Democrat rejects GOP’s reasoning for redistricting
A few years ago I represented a group of nuns, Vietnam veterans and school teachers who were arrested at U.S. Sen. William Armstrong’s office while protesting against American aid to right wing military groups in Central America.
Instead of the merits of his case, the prosecutor focused on the fact that some of the protesters were from Boulder. He felt that it aided his argument to enlist the common prejudice against Boulder activists. He probably wouldn’t have done it if he felt more confidence in his position and it didn’t help him gain a conviction.
Colorado State Senate President John Andrews, a Republican, engages in the same type of demagoguery in his recent column explaining how Republicans were led to redraw the state’s congressional districts.
He wrote, “I don’t want a Congress that agrees with New York liberals S and the Hollywood left.” Sen. Andrews probably feels that it is harder to argue against Colorado Democrats who tend to be moderate and share the values of the people who live here.
Thirty-seven percent of Coloradans are registered in the Republican Party. Thirty percent are registered Democrats, and 32 percent are unaffiliated. The map that the Republicans just forced through the Legislature- without public input, debate or the possibility of amendment, creates five safe Republican seats and two safe Democratic seats.
This gives the Republican Party 71 percent of Colorado’s seats. Sen. Andrews never said that this was fair. He said this is what he wanted.
Sen. Andrews also disenfranchises the 32 percent of Coloradans who are unaffiliated, since with John’s map, the only elections that matter are party primaries.
Sen. Andrews feels that democracy works best if most of the voters have nothing to say about who their representative is. Sen. Andrews is more comfortable with the results of elections where a small number of ideological zealots decide who is in Congress. We can see that Sen. Andrews wants more of what we already have too much of in Washington – polarized, ideological self-seeking politicians who cannot compromise or debate an issue with civility.
Competitive seats, which Denver District Court Judge John Coughlin’s map included but which Sen. Andrews’ map does not, are good for the voters. Congressional officials who represent competitive districts stay in better touch with the voters. They are more likely to vote their district than their party. They will show up for town meetings, recognize the interests of minorities and be more attentive to the needs of their constituents.
Sen. Andrews’ map was cooked from a recipe for a partisan, polarized political process. In his world, we have winners and losers and no compromise. He feels that his 18-17 lead in the Senate entitles him to absolute control. His actions favored power over justice, winning over playing fair and his party over the interests of the people.
Sen. Andrews and the other members of his party did not serve the people of Colorado well with this redistricting. The people of this state deserve legislative leadership that cares more about everyone rather than its own narrow partisan interest.
Sen. Andrews knows that what happened in the last three days of our session was ugly and indefensible. So, he doesn’t try to defend the lack of public input, a suspension of rules, no opportunity for debate or legislators voting for a bill whose contents and origin was a mystery.
He is cynically confident that the electorate will not remember by November 2004. I am sure, though, that he has a little concern about those unaffiliated voters he took out of the process. Because, if they pay attention and exert their influence, Colorado will be free of the current one-party monopoly that just showed, by its abuse of power, that it doesn’t deserve to run a state by itself.
State Sen. Ken Gordon, a Democrat, is from Denver.
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