The Washington Times-Herald

November 30, 2011

Political mapping produces paralysis


New Castle — Generally speaking, few citizens pay attention to the legislative redistricting process . . .

They should, because district lines help to determine which parties control legislatures and which politicians benefit. But more than that, the surgical precision used today to carve out these districts goes a long way toward explaining the gridlock and inability to negotiate differences . . .

Increasingly, most legislative and congressional districts are classified as “safe,” meaning the voters within them tend to overwhelmingly support one of the two major parties. Yes, there are marginal districts, and other factors sometimes produce unexpected results.

But by and large, incumbent lawmakers can count on consistency from their voters.

This means that in many districts, where people who vote classify themselves as liberals or conservatives, representatives respond in like fashion. Increasingly, this is producing a political dialogue that’s no dialogue at all. Rather, it’s a shouting and finger-pointing match, with absolute refusal to seek common ground.

America is now in the midst of a major economic upheaval. And while various factors — not the least of which are substantial public and private debt — have contributed to it, uncertainty about what’s happening in the nation’s political process plays a role as well.

With gridlock, issues remain unresolved. That was apparent last week when the congressional supercommittee failed in its mission to devise a deficit reduction plan. Amid all of this uncertainty, America’s corporations are sitting on an estimated $2 trillion, unwilling to invest because too many questions about public policy, spending and taxation linger.

Legislators who are responsible for shaping new districts to fit the latest census data routinely deny that politics is the prime motivation for the actions. Instead, they defend redistricting as a purely logical process. And if Democrats are lumped with Democrats and Republicans with Republicans, well that’s just a way to keep like-minded voters together. . . .

New Castle News

New Castle, Pa.