All due apologies to Stephen King and “The Shawshank Redemption,” but it’s time to “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Sachin Chheda , Director of “The Fair Elections Project” and public affairs consultant, is showing me the light at the end of a long crawl through “500 yards of shit-smelling foulness I can’t even imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to.” Today’s chapter, how we can fight unconstitutional gerrymandering.
Wait! Don’t check out! This is an interesting, nationally relevant discussion, even though focused on a Wisconsin lawsuit. Wisconsin has, for the last seven years, been a laboratory for tactics and issues you can expect to be subjected to in the Trump administration, and/or by Republican controlled legislatures and states around the country.
Chheda appeared December 3, 2016, on the legal-focused podcast, “The Law is My Ass,” hosted and produced in San Francisco by Attorney and Law Professor Joe Creitz. (available on Stitcher, SoundCloud and iTunes, as well as at the “libsyn” link shared here).
Chheda explains how The Fair Elections Project is fighting to help ALL of us crawl out of the aforementioned “500 yards of shit-smelling foulness” affectionately know to Wisconsin residents as “The Scott-Walker-administration-led, ongoing Republican legislative power grab.*” (* For the record: It is me, not Chheda, characterizing the behavior of Walker’s administration thus.)
You don’t have to believe me — listen to Chheda’s much more eloquent, legally accurate, and diplomatic phrasing, which begins 13:00 minutes into the podcast. It is wonderfully hopeful to hear someone expressing a similarly idealistic view of how we can improve the currently fouled system.
A few quick excerpts (stitched to sound like a cohesive narrative; listen, for full effect and more detail):
Chheda: “The argument we make isn’t designed to be a partisan one. In fact, we want to eliminate partisan gerrymandering whether it’s done by Republicans or Democrats. And we’d love to be involved in litigation in states where Democrats have unfairly taken super-majorities.”
Creitz: “I think I agree with you, Sachin, that it’s a better world if the playing field is fair, and level, and the parties can battle it out on policy and personality — not on jiggered maps and discriminatory motives.”
Chheda: “I think we have to end the era of trying to gain advantage by stacking the deck. That includes voter suppression. That includes secret money in the system. That includes when voter-id (or voter registration) is used as a blunt instrument to take people out of the system. And I think that includes Gerrymandering. … I think we are much better off fighting for the system to be fair, and working. … That ‘high moral ground’ view is going to be our only hope for salvation as a nation.”
Our only hope. I’m suddenly flashed out of my Shawshank metaphor and think of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ masterpice of “magical realism” “Love in the Time of Cholera.”
We have to rely on “Hope in the time of Walker, Trump and the Koch brothers.”
The Trump victory feels like a bit of a prison. What do you do when you’re in prison? Allow yourself to get “institutionalized” like Brooks, or Red? Get so you “…can’t even take a piss without asking permission?” Here I am, living in the “reddest” Republican District in the country, Waukesha County, in Wisconsin, a state whose legislative district maps are about to head to the SCOTUS and (in my opinion) be declared unconstitutional … and I have hope!
I don’t want to steal more of Chheda’s thunder, but if you hope there is a way out of this prison, there are things YOU can do, efforts you can join. Listen to the podcast and understand that there is hope — not only in new strategies, but just in the sheer fact that there are others who share your beliefs in fair government.
As Red said, “Hope is a good thing. It might be the best thing.” But don’t forget you have to grab your little jeweler’s hammer and start dismantling this prison. (If all these “Shawshank…” references are lost on you, then your first homework is to watch that movie!)