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Posts published in “Day: March 28, 2018”

A built-in disadvantage


I'd be hesitant to pick up a challenge offered on election stats by Dave Wasserman, and just as well I didn't waste my time on the Wisconsin offer. And he was offering $7,000, in personal payment, to anyone who could do it.

You have to know there's a reason no one could. And in that reason lies a significant reality of congressional politics circa 2018, a reason why Democrats have to work harder to accomplish as much as Republicans, and there's nothing shady about it.

Wasserman is an election stats analyst for Cook Political Report and Five Thirty Eight, two of the best analysis sites around, so the guy knows political numbers. (I watch his Twitter feed closely on election nights.) Yesterday, he pointed out that Wisconsin has a partisanship index - meaning the normal advantage of Republican versus Democratic candidates - of zero, which means in turn that in a statewide race, a candidate of either party starts out with theoretically even odds of winning.

That might logically lead to another conclusion: Since Wisconsin has eight U.S. House districts, each party might logically win four of the seats. The current delegation (which includes House Speaker Paul Ryan) has five Republicans and three Democrats, not drastically far off. But by choosing which voters to include, you can draw districts that advantage one party or the other.

Wasserman was able to draw a U.S. House map for Wisconsin that clearly favored Republicans in six out of the eight districts (a "GOP gerrymander" map). His challenge to his readers, with an award of $7,000, was to draw counterpart "Dem gerrymander" map, with a clear seven-point advantage for Democrats in six of eight districts. That would, in other words, do for the Democrats what he had just done for the Republicans.

He got a bunch of nerdy replies, with some close efforts. One replied (with a map attached), "Okay, so I don't think it's possible to create 6 districts that are exactly D+7, but I was able to create 6 districts that are at least D+6.5, which rounds up to 7, if that counts for anything."

But apparently, no one was able to develop six districts for Wisconsin that were as favorable for Democrats, as Wasserman was able to for Republicans.

Finally, Wasserman fessed up: "Answer: It's easy to draw the GOP gerrymander, but the inverse Dem gerrymander isn't just hard - it's mathematically *impossible.* Despite WI's even partisanship, there is such a thing as a partisan bias in spatial distribution."

Impossible? Yeah, it is, because so many Democrats are bunched together in tight urban areas (in that state, Milwaukee and Madison primarily) while Republicans are spread out, that creating a winning Democratic map becomes far harder. And not just in Wisconsin. The point is true all over the country.

In Oregon, for example, the addition of a sixth congressional district, which looks probable for 2020, may mean the Democratic infrastructure in the state accepting that the new district will be Republican. It may be too hard to design the districts so the state goes 5/1 Democratic, the way it's now 4/1.

This just relates to where you you live, or, where Republicans and Democrats live. It's not gerrymandering; it;'s just the result of normal mapmaking.

Petty vindictiveness


(Open Letter to Idaho Senator James Risch)

Senator—attached to this column is a picture of the headstone in Boise’s Pioneer Cemetery that marks the gravesite of the late, great four-term Idaho Governor and Carter Administration Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus.

For years you two engaged in sniping at each other in what was recognized by most of the state’s political cognoscenti as hardball, partisan politics. You could give as good as you received.

During those times you amply demonstrated that you could be mean, vicious, and petty, that you lacked a sense of humor and viewed politics not as an exercise that found the greatest good for the greatest number but rather a form of war.

During all those years there was one thing I never thought you capable of - outright stupidity. Imagine my surprise then when you took your six-shooter out of its holster and shot both your feet?

This one act of vindictive insanity is going to be your legacy.

In case you’ve forgotten, Cece passed away August 24th, 2017, a day shy of his 85th birthday. Apparently the fact that he is under six feet of mother earth, and you’ve outlived your old rival is not enough for you. Reports out of Washington, D.C. indicate you put a hold on the $1.3 trillion spending bill and demanded that a provision passed by the House at the behest of your Republican congressional colleague, Mike Simpson, renaming the White Clouds wilderness area the Cecil D. Andrus White Clouds Wilderness be removed.

If not, you would see the federal government shut down. Seriously? One newspaper ran the perfect headline: “Senator Risch Picks Fight with Dead Governor---Loses.” How does it feel to have the entire world laughing at you?
As Cece’s press secretary, confidant and adviser for many years I was well aware there was little love between you two, but never in my wildest thoughts did I think you could be so petty.

Why? It can’t be that you and he quarreled over appropriate levels of education funding when you were the Senate Pro Tempore leader in the Senate, can it?

It can’t be that a number of times you tried unsuccessfully to over-ride vetoes or spike important appointments.

It can’t be that he was a better, more respected politician than you, or that he supported State Senator Mike Burkett’s successful effort to deny you re-election?

This attempt to take revenge is a true lose-lose for you. Why such animosity that transcends partisan politics?

Could it be that Andrus early on nailed you for the little man with a Napoleonic complex you often displayed? Andrus was on to the games you would play, such as having your desk and chair on a riser, and you’d then stand and semi-sit on the corner of your desk looking down on a guest who you insisted take a seat in a chair on the floor?

Then there was the time you were about to be sworn in as governor for six months. Invites were sent to all former living governors and all rsvp’d they would be there except Andrus. Do you were remember this, Senator?

You called Andrus at home and the conversation went something like this:
Risch: “Cecil, this is yourrrr governor. And your governor would respectfully request your attendence at his inauguration tomorrow.”
Andrus: “All right you little so and so, I’ll be there.” And he did attend.

Andrus had more class in his little finger than you will ever have. If you had an ounce of class you’d apologize to the Andrus family and to your colleague, Mike Simpson. I won’t hold my breath.

Shame on you Senator Risch for attempting such petty vindictiveness. You proved to one and all you are every bit the little man that you are.