Tag Archives: republicans

Republicans Got Greedy With Gerrymandering. Now It’s Coming Back To Haunt Them. “It just was so nakedly partisan.”

When Thomas Hofeller travelled across the country at the beginning of the decade to talk to lawmakers about the redistricting process, he brought a warning: “Don’t get cute.”

Republicans were fresh off a remarkably successful effort to take control of state legislatures so they could control the redistricting process ― a significant victory, because redistricting is only done every 10 years. Hofeller, a veteran Republican redistricting consultant and mapmaker, cautioned lawmakers against drawing “stupid irregularities” in boundaries obviously contorted to include voters likely to support them, The Atlantic reported.

But in 2011, Republicans were focused on maximizing every possible advantage they could squeeze out of the redistricting project, and saw an opportunity to entrench their control of at least 20 seats in the U.S. House. They took it.

Republicans have since enjoyed considerable advantage from those maps. According to an estimate by the Brennan Center for Justice, Republican gerrymandering accounts for 16 or 17 GOP seats in the current Congress that the party may not otherwise control.

But now, that gerrymandering greed of Republicans is coming back to haunt them.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January struck down the congressional map state Republicans drew, saying it was so partisan that it violated the state constitution. That same month, a panel of three federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in a Wisconsin case may set a standard for defining unconstitutional gerrymandering on partisan grounds. (The court also will consider a case challenging a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland at the end of March.)

As these legal contests settle out, it’s worth looking back on how the GOP got here.

The reckoning Republicans are seeing now is one that could have been avoided, lawyers and redistricting experts say, had the GOP not been so ruthless.

Both Democrats and Republicans have gerrymandered in the past to their advantage, but Republicans took it to a new level in 2011. In an amicus brief to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, political science professors Keith Gaddie and Bernard Grofman wrote that there was as much as three times more partisan bias in congressional maps this decade than in ones drawn in 2000. Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at the University of Chicago helping challenge a Wisconsin map, said a “dramatic number” of the worst gerrymanders of the last half-century have occurred since 2010.

Until the courts began stepping in, Republican gerrymandering paid off. From 2012 to 2016, the GOP won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional seats, even though the party’s candidates only got around half of the vote. In Ohio, the party consistently won 12 of 16 congressional seats, but 50 percent of the statewide vote. In Wisconsin, they won at least 60 of 99 state assembly seats, with about half of the popular vote.

As a lawyer, Stephanopoulos said the clear egregiousness of the Republican redistricting made it easier to show something was amiss. It would have been harder to make a case, he said, if Republicans had only been winning slim majorities.

“In Wisconsin, if Republicans had been winning a narrow majority of the statehouse with roughly a tied election, Democrats would have been upset by that, but it probably wouldn’t have risen to a major constitutional challenge,” Stephanopoulos said.

Republican mapmakers in 2011 may have been emboldened by a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court case in which justices declined to strike down Pennsylvania’s congressional plan on partisan grounds.

Republicans could have been cautious. They could have drawn maps that benefitted their party, but at the same time were fairer, compact and contiguous, said Jeffrey Wice, a Washington lawyer who has worked with Democrats on redistricting issues. The Constitution gives state lawmakers the broad responsibility of drawing electoral districts, and the GOP maps would have stood up better against judicial scrutiny had lawmakers offered public justification in their legislatures for the boundaries, Wice added.

“You can draw a plan to benefit a party, but do so in a fair way through a more transparent, objective process that follows criteria,” Wice said. “If politicians weren’t as greedy and secretive, then we wouldn’t be seeing as many challenges to plans for the egregious overreaching in the last round.”

In many cases, Republicans didn’t offer a defensible justification. In North Carolina, a Republican said his party’s lawmakers drew a map that gave Republicans a 10-3 advantage because he didn’t see a way to draw one that was 11-2. In Wisconsin, GOP lawmakers sought to avoid scrutiny by hiring a law firm to draw the maps, hoping the work would be hidden by attorney-client privilege.

