative method.

      “a known and available alternative method”?? Really? That’s absurd. How can I respect this outfit when they so flagrantly ignore the words of the Constitution:

      Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

      Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        Bud,

        They had hangings and firing squads back then. You don’t think all drugs are more humane than either of those? Splitting the hairs between different life-ending drug options is just that; splitting hairs.

        Cruel would be being drawn and quartered. Something painful and vicious.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, I would say the very first thing that was on their minds with that “cruel and unusual” bit was drawing and quartering. It does’t get much nastier than that. Unless you want to talk crucifixion, which take a lot longer.

          I’m strongly opposed to capital punishment, but I can’t for a moment argue that the Framers meant to ban it. I think they were pretty OK with hanging.

          And as I’ve said before, if I’m going be executed and for whatever reason I’m allowed to choose the method, I’m going with firing squad. Get it over with, and don’t try to skirt around the fact that you’re engaging in an act of extreme violence….

          Reply
          1. Bryan Caskey

            “And as I’ve said before, if I’m going be executed and for whatever reason I’m allowed to choose the method, I’m going with firing squad.”

            In my opinion, it certainly has more dignity than a hanging. With the firing squad, you have the last cigarette, the refusal of the blindfold, and looking the squad in the eye. With a hanging, it feels less dignified.

            Maybe that’s a weird opinion.

            Reply
    2. Scout

      I was going to say something kind of similar. I’m very interested, but don’t feel educated enough in the details of the laws involved to know how to state my opinion. I do hope that somebody in our government has the wherewithal to change the gerrymandering thing – whether it be the Congress or the Supreme Court. You seem to be suggesting (if I understood correctly) that it wouldn’t be for the Supreme Court to do, technically, but that rather it should be the Congress. I don’t know which is right. I hope the Supreme Court is allowed to do it and that they will – because I feel there is a greater chance of them taking action than Congress (for multiple reasons – 1) they can’t get anything done anyway and 2) they especially wouldn’t get this done since they have a conflict of interest).

      So help me Supreme Court, you’re my only hope. :)

      Reply
      1. Bryan Caskey

        You seem to be suggesting (if I understood correctly) that it wouldn’t be for the Supreme Court to do, technically, but that rather it should be the Congress.

        Correct. That’s been the approach that the Court has historically taken. Essentially, the Court has said: This is a political issue, and it’s not for us to decide political issues. I don’t think that’s wrong. Also, it has the benefit of not tainting the Court with politics which is a good thing.

        Reply
        1. Mark Stewart

          On the other hand, it is not a political issue in that it is a question of whether or not everyone’s vote is being fully valued as it should under the Constitution. Since the parties have shown, especially now with the technology available, that they cannot operate within “normal” political bounds with respect to gerrymandering, it seems quite possible that the Supreme Court is looking to make a ruling on an issue that Congress has failed on – because it cannot but do otherwise given the issue (districting) at hand.

          I think that’s the compelling case here. The legalities of the process by which it reached the Supreme Court, and why, I know nothing about. But the impacts of gerrymandering – especially now – is clearly corrosive to our nation and an affront to our Constitution. It would seem that the Court recognizes that reality – and that they have some certainty that they will be able to reach a consensus which will profoundly impact the status quo. How we will have to wait and see…

          Reply
  6. Burl Burlingame

    Term limits? Yes, turn the reins of government over to amateurs and flavors of the day. And things will actually get done by unelected bureaucrats.

    Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        No, now most things at the Federal level are done by private legal firms and other “consulting” entities…

        Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      Who is talking about amateurs? I think 2 years should be enough time for ANYONE to understand how government is supposed to work. And then give them 10 more to do the job. Then take 2 years off and run after that or just run for a different office without a break. A two year break in Jim Clyburn’s tenure might not be a bad thing — voters might realize there are other options OR if Clyburn was really respected, he’d have no trouble winning again after the break. So, essentially, they would have the chance to serve 24 out of every 26 years. How horrible!!!

      Term limits doesn’t mean you only serve X years in your life. Just how long you can serve consecutively. How can this be SO damaging?

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        “I think 2 years should be enough time for ANYONE to understand how government is supposed to work.”

        That’s not the case in my experience. Of course, learning curves vary. There are people who walk in ready. For instance, my state representative and Bryan’s kinsman, Micah Caskey. I definitely made the right call when I didn’t run against that guy, and I’m quite pleased with his service so far. He’s been exercising leadership as a freshman.

