Watch out, folks! Arizona's Republicans are on the warpath.
They're not out to gut the state's public schools; they've already done that. They're not talking out of both sides of their mouths, on one side whining about a federal "nanny state" while on the other telling cities how they can go about their business; they've already done that, too. They're not even seeing to it that Arizona's poor people can't get life-saving transplants; that constituency is dwindling quite nicely, thank you.
No, the Republicans are up in arms because they found out that there is the possibility that, over the next 10 years, some Democrats might run in some elections, and might even ... maybe ... possibly (gasp!) get to serve in office. The Republicans, who hold a razor-thin 70 percent-to-30 percent edge in all of the state's elected offices, are concerned that if the Democrats actually start winning a few races, they might start standing up for the dwindling middle class, and then, the next thing you know, democracy might start breaking out all over the place. And we can't have that, now can we?
The specific focus of the ire of the Sore Winners' Party is the Independent Redistricting Commission, the body mandated by the state constitution with drawing the state's legislative and congressional district lines for the next decade.
I have to be very clear here: I have never had any problem with the old form of gerrymandering, allowing the party in power to draw the lines, with a little nudge from the feds to keep things from becoming totally Jim Crow. When I was growing up in California, Democratic state legislator Jesse Unruh used to draw districts that looked like octopodes. (That's a rare, but still correct, plural form of "octopus." I'm keeping it alive.) Willie Brown, Unruh's successor, once had a district that was three blocks wide and 20 miles long. It served as a model when Marana annexed Ina Road. Certainly, there have been abuses over the decades (and centuries), but they're not limited to just one party and they haven't caused the downfall of any one state or the nation as a whole.
Nevertheless, in 2000, Arizona's voters passed Prop. 106, which amended the state constitution to take the gerrymandering away from the State Legislature and put it in the hands of a five-member panel made up of two Democrats, two Republicans, and one independent. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that that fifth person holds an inordinate amount of power on such a board, but that's what the voters passed and that's what the constitution says. (I've warned you people about "independent" voters.)
It would take a couple of pages of text to explain exactly how that fifth (independent) member—in this case, committee chair Colleen Mathis—is chosen, but suffice it to say, the Democrats played that part of the game a bit smarter than did the Republicans. Now, the Republicans are screaming for a do-over, fearing that the Democrats might actually get a fair shake in this whole process.
Leading the charge against the Independent Redistricting Commission is Republican state Rep. Terri Proud, who represents LD26. She was elected to the State Legislature in 2010 on a platform of "I hate Barack Obama, not because he's black—which he is—but because he's a Socialist, which I can't really define, but I know it's bad and I know he is one."
As a matter of fact, I think that's a direct quote from some of her campaign literature.
Last month, Proud sent out an e-mail to her supporters and the media in which she blasted the passage of the constitutional amendment and called for its repeal. In the e-mail, she misidentified the year in which then-Prop. 106 was passed as 1998. In that year, a few knuckleheads of the "independent" bent tried to get an initiative on the ballot that would have allowed open primaries. (That idea isn't just stupid; it's Bachmann stupid.) Anyway, had they gotten enough signatures, it would have been Prop. 106 on the 1998 ballot. They didn't and it wasn't. The "Fair Districts, Fair Elections" initiative was on the 2000 ballot and passed with a 56-44 margin.
Proud and her homies are livid that Colleen Mathis has shown a tendency to lean toward the Democrats. Commission member Richard Stertz says that the fix is in, based on the fact that the commission hired a computer company that once did some work for Barack Obama. Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash claims that he already knows what the congressional districts are going to look like and that one will run the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border. And State Senator Al Melvin is afraid that the commission will separate SaddleBrooke, the Pinal County enclave of angry old people, from Oro Valley (in Pima County), where the Saddle- Brooke gub'mint haters go to cash their Social Security checks and spend their entitlement money. It's all so Machiavellian.
The commission will be holding public meetings in South Tucson on Aug. 2; Sierra Vista on Aug. 4; and then finish up its Democracy Isn't Painless Tour in Tucson on Aug. 6. Show up; carefully rehearsed entertainment will be provided by the last vestiges of the Tea Party.