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COMMENTARY: Redistricting is only an outrage when the other side does it

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By Kevin Binversie

Haven’t you heard? Republicans are doing something politically immoral — again!

That is the word from residents living off the information deficient news releases from every left-wing group in Wisconsin about the soon to be approved state legislative and congressional redistricting lines. There is something a bit hollow in watching the state’s liberal punditry go completely ballistic over a process they’d be defending every step of the way, if roles were reversed.

A harsh reality of politics is that redistricting is decided by those who win elections — especially elections at the end of the decade. If Wisconsin’s Democrats want anyone to blame, they should start by looking at how they ran the state into fiscal mire for decades and their campaigns last year.

What an abysmal showing they had. Political casualties of 2010 for Wisconsin Democrats included  the sitting assembly speaker and sitting senate majority leader. So it’s not like this gang didn’t know redistricting was going to be decided after the 2010 elections.

It’s not just Wisconsin. In Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina and elsewhere, the party with majority control has done all it can to draw lines beneficial to itself for future elections. In Illinois, Democrats will force five sitting Republican congressmen into elections with each other, or into newly formed Democratic-leaning districts. In Virginia, Republicans created a map that shored up one of their most vulnerable members, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, of District 10, while simultaneously shoring up a vulnerable Democrat, Rep. Gerry Connolly, of District 11.

Those plans passed in June and May, respectively.

No, the source of left-wing outrage is that Democrats have been completely shut out of the redistricting process for the first time in decades. In the past three redistricting rounds, each party held one legislative chamber, and each had a set of maps drawn up. Then those maps were discarded as partisan disagreement led to legal fights and lawsuits, which led to final district lines being drawn by federal judges. Adding the most fuel to the Democratic outrage is the feeling that they’re being robbed of a chance to redistrict before attempting to reclaim the state Senate via recall elections.

So are the Republicans doing a “power grab?” No, not really, because if the shoe was on the other foot, Democrats would be doing the same thing. The holier-than-thou acts sham about nonpartisan redistricting commissions and “the right thing to do” come off as hollow when you know Wisconsin Democrats didn’t act on any of these sorts of initiatives when they held the governor’s office and  Legislature until January.

In politics, as in life, timing is everything. That axiom applies to everything from the decision to run for political office to when to push policy. Democrats might not like it, and may be holding the biggest temper tantrum the state’s ever seen with the state Senate recall campaigns, but the GOP is using the time at the helm of state government to their best advantage.

Elections do have consequences. Somehow, one side of the aisle has completely forgotten that and replaced it with a perpetual campaign machine fueled by anger and rage.

Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native who has been blogging on the state’s political culture for more than eight years. He has served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous Wisconsin Republican campaigns in various capacities, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at kevin.binversie@franklincenterhq.org.

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