Maryland Gerrymandering: Good or Bad for AAPI Voters?
By Dottie Tiejun Li
Have you taken a good look at the new map for Maryland’s Third Congressional District?
Not only does it look like an inkblot, it actually acts like a political Rorschach test. Different people see quite different things while looking at it. Democratic activists see a chance to add a seat for their team in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans see a power grab by the Democrats who control the levers of state government. Everyone who sees the map thinks it’s ridiculous, and that’s why supporters don’t display it.
But what does the AAPI voter see? Hang on, and we’ll get to that.
The new District 3 in suburban Maryland has been cited as the worst example of “gerrymandering” in the country. “Gerrymandering” is when a Congressional District is stretched and pulled and twisted into a bizarre shape for purely partisan advantage. No one seriously disputes that’s what’s happening here.
If you lean Democratic and fear the Tea Party-dominated Republicans in Congress, you might think it reasonable to believe that the end justifies these means. You may dread what continuing control of the House of Representatives by conservatives may mean to issues you care about, and the impact it has on your family. You may also see this as proper payback for unfair, in some cases barely legal, GOP redistricting, which has cost Democrats many seats around the country in recent years, and even this year. For you, those are all rational and understandable reasons to support the new map on election day. For you, two wrongs may, indeed, make a right. Or a left, in this case.
On the other hand, you may be bothered that partisan redistricting has been a major contributing factor to increased rancor and gridlock on Capitol Hill. When one party rules a district, the result is usually that the Representative will be the candidate who most successfully plays to the hard-core party base. The more extreme candidates tend to edge out the more moderate ones. The winner has no incentive to work across the aisle, because it won’t help him or her back home to do so if there are few members of the other party to take into account back there. These Representatives, left or right, Democratic or Republican, don’t have to consider other views, or other people, to stay in office. Compromise and bipartisanship become dirty words. “My way, or the highway” is the rule. And, of course, nothing gets done.
So the question comes back to the impact on Asian Americans. Should we go along with the idea that if our vote is more concentrated, as it was with the old maps, it allows us a stronger voice? Does spreading out our vote, as the new maps do, really diminish our influence? Or should we suppose that if we are all in one district, our issues…and we ourselves…will be ignored by representatives in other districts with few Asian Americans?
Which way is better for us? Which way is better for America?
You have much to consider. But think about it now, before you go to vote, because the ballot won’t help you. There will be no maps to look at, no explanation of what redistricting means to you and everyone else. There will be just a one line description of the question, along with one box to check “for” and one box to check “against.” Let’s hope that whatever we decide, we won’t box ourselves in politically.