We have an early favorite for most cynical political power grab of the year: the Virginia State Senate is split down the middle: 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, and Republicans pushed through a surprise redistricting plan, which of course, heavily favors Republicans, while one Democrat was at Obama’s second inauguration. So, yeah, um, top that Congress. And yes, in case you were wondering the vote was 20-19 on a straight party line.
It actually gets worse: the absent Senator was Henry Marsh, a prominent civil rights leader. So, a man who fought for his own right to vote in this country had his party’s power cut down because he was out of town to celebrate the reelection of our first African American president. Whew.
How did bill sponsor GOP Senator John Watkins defend the move? By pointing out that it creates a solid African American district. He didn't explain why he had to wait for the civil rights leader to be out of town for the vote.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was non-committal, but it would take a minor miracle for him not to sign the bill after it passes the Republican-controlled House of Delegates. The new districts would create more safe districts for Republicans, and put at least one Democratic seat in jeopardy.
“It goes against every tradition,” state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D), whose seat may be endangered by the new districts. “It was a dirty trick.”
“Everything else we have to do this session is in jeopardy,” said Deeds, referring to how Republicans can’t expect much cooperation from the Democrats they just screwed over.
It is worth noting that if our politics weren’t so polarized, voters might actually punish legislators for doing something like this, but no, as long as their legislators say the right things on guns, abortion and coal, voters will keep electing them.