With the 2010 General Election in the books and Republicans firmly in control of the Tennessee General Assembly, the time has now come to begin an examination of how Congressional and legislative districts are going to look in the years ahead, as the time is upon us to begin drawing them. For years, Republicans were prevented from making the kind of gains that they’ve made in Tennessee over the last four years because Democrats who were in control of the Tennessee General Assembly drew some bizarre configurations that were designed less to represent the interests of local people living there and more to protect Democratic incumbents. An examination of our current Congressional, State House, and State Senate Legislative districts shows how they were drawn, and shows that mapmakers and Nashville politicos had more control over the process than the voters. Keeping Republican power at bay was the clear intent of our current configuration. As an example, the First and Second Congressional Districts are historically the two most Republican in the State, but both were rubbed against the Third District and counties divieded where (at the time) Democrats believed they had a better chance of winning than in the “Fighting First” or in Jimmy Duncan’s Second-both of which have been Republican since Reconstruction. The most damage was wielded on State House districts, some of which were gerrymandered to guarantee a Democratic seat where there otherwise might not be one, as is the case both with the seats currently held by Representatives Harry Tindell and Johnny “Collection Plate” Shaw.
There is a great temptation for Republicans to use the occasion to redraw districts as a time not to make our districts more reflective of Tennessee’s political makeup (which the GOP absolutely should do), but to exact vengeance on the Democrats for all of those years of being shut out of the political process. This redrawing of potential Tennessee Congressional Districts (thanks to Rob Huddleston) from the Swing State Project is among the examples being floated about. That tapeworm-looking contraption which is spread over far-West and Northwest Tennessee is supposed to be the Eighth Congressional District, which rather than looking like a legislative constituency appears instead to be the bored study hall doodling of an eighth grade girl. There is concern for many of us who already live on the edge of a State House District about what will happen to us now. Will the care for my community in Nashville, for example, be removed from the very capable hands of Rep. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) since we are on the edge of the 17th House District? If it is, will someone come to represent us who isn’t familiar with our community?
It has been said that the initial plans for redrawing districts will likely fall into the hands of Tennessee Republican National Committeeman John Ryder (R-Memphis) who is an attorney and bylaws and districts guru of sorts. This writer can’t say that I know John Ryder, but I know lots of people who do know him, and everything I have come to know about him is that he is a decent human being who wants Republicans to have what is theirs/ours by the mandate of the voters, but who is also a very fair and decent person. Let us hope that the desire to use the map to right decades of bizarre gerrymandering doesn’t lead to-an exercise in overly bizarre gerrymandering.