INDIANAPOLIS—Some decisions are just too important to leave to politicians.
Chief among those decisions is how we citizens decide who will represent us. That process goes by a name—redistricting—that is a cure for insomnia.
But it matters, perhaps more than any other question.
That’s because we likely won’t be able to solve any of our problems if we don’t solve the redistricting one first. The only way to do that is to give power back to the people—to remind those who hold public office that they do so only with the consent of the governed.
Indiana’s state lawmakers have been laboring at the redistricting process for months now.
Predictably, they have made a mess of it, conjuring up legislative district maps only hacks and the most rabid partisans could tolerate, much less like.
Some of their hackery is blatantly political.
They redrew the map for Indiana’s 5th congressional district, which has become competitive because the voters have sent dangerous signals that they were both moderate and independent-minded, into another GOP bastion. U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Indiana, captured the office last fall, but her fellow Republicans feared she might be vulnerable.
Perhaps that is because one of Spartz’s first acts as a congresswoman was to seek out a photo opportunity with fringe figure U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, who veers so far to the right that she’s fallen off the distant edge of the flat earth she believes in.
Some of the mapmakers’ skullduggery was personal, even petty.
Republicans drafted the map to make one of their own, Indiana Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, easier to challenge. Jacob’s politics are more conservative than Genghis Khan’s and he has all the personal charm of a pit viper. His great regret in life is that he did not live during the Crusades. Nothing would give him more pleasure than to march off to reclaim the Holy Land from the infidels.
Before he became a legislator, he would show up at the Statehouse to harangue lawmakers, even those who were reliable pro-life votes, as murderers because they didn’t share his extreme views on abortion.
Shockingly, some Republicans don’t find a steady diet of Jacob’s hellfire screeches in caucus all that pleasant and they want him gone from their midst.
But it is not fair to single out either Indiana or Hoosier Republicans for indulging in gerrymandering.
The truth is that it’s happening almost everywhere in the country.
Both parties—Democrats in blue states and Republicans in red ones—are guilty of abusing their power and crafting maps that allow them to choose their voters, rather than allowing the voters to choose their leaders.
That’s because, for politicians, gerrymandering is more addictive than crack and nicotine combined.
Absent an intervention, they won’t give it up.
That’s a problem for the rest of us because gerrymandering warps the process of self-government to the point of making it unrecognizable.
There are Hoosier Republican lawmakers who have begun to advance the argument that slicing and dicing the maps had nothing to do with creating their legislative supermajorities. They say it’s just that Republican “ideas” were better.
That contention is absurd.
In the 2020 election, then President Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb both captured about 57% of the vote in Indiana. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita snared 58%.
Yet, the Indiana House ended up being 71% Republican and the Indiana Senate 78%.
Does that mean that the GOP House candidates’ Republican “ideas” were 14% better than Trump’s or Holcomb’s and 13% percent stronger than Rokita’s? And that the Republican Senate candidates’ notions were 20% more attractive than those of the statewide GOP candidates?
What makes gerrymandering a serious problem is that it erodes public confidence in government, the instrument through which we are supposed to resolve our differences.
It’s not a coincidence that, when gerrymandering progressed from being a dark art to becoming a dark science, we Americans began snarling at rather than speaking with each other. Because huge swaths of the public—left, right and center—feel no one in power listens to or speaks for them, we have begun screaming all the time in desperate attempts to be heard.
That won’t change if we leave redistricting in politicians’ hands.
Decisions that important should belong to us citizens—and us alone.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.