Mini-rant: One of these Hump Days, when somebody cheerily tells me, “At least it’s Hump Day!”, I’m going to snap. EVERY day is Hump Day, just another work day to get through much like any other work day when you’ve been grinding away without hope for too many years. It’s like Office Space’s “Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the ‘Mondays!'” every single goddam day. But enough about me…
Here’s one of those “Your Tax Dollars At Work” stories: From Joe Davidson at The Washington Post, last week’s “boondoggle of the week” goes to the DEA and DOD, who, back in 2008, together bought a plane to be modified for drug-fighting in Afghanistan. They paid $8.6 million. As of last week, they’ve now spent at least 10 times that much, without the plane having ever gotten off the ground.
And a couple of pieces about Monday’s Supreme Court’s ruling in the Evenwel vs Abbott ‘one-man/one-vote’ case. [And no, not Terry Pratchett’s version: “the one man was the Patrician, and he had the vote.”]
First, Ian Millhiser’s initial thread at ThinkProgress on Monday discussing the SCOTUS opinion, authored by Justice “Notorious RBG” Ginsburg. While the 8-0 ruling upheld the traditional “one-person/one-vote” apportioning of districts, some of the language seems to leave disquieting loopholes for the States.
Next, from billmoyers.com, an interesting article by Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. A couple of excerpts:
“The suit was brought by two white voters from rural districts in Texas to challenge the state’s use of total population when drawing its state legislative districts. The use of total population in state redistricting has been a nearly universal practice not only in Texas but in all 50 states and countless local jurisdictions across the country for well over 50 years. The challengers here sought to change that practice and replace it with a count of eligible voters, meaning only persons eligible to cast ballots would be counted for purposes of redistricting.”
“Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — who each wrote a separate concurrence but also roundly embraced the ultimate conclusion of the Court that the Constitution permits total population count. Justice Alito, while disagreeing with some of the majority’s historical interpretation, even went so far as to acknowledge the perils of using alternative counting methods: “These [total population] statistics are more reliable and less subject to manipulation and dispute that statistics concerning eligible voters.”
And what was Justice Thomas’s “separate concurrence” about? Well, according to Ian Millheiser’s second piece on the subject at ThinkProgress, Thomas sounds more as if he disagrees with “one-person/one-vote.” A few excerpts:
“Thomas, however, rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments in Evenwel because he believed that states should have much broader power to draw legislative lines as they choose, even if doing so would produce grossly undemocratic results. He begins by claiming that “this Court has never provided a sound basis for the one-person, one-vote principle…”
“The justice criticizes the one person/one vote doctrine because he believes that it is “driven by the belief that there is a single, correct answer to the question of how much voting strength an individual citizen should have.” Such an assertion, Thomas claims, “overlook[s] that, to control factions that would legislate against the common good, individual voting strength must sometimes yield to counter majoritarian checks.”
As a sign of what sort of factions Thomas finds needing of control, and which “counter majoritarian checks” he deems necessary, Thomas offers a theory of the Constitution that closely resembles a theory a libertarian group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers tried to teach to school children. “Of particular concern for the Framers was the majority of people violating the property rights of the minority,” Thomas writes. Elsewhere in his opinion, he suggests that states may want to set redistricting rules that give an advantage to one side in disputes that “pit urban areas versus rural, manufacturing versus agriculture, or those with property versus those without.”
In case there are any doubts where Thomas’ sympathies lay, he closes his opinion with a flourish. “The Constitution,” Thomas claims, “did not make this Court ‘a centralized politburo appointed for life to dictate to the provinces the ‘correct’ theories of democratic representation, [or] the ‘best’ electoral systems for securing truly ‘representative’ government.””
Disgustingly, Justice Thomas seems to have suddenly found his voice, and he’s channeling Antonin Scalia.
This is our daily Open Thread – have at it.