Republicans are really mad about redistricting. An approved draft (as in preliminary) congressional map strengthens the chances of Democratic incumbents Gabby Giffords and Raul Grijalva, both of whom narrowly won re-election last year. Republican freshman David Schweikert and Ben Quayle, on the other hand, appear to be on a collision course and could face each other in the primary in 2012. And Republicans have argued that the map, which has two rural districts, runs counter to the required constitutional requirement of respecting communities of interest.
The oft repeated, but rarely examined term, in its most basic sense translates to “people who have a lot in common.” Theoretically, that requirement exists to ensure that people – or at least similarly minded people – can be represented by leaders of their choosing who hopefully do not have the difficult political situation of having to appeal to and work towards completely divergent interests and goals. A real-life example of this scenario is on full display in what is currently Arizona’s first congressional district, a geographically gigantic area that includes more liberal areas like Flagstaff and conservative bastions like Yavapai and Gila counties. By design – and political demand – a representative for the district could find himself or herself trying to be both Captain Tea Party for ranchers in Prescott and Leader of the Search Party for Federal Spending for people in Window Rock.
Republicans, led by Brewer, claim the IRC is out to get them and is trying like mad to artificially boost the chances of Democrats by breaking apart “communities of interest” and dispersing like-minded voters into different districts in order to dilute conservative political power. What is missing from the equation, however, is any consideration of what politicians in both parties have in common.
Candidates have always and always will need to appeal to voters. To win, they need the right message for the right people at the right time. Aided by angst with President Obama and a Democratic Congress, Republicans posted enormous wins across the county last year. Arizona Republicans campaigned – and won a lot – on their support for SB1070 during a high tide of concern over illegal immigration. Will illegal immigration be as big of a political concern to voters next year as it was in 2010? It might be. But then again, it might not.
The idea that the IRC could crack a red state that has Republican supermajorities in both legislative houses and Republican ownership of the governor’s office, the secretary of state’s office, the attorney general’s office, the superintendent of public instruction’s office, the treasurer’s office and the majority of seats on the Corporation Commission and reassemble it into a blue, liberal paradise for Democrats seems implausible, if not absurd. Republicans outnumber Democrats, who are themselves outnumbered by Arizona’s independents, who, judging by the beating Democrats have endured in the state for years, tend to vote Republican.
Republicans can cry conspiracy. It’s good theater, amplified by irregularities with the redistricting process that should be troublesome to voters of all ideologies. But deep down they know, just as Democrats do, that the ultimate authority lies with the voters. Next year, those voters will decide whether the Republicans are acting like power drunk whiners or rightful monitors of a crooked card game. And voters can decide for themselves whether Democrats deserve to be rewarded for not behaving like the Republicans or scolded for what our current leaders tell us is the pick-pocketing of the redistricting process. We will see.