Sunday, October 30, 2005

The ABH: Not Progressive, Not Regressive, just kind of Gressive

It has to be tough to work for the ABH's editorial board sometimes. On the one hand you have the readership which, at least in Athens, tends to be fairly progressive, and just a little lefty. On the other hand (probably the right hand, if you get our drift), you have the newspaper's corporate ownership, Morris Communications, which also owns the Augusta Chronicle and Savannah Morning News.

It should come as no surprise that Morris is pretty darn conservative, as far as newspaper chains go. Heck, the Savannah paper even endorsed Pat Buchanan a few years ago. And, according to more than one of our sources who used to work for Morris, the corporate ownership has a tendency to pressure the local papers to take certain stands on certain issues.

So, you can see how the chasm between the ABH's readership and their owners can sometimes create certain problems. A really good example of that can be found on page A10 of today's ABH, in which the editorial board safely wades into the mushy middle on the Voter ID law.

Do we think that the ABH is writing nice things about the Voter ID law because the boss told them to? Unclear. Do we think that the ABH should oppose the law? Absolutely. But remember, this isn't the first time that the ABH has been mushy on what we see as clear Constitutional issues.

To recap, the law was passed, numerous groups, including the NAACP, ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and the AARP got all het up about it, took it to court. Said court granted an injunction prevented enforcement of the law, and said injunction was recently upheld on appeal.

If you want to read the myriad reasons why we oppose the Voter ID law as it currently exists, take a look at this. Check out the legal side of things here. If you've already read this stuff, then we'll sum up. If the giant brains in the GOP can't come up with a bill that doesn't violate your Constitutional rights, then they need to table the issue until they can.

Back to the ABH. The editorial inadvertently makes some good points, as far as revealing the Georgia GOP's real agenda. Y'see, the GOP congressional delegation wants to repeal Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which happens to be the part that requires federal approval of any redistricting changes, to make sure that said changes don't carve out districts that reduce minority voting strength.

If you thought the 2000 Democratic map was bad (and it was), wait until you see what the GOP is going to do to your Congressional districts if Westmoreland and his gang of Constitutional thugs get their way.

So, no, we don't know whether the editorial board took this stand because of pressure from above, or their actual convictions. But consider this. Attacking those folks who want to repeal part of the Voting Rights Act is a pretty safe issue. The Voter ID law is much more dangerous ground.



Fishplate said...

I'm not sure how redistricting to decrease minority voting strength is any different from redistricting to reduce majority voting strength...

As fo whether or not the Voter ID law is constitutional, well, that's why it's in court. If the ID was free, ther would be no question of a poll tax...waiti a minute, it is free if you want one for free.

It will be interesting to see how that one plays out...

Publius said...

Well, I reckon that if the proponents of the bill can paint the problem being that people are too lazy to go get an ID, then I can probably safely oppose for a legitimate Constitutional reason.

As far as diluting minority strength versus diluting majority strength goes, one thing is that it's a lot harder to dilute majority strength, since they are the...hmmm, what's the word I'm groping for...oh yeah, the MAJORITY.

Actually, I'm on record just today saying that the Democratic map of 2002 was crap, and that so is any attempt by the GOP to do the same thing. Especially if they want to eliminate federal oversight first.

I'd much rather see redistricting handled by a non-partisan commission, as they do in some other states (Iowa comes to mind). Letting the politicians draw th districts is like letting the criminals write their own sentencing guidelines.

Fishplate said...

Oh, I'm with you there...I've always wondered why districts couldn't be drawn with a computer.

It's a trivial problem, really, and could be done by almost any advanced programmer - just tell the system how many districts, and let it calculate the minimum distance from any center for each residence. Once you get equal numbers in each district, draw the line between them. I'm sure all the data exists already, each county has coordinates for each address in their database, the rest is a compatibility issue. Read each address/location, and calculate the centers.

The best part is, it should be reproduceable, so there's no question of fiddling with the program to effect some predetermined outcome. Anyone who disagrees (read: the opposing parties) would be welcome to produce their own solution, and we could see how different it might be.

But I suppose being completely neutral is somehow racist...

As for the majorities, I would direct you to the Free State Project...sounds expensive, but if everyone pitches in, you could create any district you like.

Publius said...

Well, I do like the computer-drafted idea, although I'd still prefer that there be some sort of human oversight as well. My ideal plan would be that a computer crunches the raw data, and a nonpartisan panel (one suggestion I've seen/heard would be to use retired federal judges, and that's about as good as any, I suppose) to review the computer's draft for the "common sense factor."

I'm not so sure about FSP though. I have a close Libertarian friend who was Libertarian before being Libertarian was the new pink, so to speak. We've gone around and around on this one, but my take has always been that until the Libertarian Party decides to set their goals on winning races rather than "making a statement," they deserve what they get.

Why the human oversight? Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not sure that a computer can be progammed for _every_ eventuality.

In any event, redistricting battles are the archetype of inside baseball, but it's not the pols who suffer, it's always the voters.

Fishplate said...

Yeah, I've been working with computers for thirty years...the human oversight was a given, which I failed to mention, Retired Federal judges would be about the best you could do...

As for the FSP, I wish there was another way to achieve critical mass. Seems like most everybody wants more money in their pocket, and less Government interference, but they don't know how to go about it. Though, when the Republicans said they were the party of less government and more fiscal responsibility, I almost believed, when some group makes me a promise, I'm from Missouri...

Publius said...

And that's where both parties have gone wrong in my opinion, at least as far as messaging goes.

I don't know that it's necessarily that people want less government, per se. They want more efficient, less intrusive government, to be sure. But, as a friend of mine has said, government is certainly not the cause of all of our problems, and it's not the solution to all of our problems either.

Dawg Corleone said...

Ditto, Fish.

Draw a map that's completely numbers-based and neutral and you are a racist.

Gotta carve out the quota districts.

Of course, Newt Gingrich was happy to be led into the briar patch a decade ago.

"You want 3 black districts? Sure! We'll just take the rest of the state."

Publius said...

Find me any example of a map that is numbers-based and neutral. The GOP new map isn't, and neither was the previous Democratic map.

THe fact the you feel comfortable referring to "black districts" versus the "rest of the state" gives a tremendous amount of insight into exactly how committed you are (hint: not very) to having fair proportional representation, by the way. You should parse the GOP talking points more carefully in the future.

Dawg Corleone said...

I didn't talk about black districts. Newt and the Dems did in the early 90s.

How'd that work out for you guys?