Without a public explanation for the redrawn boundaries, it’s easier for those challenging the maps to claim Republicans intended to dilute Democratic votes.

Michael Li, redistricting counsel at the Brennan Center, pointed to the GOP-drawn congressional map in Pennsylvania as a good example of a brazen Republican attempt to maximize control. The districts were clearly contorted into odd-looking shapes, and there was no attempt to explain why ― other than partisan advantage.

“The 2011 map in Pennsylvania resulted in such contorted districts, it was hard to explain away as product of neutral decisions, such as about keeping towns or counties together. It just was so nakedly partisan,” Li said in an email. ”That’s not to say a map that was less contorted couldn’t have been challenged if it also produced durable bias in favor of a party. But at least there would be a colorable defense that a court would have to take seriously.”

Such strong evidence also could make it more palatable for courts to wade into political redistricting ― a topic the judiciary had long avoided.

“The courts are going to police outlier cases, rather than trying to wade into each and every one,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “The same principle’s true in any kind of discrimination: The more blatant, the easier it is to establish, and the more likely the courts are to call it out.”

Even if the Supreme Court does decide Republicans went too far with gerrymandering, its anticipated ruling in the spring would likely come too late to affect this year’s congressional elections, and wouldn’t have an impact on maps until at least 2020. Even if Republicans lose the ability to gerrymander in the future, their ruthlessness will have helped them for nearly an entire decade.

Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chair who oversaw the party’s effort to target state legislatures, envisioned that kind of success. In 2011 talking points, obtained by journalist David Daley, Gillespie thanked donors who had given to the party’s effort to make gains in state legislatures. He said Republicans hadn’t waste a “drop” of their money on state races, and had made “maximum impact.”

By Sam Levine/HuffPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Brain surgery is no match for running HUD, a frustrated Carson says

Image: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Before Ben Carson accepted President Donald Trump’s offer to become secretary of housing and urban development, a friend implored him to turn down the job to preserve the reputation he had earned as a brilliant neurosurgeon and lost, in part, as a politician.

The confidant, Logan Delany Jr., who was the treasurer of Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign, described HUD as a “swamp” of “corruption.” He predicted in an email that Carson’s “lack of a background in housing” would make him prey to the department’s career staff and political appointees, as well as predatory lobbyists.

To drive home the point, Delany appended a link toan obituary of Samuel R. Pierce Jr., the Reagan-era HUD secretary whose reputation as a trailblazing black corporate lawyer was tarnished by accusations that he steered contracts to Republican cronies.

Carson’s efforts to steer the agency toward programs that foster self-sufficiency, one of his stated goals, have been undermined by staffing mistakes, his indecisiveness and a president indifferent, at best, to the department’s mission of helping the poor, according to two dozen current and former HUD and administration officials

More from WRAL

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Georgia Lawmakers Punish Delta Air Lines Over NRA Feud

Republican lawmakers in Georgia made good on a threat to eliminate a proposed tax break for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, after the carrier declined to reverse a decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association.

Earlier this week, Delta — the state’s largest private employer, with 33,000 workers statewide — was among numerous companies to announce that it would end discounts for NRA members in the wake of the mass shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school.

Ignoring warnings that taking on Delta could harm the state’s pro-business image, the GOP-controlled House, which had earlier approved a larger tax bill containing the exemption, voted 135-24 on Thursday for a new version stripped of the provision. Meanwhile, some experts have raised First Amendment concerns over the legislature’s punitive move.

More from NPR

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5 Places Hypocritical Republicans Ban Guns for Their Own Personal Safety Do as they say, not as they do.

After every mass shooting, a portion of this country insists the real problem is that there aren’t enough guns. The group that pushes this absurd lie includes Republican politicians, many of whom fear that admitting otherwise would drive away NRA donor funds. There’s been a lot of recent discussion about how GOP legislators do nothing in response to gun massacres, but a 2016 Harvard Business School study proves that’s not quite true. In states with overwhelmingly Republican legislative bodies, after mass shootings, “the number of laws passed to loosen gun restrictions [increases] by 75 percent.” Despite being counterintuitive and demonstrably dangerous, more firepower is the GOP’s go-to solution because “something something don’t tread on me.”

