Using their incredible powers of incompetence, Republican leaders in the General Assembly have done everything in their power to ignore their mandate to redistrict. The September 1, 2015 deadline for the General Assembly to act has passed. The Courts now get to decide the fate of our Republican members of Congress.
With minor changes, Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes, David Brat, and Barbara Comstock will all be vulnerable. Those who believe that there is a secret plan for Republican leadership to act upon, and they are actually evil geniuses, are wrong.
Here is the Republican General Assembly’s plan in a nutshell:
- Lose before the three Judge panel.
- Do nothing substantive before the Supreme Court to stop the redistricting mandate.
- Win the long shot appeal to the Supreme Court.
- We get to keep the 2011 redistricting plan!!!
Here is the alternate version (reality):
- Lose before the three Judge panel.
- Do nothing substantive other than beg for more time while doing nothing.
- Pretend nothing bad can happen under the aforementioned plan.
- When the aforementioned plan fails, expect magical fairies to descend upon us and continue to bestow Republicans an 8-3 division of Congressional seats.
- Retire to our sitting rooms to dine on ambrosia while congratulating ourselves for saving the Republic.
I call this second version the magical fairies plan. I tell clients about this type of thinking so they can avoid it and make reasoned calculated decisions based on the facts, the law, judicial temperaments, and the client’s risk tolerance level.
Politics v. Litigation
In politics, perception is reality. All that really matters at the end of the day is what the voters think. It’s crass and demeaning. It makes politics a business of feeding the masses a narrative (true or untrue) in order to gain their support.
This lawsuit will be decided by judges. This lawsuit has political implications. The words “lawsuit” and “judges” should be a clue that this is not politics, but actually litigation. In litigation we show up prepared. In litigation we comply with court orders in order to maintain credibility with the court. In litigation we do not pretend that nothing happened 10 months previous that might affect our case.
The three Judge panel does not care (that much) about press releases, or hurt feelings, or political one-upmanship. The three Judges assigned to this case have been appointed for life. For good or for ill, they are largely insulated from the political process once in office. This is not politics.
Let us go in the way back machine to see if Republicans could have stopped this
There is no serious General Assembly action. Republicans have control of the Virginia House and Senate. They could be pushing through new Congressional Districts and new House (and Senate Districts). Yet, all I have ever heard from the Republican members of the General Assembly on this issue is that “we can’t pass anything because McAuliffe will veto it,” and “we are confident in and must win the appeal.” The federal courts will end up redistricting for us if we lose!!!! No serious redistricting has even been proposed. Not good enough.
The House is still in session, and can introduce and pass a redistricting plan from the House alone. Do not walk into Court empty handed. You have buried yourselves, and one or more Congressional Republicans through inaction. No matter how badly tricked you were by the Democrats on August 17, the failure, up until now, rests with you. Quit whining about Democrats violating rules, and denied extensions from the Court, and DO SOMETHING!
*Finally, the advice I hope House Republicans don’t take: that they should “introduce and pass a redistricting plan from the House alone,” just don’t “walk into Court empty handed” no matter what. Which, of course, as a diehard Democrat, is exactly what I hope Republicans do. 🙂
A House-backed map that addresses the panel’s concerns could even be enough for the judges to adopt is as their own and call it a day. At the very least, the panel is more likely to tweak what the House does than go back to square one.
And the acknowledgement of failure:
By giving the court no alternative, the House seems to give state Sen. Don McEachin’s dream of entirely redrawing the congressional districts a chance of fulfillment.
Will the court completely redraw the lines? We don’t know. And I certainly hope not. But the House has certainly given them no alternative.
So perhaps I am STILL wrong…
Take a look at the Court’s letter to the parties of August 27, 2015.
Reemphasizing the key aspect:
Make no mistake the three Judge panel feels the General assembly “chose” not to exercise jurisdiction. When one “chooses” not to participate in the decision making process it is unusual for that entity to then be given much credence in the further decisions of the court.
In politics perception is reality. Before the three judge panel, we are no longer practicing politics.
Rigell, Forbes, Brat, and Comstock are in potential danger in 2016, and Republican leaders in the General Assembly are relying on magical fairies to protect the 2011 Congressional redistricting plan.
Apparently, Republican leaders in the General Assembly continue to fight the war of perception.