        But that is exceedingly unusual…

        For instance, after three terms in the House, Nikki Haley still had a lot to learn — which is why, although I liked her personally, I was alarmed when she ran for governor. And I was right. In her first term, she demonstrated again and again how unready she was. But I was pleased to see her grow into the job in her second term.

        And I think she’s gotten better over time at the fast-learning thing, based on what I’ve seen of her performance at the U.N., another job for which she had no background — yet I haven’t seen the kinds of embarrassing mistakes that marked her first term as governor.

        But I digress…

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          I guess she’ll just have to suffer the stigma of your low expectations in contrast to her achievements. Had she only stayed where she was for another decade or two, she might be ready for bigger things. Oh well, when she’s a VP candidate in 2020 or 2024 she’ll have to look back on what might have been.

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            And you think that’s what matters — her ambitions and whether she realizes them for herself — as opposed to whether she’s good at the job. Is that right?

            In any case, as I say, she’s learning to learn faster, which is a good thing…

            Reply
          2. Claus2

            2020, won’t that be the year Brad traces his ancestry back to his 146th great grandfather living in a cave in Africa? I expect we’ll hear about how he was the clan chief. In 2024 we’ll hear about how his 462nd great grandfather learned how to live on dry land.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              That would be wonderful, but unfortunately I think we’re stuck with the generations that have come along since the development of writing.

              I’m sorry if y’all don’t dig the genealogy thing, but I find it to be tremendous fun, and like to share.

              Of course, all of you who are predominantly of European ancestry are descended from Charlemagne — so being descended from royalty is no biggie. The fun thing is figuring out HOW. And I’ve been having a lot of fun doing that lately.

              Actually, I’ve spent far less time the last couple of months with nobility in the Middle Ages, and a lot more trying to flesh out the recent centuries — adding the siblings that will connect me to other living people today.

              Fun stuff like (and forgive me if I mentioned this before)… some months back, I found that my great-great-great grandmother Ann Eliza Woodward of Marion County (1832-1879) had three sisters who married men with the surname “Stalvey.” I figured that meant I HAD to be somehow related to Allan Stalvey, who lobbies for the SC Hospital Association. So I decided I’d take to time to work it out detective-style.

              Turns out that we’re not related by blood (or not so I could find), but I was able to put him on the tree and show the connections, some by blood, some by marriage. (Ready for it? He’s my 1st cousin 2x removed of husband of 4th great-aunt) And I told him about it, and fortunately he didn’t think I was crazy, and we had a good time talking genealogy….

              Reply
              1. Richard

                How does every person with European ancestry come from Charlemagne? I mean I’m sure there were others in his community that had nothing to do with him.

                That’s like saying that 400 years from now everyone with South Carolinian ancestry can trace their family history back to Brad Warthen.

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  No, more like 1,000 or 1,500 years from now. The people we’re descended from, AND the people who are descended from us, increase exponentially into both the past and the future, to the point that yeah, you’re descended from practically everybody and practically everyone is descended from you, if you go far enough out.

                  Here’s an explanation. You can find a bunch more if you Google “everyone is descended from charlemagne”…

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  That’s why it’s no biggie that I long ago lost count of how any kings I’m directly descended from. But it doesn’t keep me from having fun tracing things back that far — or figuring out how I’m related to this or that person today.

                  For instance, it was a lot of fun when I realized some months ago that the woman in the office next to mine at ADCO is married to my 3rd cousin once removed — I guy I don’t even know, but I enjoyed the process of making the connection…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        And the “damaging” thing about terms limits is that they are arbitrary.

        In one case, it may be fine, even a welcome relief, for a certain lawmaker to time out. But in another, we could be losing an excellent member who will be sorely needed over the next couple of years.

        Voters should at least have the option of re-electing that excellent member. Granted, the voters don’t always exhibit the best of judgment, but if we’re going to have a republic, let’s have one, and not forbid the voters to elect this or that person…

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          There are no excellent members. An excellent member would have to achieve something, right? I know you think Vincent Sheheen is excellent based on, I suppose, pushing to get more 4 year old kids into organized daycare (results TBD but not promising). How about Senator Courson? Excellent? Hugh Leatherman? Excellent?

