ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Maps courtesy of the Tennessee Democratic Party / This map shows how Tennessee Democrats have proposed to redraw the state's district boundaries.

We learned last week that Tennessee Republicans in the statehouse were throwing cold water on a proposed congressional redistricting map drawn by state Democrats. The Dems' map would — in keeping with state and federal guidelines — keep Nashville and other geographically grouped and like-minded voters together.

Yet no matter how much more realistic and well-intentioned the Dems' map may be, it's a fairytale given the current GOP gerrymandered impacts of the past four decades, the most of which included districts shaped like a big-headed dragon and a Kentucky-to-Georgia hourglass.

The dragon is current U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais's 4th District. And the hourglass is U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's 3rd District — a sprawling, straw-middled shape stretching top-to-bottom and including a big Southern splay foot otherwise known as Hamilton County.

That splay foot looks more like an afterthought than what it originally was when Chattanooga was considered the center of the 3rd District. The hourglass took shape when Republicans drew the map to pull in enough white rural conservative voters from at least eight additional counties to negate Chattanooga's minority and heavily Democratic voters. Ask yourselves, local voters: Do you have the same transportation, safety, housing and recreation needs as 3rd District voters living at the edge of Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest? Probably not.

But that's what gerrymandering is all about: Blurring your voice and diluting your vote — one neighborhood and ZIP code at a time — to favor the party in power. The one doing the drawing. So, of course, the Republicans want to ice the Democratic map. It's too normal. Too appropriate. Too common-sense. Too much like the Tennessee Congressional District map of 1973-1982 — 50 years ago.

some text
Maps courtesy of the Tennessee Democratic Party / This map shows the current congressional district boundaries in Tennessee.

The Democrats' map would lop off the top of the 3rd District's hourglass and move the district in the southeast corner of the state. The 4th District would lose the dragon shape and move Rep. DesJarlais of South Pittsburg into the same district as 6th District Congressman John Rose — pitting them against each other, and leaving an open seat in the 4th District.

Republicans have pledged that the Democratic map is destined for the round file.

But in the coming year, the map will change again, and we can be sure that Republicans will make Tennessee's districts more red than they already are. The GOP is not yet ready to release its own map, but it's an open secret that their newest target is nine-term congressman Jim Cooper, Tennessee's dean of Congress who has served since 2003. To do this, the GOP almost surely will try to split up Nashville — diluting the city's majority-minority and heavily Democratic, like-minded voters just as was done with Chattanooga.

What's the deeper reason for all this? Power. Control in the U.S. House of Representatives. And power not just over how many R vs. D votes will be counted, but also power over whether Nashville voters (and us) have sway over whether an R or a D represents us.

The U.S. Constitution requires a census every 10 years, specifically to be used to redistrict voting blocks to be fairly equal. In today's terms, that means redrawing congressional, state legislative, county commission and city council districts. But clearly, "equal" is in the eyes of the beholder, or in this case, the party in power.

But gerrymandering — the practice of manipulating those district lines — is a visual story. It's about as plain as the dragon and the hourglass. We offer you here a view of Tennessee congressional district changes. Draw your own thoughts, but know that Tennessee lawmakers in the statehouse where this district mapping will occur already have so benefited from gerrymandering that they no longer care about your dissatisfaction. Nor do they need to care. And they'll care even less if they follow through with their plan to summarily axe another Democratic seat in the House.

Tennesseans who favor democracy — with a small or big D —need to focus energy on voting rights. Not only the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but also by making sure as many people are registered to vote — and do vote — as possible.

Anywhere, Everywhere, Always. Anti-gerrymandering = voting rights.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT