Pennsylvania Gerrymandering Reflects Undemocratic Republican Tendencies

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent 4-3 ruling which struck down the egregiously gerrymandered congressional map serves as an important example and precedent for an issue that is already being argued in the U.S. Supreme Court. The map in question skewed so far to favor Republicans that it was ruled unconstitutional in the recent Pennsylvania decision. With multiple gerrymandering cases now reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, this case stands as an important example of potential for major change. That change might just be a national ruling that could be used to dismantle numerous gerrymandered congressional maps across the country, most of which favor Republicans.

In a last ditch effort, top Pennsylvania Republicans are now calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. It is worth noting that the Court has already heard arguments in one case related to gerrymandering this term, and are waiting to hear arguments on another. With this in mind, hearing the Pennsylvania case might be redundant, but there is an important detail to bear in mind: while the Court heard their first gerrymandering case of this term months ago, they have yet to hold a vote to reach a decision. If the Court is hesitant to reach a national gerrymandering decision—as its impact could be widespread and alter the outcomes of numerous future elections—they might hesitate to give a ruling in the next case they hear. If so, the Pennsylvania case could prove to be very important. Especially given the strong ruling issued by the state Supreme Court, the national court would have to either accept this strong partisan gerrymandering ruling or completely strike it down. Striking the state ruling down would be a more daunting task that the federal justices would no doubt hesitate to undertake. As it currently stands, the national decision will likely come down to Justice Kennedy, as the other justices will likely split 4-4 along partisan lines, a rather disturbing fact for our democracy.

Gerrymandering is an effort almost exclusively undertaken by Republicans for Republicans as they desperately hold on to an electorate that is growing younger and more and more displeased with modern conservative governance. It is impossible to ignore the context given here by our political climate. With many political analysts saying that a blue wave of Democratic congressional victories is coming, Republicans are undoubtedly terrified. They have passed an extremely unpopular piece of legislation in the recent tax bill, whose short term benefits for working and middle class families will disappear in a decade whilst permanently benefiting corporations and the wealthy. The pace at which they have been trying to ram through this legislation is suggestive of the sense of urgency Republicans feel. They know their agenda is unpopular and dated, and could easily be torn apart by this November.

So, with a crucial election on the horizon, it is unsurprising that the party of guns and our racist president will seek any electoral advantage it can obtain. They will seek it by any means necessary. A strong national partisan gerrymandering ruling would permanently alter the electoral reality of the United States. The effect it would have would be good for democracy and bad for Republicans. This fits a pattern of modern American politics: Democracy and the GOP often stand at odds. Whether it be shocking attempts to shield President Trump from the Mueller probe, or disgraceful inaction in response to mass killings by white gunmen, the Republicans know no shame. So, why not soil the U.S. Supreme Court too? The only way Republicans hold onto power is if they keep winning elections, and it will be much easier for them to do that if blatantly partisan congressional maps are allowed to continue to exist and to continue to be gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. America is changing. What it means to be an American is changing. It always has been, and it will continue to do so. Perhaps, then, it is not surprising the party of “Make America Great Again” seeks to perpetuate undemocratic elections to continue defiling democracy.