It’s a bad-faith proposition. A party that truly believes guns are the way out of this thing, and that an even more heavily armed populace will ensure American safety, would make different personal choices. In fact, we can gauge GOP disingenuousness on the gun issue just by noting all the places Republican politicians frequent where weapons are banned. Pointing out their hypocrisy has never helped to shame the GOP into decency, but it’s worth a review nonetheless.

Here are five places hypocritical Republicans ban guns in order to ensure their own personal safety.

1. The White House

Along with making Mexico pay billions for a wall it opposed and never taking a golfing vacation, Trump promised on the campaign trail to legislate a future in which guns could legally be brought into every kindergarten classroom and nursery. “My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day,” Trump told supporters in Vermont in 2016. “There’s no more gun-free zones.”

While it’s true no president could unilaterally scrap federal law, it’s also true that Trump’s complicit Republican Congress would probably greenlight any pro-gun horrorshow he could dream up. Yet, in the year since he took office, Trump has not spoken out once—even via his digital bullhorn at Twitter—against the anti-freedom gun ban at the White House. What better way for this president to signify his wholehearted support for gun-based lifestyles than by letting White House visitors from around the world—especially those who live under the tyranny of gun control abroad—bring all the guns they want into the People’s House?

Or maybe Trump hasn’t brought up the matter because he doesn’t actually want strangers bringing guns into the White House, seeing as they can and do kill people at the squeeze of a trigger.

2. The Republican National Convention

The quadrennial gathering of this country’s most dedicated Republicans should be a place where GOPers can briefly escape oppressive gun-free “safe spaces” and live on their own gun-riddled terms. Attendees should be permitted—nay, required—to come armed to the teeth. Downtime convention activities should be strictly gun-focused. (Think ball pits, only filled with guns. Cocktail hours, only the drinks are all guns.) At the very end, instead of confetti, the audience should be showered in loose ammo.

But instead of a three-day orgy of gun lust and ammosexuality, the Republican National Convention is a gun-free zone. Guns were banned at the RNC in 20082012 and 2016, and that’s not for lack of trying by those who bothered to petition for bringing guns to the party. For some strange reason, the RNC keeps choosing venues that explicitly ban guns, almost as if it was looking for a convenient excuse. The Secret Service keeps banning guns from the events, almost as if it knows the whole “good guy with a gun” claim is a just a myth. And not a single Republican politician has raised their voice to demand guns be allowed on the convention floor, almost like they’re tacitly admitting to being iffy on the whole “responsible gun owners” thing.

3. Mar-a-Lago

A staffer told ABC News back in 2016 that guns were banned from Trump’s Palm Beach golf property, where the president spends so much time it’s hard to know when he’s doing the actual job of presidenting. That policy appears to still be in place, according to a Politico report from late last year. “Pocket knives, laser pointers, pepper spray, and any other items deemed to be a safety hazard are not permitted on property,” a letter the club sent to members cautioned. “Any items surrendered will not be returned.”

4. The U.S. Capitol Building

Surely, a Congress that has steadfastly refused to pass gun legislation is cool with guns in the Capitol building, if only to make a patriotic point. Why not let the Senate and House galleries double as shooting galleries, since guns are such a national point of pride? When are the gun-loving legislators of Congress, who believe that murdered 6-year-olds are just the price of freedom, going to change the rules so the U.S. Capitol building can become the guntopia it’s meant to be?

The short answer is never. Guns are banned on the Capitol grounds and inside the building itself, which includes the House and Senate galleries. Visitors are also warned against bringing “black jacks, slingshots, sand clubs, sandbags, knuckles, electric stun guns, knives (longer than 3”), martial arts weapons or devices…razors, box cutters, knives, knitting needles, letter openers…mace and pepper spray.”

