Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Betrayal in Redistricting

Senator Rosenberg:

You were a chairman of the commission which just redrafted the Massachusetts districts for the U.S. House. I’m sure you were hoping that no one back home would notice that you sold out your constituents. We did.

It was a foregone conclusion from the beginning that representation from Western Massachusetts would be reduced from three seats to two. The public hearings were a charade. In order to obtain the increases in population required to keep both John Olver’s and Richard Neal’s districts, these districts would have had to expand far eastward into territory surrounding Boston. The power brokers in the eastern part of the state would never give up the influence of the extra House seat. The two seats in Western Mass. would be centered in Springfield and Worcester, in order to insure the predominance of the Democratic majorities of the cities. John Olver would have to be retired. Your commission had no choice.

A major task for your commission was to redraw the lines of these new districts, with the goal of maximizing the protection of the Democrat incumbents that possess these seats. Senator Rosenberg, there is no whining or outrage here on my part. This is how the game is played, and this is part of the spoils won by the majority party in any state.

You accomplished your task with a precision that few would notice, unless one was carefully watching and attuned. Almost all of the Republican challengers for the House from 2010 were carved out of their previous districts by your plan. Bill Gunn is no longer part of the Berkshires; I am gone from Richard Neal and the Hampden County towns that I won. Marty Lamb, Mike Stopa, and Brian Herr, McGovern’s main challengers from 2010, are out of his district. Tom Wesley was taken from Southern Worcester County and put in with Barney Frank. Sean Bielat was taken out of his district with Barney Frank. All of these candidates have had their previous campaign structures dismantled, and their future efforts hobbled. Again, I’m not whining. You did a remarkable job in this. I’m impressed.

It was also clear from the outset that the Democrats would have to split up the block of suburban Republican towns that make up Southern Massachusetts from 495 in the east to the border of Springfield in the west. You accomplished this as well, giving half to Mr. McGovern and half to Mr. Neal.

Senator, this is what became a political problem for you. James McGovern now had a district that was dangerously Republican, even with Worcester in the middle. Worcester is not all that Democratic. Your commission realized that McGovern needed more Democratic voters. Where to get them?

Amherst and Northampton, your home towns, were attached to Worcester County to bolster James McGovern’s hold on this new district. Your constituent towns suddenly became the distant outposts, very far from the center of power in their new congressional district.

There is nothing in common to join our part of Hampshire County with Worcester. Northampton and Amherst have geography and a history of commerce that ties us with the other towns and cities up and down the Connecticut River Valley. Your assertion that the having U Mass in Amherst and the U Mass Medical Center near Worcester somehow makes us natural companions was remarkably absurd. I was surprised when you used this rather limp excuse to to cover for the true political nature of the decision which has left Northampton and Amherst a vestigial appendix on this district.

Certainly, I expect you to argue that we need to give McGovern a chance to show that he cares for our towns. Don’t expect much. Distance counts, and Worcester has the votes. We will only have occasional McGovern sightings. McGovern will always know that Northampton and Amherst will deliver Democratic votes, and he won’t have to do much to get them.

McGovern is a good fit politically for these towns, but this valley would otherwise have had its Democrat with Richard Neal, and he’s much closer to home.

So Senator, the interests of your home towns were sacrificed for the benefit of your party. Northampton and Amherst will be Congressional afterthoughts for at least the next ten years in order to protect McGovern.

You have thrown the interests of your constituents under the bus. A reasoned voting public should notice such a cynical disregard of their interests, and remember it in the voting booth.

No comments:

Post a Comment