Redistricting scandal: GOP was right to smell a rat

For the past five months, California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and some other high-profile GOPers have been saying something was seriously screwy with the electoral maps approved by the state redistricting commission. The California media, however, saw a commission consisting mostly of naifs and regular Joes and found it hard to buy conspiracy talk, so much so that they mocked GOP gripers as paranoid fools who overlooked other, obvious reasons for the party’s declining influence. Full disclosure: Based on the totality of my radio and print remarks, it’s fair to say I was part of this group. Whoops. Talk about a spectacular reversal of fortune. ProPublica’s powerful investigative report detailing how California’s House Democrats manipulated the overwhelmed amateurs in charge of redistricting vindicates the GOP’s concerns a thousand-fold. Kurt Cobain was right: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

This isn’t how it looked before Wednesday. Here’s a small sample of the scorn Del Beccaro faced:

On Dec. 19, the editorial page at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin weighed in:

California Republicans are still assessing the impact of the new congressional map – and still hating it. Republican leaders reportedly fear the 2012 elections could cost the party as many as five of its 19 seats in the state’s 53-member delegation. The implications could be huge, both here and nationally, as Democrats seek to win back the House of Representatives.

Does it have to be this bad for Republicans?

No, if they can put the blame where it belongs – not on the citizens commission that redrew California’s congressional and state-legislative district lines this year, but on their candidates’ failure to connect with the voters in this unique state.

Created by ballot initiatives that many Republicans supported, the independent and politically balanced redistricting panel took this critical process out of the hands of incumbent officeholders, and did a good job of redrawing boundaries with an emphasis on “communities of interest” instead of partisan interests.

On Nov. 23, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial page ripped “the state GOP’s blatantly political challenge to new congressional and state Senate districts.”.

On Oct. 31, the Sac Bee editorial page mocked GOP concerns:

Editorial: On redistricting, GOP should just call it a day

Some people just cannot take no for an answer, no matter how embarrassing the situation becomes.

The California Republican Party’s unrequited desire to overturn the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s work is enough to make you squirm in discomfort.

Now the question is whether the scandal extends beyond congressional boundary drawing to state legislative seats, as Del Becarro believes. An independent investigation is obviously needed.

So far, at least, it appears as if California’s House Democrats plan to depict their subversion of redistricting reform as no big deal. Read the ProPublica report. If you think this is no big deal, you’re probably related to Nancy Pelosi.

Here’s how it looks to New York magazine, an unabashedly liberal publication:

Democrats Used Underhanded Tactics in Redistricting California

On Wednesday, ProPublica published a startling article that meticulously details how California Democrats systematically and repeatedly fooled the bipartisan California Citizens Redistricting Commission into creating districts that that wildly favored Democrats. The new map is expected to cost the GOP several seats.

Let’s be honest here — both parties play hardball on redistricting and just about every other issue under the sun. What’s gone on in Ohio in recent months, for example, makes Democrats’ blood boil, and not without reason.

But what allegedly went on in California feels different. Voters overwhelmingly approved redistricting reforms, but those reforms were subverted — at least in congressional districts — by Democratic operatives who quickly sized up the redistricting commission as chumps ready to be rolled. Then they rolled the chumps — surreptitiously.

That will play differently with the public, I think, then more straightforward redistricting power plays such as the ones seen in Ohio and elsewhere in recent years. We’ll see.

In the mean time, however, we can count on John Burton for comic relief.

Democrats had nothing to do with maneuvering that benefited Democrats? Really, John? Really? Really?

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