          As I said, there’s no ban on moving to a different office after the term limited tenure. That might drive us toward BETTER legislators if a sitting Senator had to face a term limited Legislator who didn’t want to sit out for two years. The best people would theoretically bubble up the chain.

          Reply
            1. Claus2

              Don’t think Obama didn’t try to get that changed. If Trump beat Hillary (the best the Democrats could come up with), there’s a chance that Trump would have beat Obama who had 8 years to try and accomplish “Hope and Change” and failed.

              Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Speaking of which…

                  Personally, I’m ambivalent about term limits for the executive. I can argue for it either way. It’s a better way of keeping a demagogue from becoming king than stabbing him to death under Pompey’s statue. At the same time, thank God we didn’t have such limits preventing FDR from leading us through the war, right up until the very end.

                  But term limits for the executive and term limits for legislators are very different things. The dynamics are different, and the potential danger to the republic different, with the executive. It’s a qualitative rather than quantitative difference…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yes, Vincent IS an excellent senator. We had fresh evidence of that when he led the roads bill conference committee to come up with something that would pass both chambers with veto-proof margins.

            That sort of accomplishment — after years of the General Assembly failing to pass a roads plan — is the very essence of legislative leadership.

            I ask Lynn, as the one person who knows the most about the ins and outs of how the Legislature works, since she’s there all the time: Do you not agree?

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Interestingly, though… and Doug, you should like this… when the Greater Columbia Chamber recently had a panel discussion on the just-completed session, its panel consisted of two regular newcomers. The Chamber invited Shane Massey from the Senate and Micah Caskey from the House.

              Micah, of course, is a mere freshman — but an exceptional one, as I noted earlier today. I’d go for term limits immediately if I knew it would lead to electing a General Assembly full of Micah Caskeys. And then, once they were in, I’d vote to do away with the term limits…

              Shane Massey has 10 years of service and is now Majority Leader, but he still has that Young Turk vibe. If you want to point to someone who’s the most fervent opponent of the entrenched power of Hugh Leatherman, Shane Massey’s your guy. And again, this is an argument against term limits. Massey is a reformer, as fervent about it as he was on Day One, and after a decade he’s just coming into his own, just getting to where he has influence.

              I just thought it was interesting that the Chamber chose those two to comment on the session. I meant to write about it on the blog, but I wanted to feel out Chamber folks to try to get a sense of why they were chosen instead of some of the Mustache Petes, but time got away from me…

              Reply
              1. Doug Ross

                ” Massey is a reformer, as fervent about it as he was on Day One, and after a decade he’s just coming into his own, just getting to where he has influence.”

                That’s hilarious. So after a decade, he might be ready to start changing things? Welcome to government. You actually think taking a decade to reach the lowest rungs of power is a good thing… amazing.

                The only thing that will change SC state government is the grim reaper making a house call.

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Doug, that is not what I said. I said that since he now HAS some power, it would be a lousy time to say, “This is your last term, pal.” I truly believe that if you got to know Massey, you’d hate to see him go.

                  In fact, I pointed out that Micah Caskey is already an influential member of the House, by virtue of his intelligence and talents. Of course, I also said he is highly unusual in that regard…

                2. Doug Ross

                  Ok, I’ll await the reform that he will lead so I can be proven wrong. Will that be this decade or next? Just trying to get a handle on when the power module gets turned on and he starts making changes.

                  Now, pick a dozen more state legislators who have been in office for more than two decades and tell me what they’ve done lately.

                3. Doug Ross

                  Here’s some names to pick through. Which are excellent?

                  Dwight Loftis, 20 years on the job
                  Brad Hutto, 21 years
                  Hugh Leatherman, 36 years.
                  John Courson, 32 years.
                  Larry Grooms, 20 years.
                  Nikki Setzler, 40 years. What exactly have been his major achievements?

                  These are the best and the brightest minds with the experience to lead SC forward? That’s your position?

                4. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Doug, I don’t get why you keep trying to talk about something other than what I said. We were talking about Massey and Caskey, relative newcomers, and I was saying good things about them. I was thinking we could find some common ground with regard to them. But you seem determined to have an argument about other people.

                  And no, I cannot give you a list of their accomplishments because I have not kept such a list. I know that I’m pleased with Nikki as my senator, but that’s a cumulative thing that I can’t quantify for you — I simply like the way he has addressed issues over time. But I haven’t kept a list — “here’s good stuff Nikki has done; here’s bad stuff Nikki has done.”

