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The Gerrymander Connection

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Writing in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, Democrat Robert C. Altman argues that Democrats need more than improved messaging. They need, he says, an improved message, as well as younger blood and to learn how to combat Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts. This last struck me as disingenuous because it’s not so long ago that I recall Republicans bewailing how Democrats made it hard for Republicans to win congressional seats through — wait for it — GERRYMANDERING. In other words both sides do it so maybe it’s a little strange to hear Democrats complaining about it now.

Gerrymandering is the method by which legislative districts are drawn to include some populations and exclude others to make it easier for the party controlling the drawing of district lines to run candidates who can win in those districts. If Republicans have been successful at that today maybe it’s because they had to get good at it in response to being frozen out of election districts before. And, in fact, it turns out there is evidence of how Democrats use gerrymandering to their own advantage right here in New York State.

A few years back our Congressman, the now infamous Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, had a lock on his congressional seat. Although there was a large conservative population in our district, he was always able to appeal to enough voters to keep getting re-elected. Well along came his famous “sexting” scandals and lo and behold he had to resign, throwing open his seat. He was replaced by a local conservative Republican, Bob Turner. Within a couple of years the Democrats controlling the state legislature, faced with a census that showed New York losing population due in large part to Democratic polices in Albany, I might add, decided to simply re-district Weiner’s old district out of existence rather than allow his former seat to be held by a conservative Republican in a district that had grown increasingly conservative over the years as demographics changed.

The result? Our area was swallowed up by another district in which the Democrat-voting population was so large we had no further chance of electing another conservative Republican in our lifetimes. So much for Democrats being babes in the woods when it comes to redistricting!

About Stuart W. Mirsky

Stuart W. Mirsky, a former New York City official who last served as Assistant Commissioner for Operations in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before retiring in 2002, wrote a column, "The Rockaway Irregular," for The Wave, a south Queens based weekly, for more than a decade (until Hurricane Sandy changed the equation). He is an original founder of the Rockaway Republicans, one of the most active Republican groups in southern Queens, and author of a number of books, including The King of Vinland's Saga, an historical novel of the Norse in 11th century North America, A Raft on the River, a memoir of Holocaust survival, and Choice and Action, a work of contemporary philosophy addressing the implications of relativism and nihilism for our moral beliefs.

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