Which all raises the question: what kind of heartless, cruel and immoral people consistently vote against gun control for most Americans’ work lives, but cynically keep guns far away from their own place of business?

5. Republican Town Halls

In early 2017, when Republican legislators realized that angry crowds were showing up in town halls to speak against repeals of the Affordable Care Act, they found two ways to avoid those meetings. The first was to label their own constituents “paid protesters.” The second was to demonize civically engaged voters as violent mobs. It was all for show, of course. In fact, as Talking Points Memo notes, “guns are frequently prohibited at GOP congressional town hall meetings, especially after the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Even stalwart conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan and former Rep. Allen West opted to ban firearms at their town halls.”

Texas Republican Louie Gohmert even went so far as to invoke Giffords as a political prop to get out of being berated by the people he supposedly serves.

“At this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety,” Gohmert claimed in a statement. “The House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at Congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed—just as happened there.”

Giffords, incredibly, had to release a statement encouraging Republicans to do their damn jobs.

“To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage,” Giffords’ message said. “Many of the members of Congress who are refusing to hold town halls and listen to their constituents’ concerns are the very same politicians that have opposed common-sense gun violence prevention policies and have allowed the Washington gun lobby to threaten the safety of law enforcement and everyday citizens in our schools, businesses, places of worship, airports, and movie theaters.”

In an interview later, Giffords stated, “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”

And maybe, if you don’t have the guts to deal with the laws you force the rest of us to live under, you for sure shouldn’t be involved in making them.

By Kali Holloway / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Stamping Out Hunger…No Stomping on Hunger!!!

I lived in the woods north of Santa Cruz, CA. for part of the summer in 1978.  The rest of those five or six months (it was California) I either lived on the beaches north of the town or was on the road.  Living was cheap and living was easy.  Mostly, my friends and I had to stay a couple steps ahead of the cops and away from the straight and rich white folks.  We weren’t alone in that.  I lived off of fifty bucks worth of food stamps per month and money I made doing odd jobs.

Image result for food stamps
Image: ABC11

Then it was off to the grocery store and then back to the camp in the woods or on the beach.  Since fifty dollars didn’t really cover a person’s food costs even then (and even though we ate lots of beans, rice, cheese and potatoes), we usually pooled our resources with other folks living in the encampments, conjuring up some dandy meals of the aforementioned foods.  Spices can work wonders, as any cook knows.

More from CounterPunch News

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PA Gov: GOP’s Proposed House Map Is ‘Drawn In A Way To Benefit Republicans’

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will not submit a new Republican-drawn map of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts to the state’s high court, saying Tuesday that it uses the same unconstitutionally partisan tactics as the 6-year-old boundaries struck down in a gerrymandering case.

Wolf’s move came six days before the deadline set by the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court to impose new boundaries for Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts. However, Wolf’s office did not immediately say whether he would submit his own map to the court, and he has not publicly released his own proposed map.

Thousands of people line the reflecting pool near the Lincoln Memorial while listening to speakers at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech in Washington, DC.Image: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Redrawing the map of Pennsylvania districts could boost Democrats nationally in their quest to take control of the U.S. House, and leaves district boundaries up in the air barely three months before May’s primary election.

The governor said his office’s analysis of the plan put forward Friday night by leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature concluded that it was clearly designed to help their own candidates.

More from Talking Points Memo

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Stuart Varney Hits GOP Over Inflated Budget: ‘What on Earth’ Are They Thinking?

Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney took a shot at Republicans Monday morning, for their abandonment of “financial restraints” — asking “what on earth” is going on with the party.

While the GOP often pushes the idea that they are the side of financial conservatism and limited government spending, their latest budget proposal gives off an entirely different message. Rather than focusing on that message of frugality, President Donald Trump and Republicans are spending trillions more dollars with no hope of cutting the national deficit over the next decade.

More from Mediate

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