                  What tends to be in my mind is what people have done recently. Such as Sheheen’s leadership at a critical moment on roads. Or to reach back a bit, the fact that the flag legislation Nikki Haley urged the Senate to pass was Sheheen’s — because he had been for taking the flag down back when she was for keeping it up.

                  As for what Nikki Setzler has done lately that I like, well, one is totally selfish: He’s an adamant opponent of DOT destroying my subdivision. The other is more the kind of thing I like to talk about: His push for reapportionment reform — it’s quixotic, but you can’t change anything if you don’t try, and keep trying.

                  And Doug, I’m sorry if you were bothered by the Ayn Rand thing. But didn’t she tend to write about bright, exceptional individuals standing alone against the inferior world to accomplish great things? Didn’t she prize the drive of the individual against the backward pull of collectivism? Is there another author out there you’d rather I invoke when I’m trying to make that point?

                5. Doug Ross

                  You can name any author you feel like. You’re trying to associate me with some novel as if that represents my beliefs. I’m not Howard Roark or John Galt. If you want to pick an author to associate with my views, maybe Studs Terkel or Tom Peters would be better.

                  It goes back to your basic premise that legislators need years of experience to become effective and attain power. I presented you a list of legislators who have been in office for decades and would assume that they would be very effective after so much time there. If the best you can come up with for Nikki Setzler is a road in your neighborhood and failed efforts on another objective, I’d suggest his experience isn’t worth jack squat and maybe someone else should be given a shot at doing something.

                6. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Well, I disagree. (And another person would only be better than Nikki on, say, reapportionment if that person could accomplish more on it than he can. And you’d have a tough time convincing me or anyone else of that. The political obstacles are insurmountable, which is why I’m clinging to hope on this court case. But in the meantime, I’d much rather have someone who tries to fight gerrymandering and fails than someone who doesn’t try.)

                  But seriously, I hope you can meet Micah or Shane Massey sometime. I think you’d like both of them.

                  See how I’m trying to find things we might agree on?

                7. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “You can name any author you feel like.”

                  How about Ibsen? The protagonist of “An Enemy of the People” has quite a lot of contempt for the mob.

                  When I was in high school, I loved citing his line to the effect that “the majority is always wrong.” I was a bit of a Raskolnikov when I was young. I tempered my views as I grew older…

            2. Doug Ross

              He’s a middle manager at Arby’s putting out a new line of roast beef sandwiches.

              You set the bar SO low in terms of excellence. Serving on a committee to get a bill approved that is basically a compromise that will achieve very little… that’s EXCELLENT.

              Excellent was Nikki Haley getting the Confederate Flag down in rapid fashion. Execution and leadership matter… not serving on committees and passing watered down bills.

              Reply
              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Yes, what Nikki did was wonderful. That was the moment when she came into her own as a leader.

                But you are dead wrong to dismiss true legislative leadership. Sheheen didn’t “serve on” that committee; he LED it, and did so very effectively.

                The reason we finally got a roads bill is because of the legislative leadership provided by Lucas in the House, Sheheen in the Senate and a number of others.

                I realize that because it involves working with other people instead of being an Ayn Rand radical individual, you don’t value it. But it’s a profoundly important form of leadership in a republic….

                Reply
                1. Doug Ross

                  Ayn Rand. Nice comeback.

                  I work with people all day long, every day. The difference is we get things done.

  7. Burl Burlingame

    Aren’t “elections” the same as “term limits”? Just throwing that out there. You want a politician removed, run a better replacement. And don’t cheat to keep your guy in place by gerrymandering.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, they are. And the great thing about elections is that they allow voters to apply term limits or not, as they please. Whereas term limits take away their right to keep electing someone if that’s what they like.

      Of course, I’ll grant that with incumbents drawing their own lines and finding it easier to raise funds, plus having the name-recognition advantage, voters are seldom offered a real choice, which is why they keep re-electing incumbents that they may not be crazy about.

      But I’ll say it again — the answer to that is to change the reapportionment process so that the districts aren’t drawn to favor the incumbent in the future…

      Reply
    2. Richard

      You’re obviously not clear on how things work in South Carolina. Once someone dies in office, someone else gets elected to that seat and they stay in it until they die in office. Strom Thurmond had nursing staff around him 24/7/365 the last few years of his life.

      Reply

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