Jesse and the Deadly Embrace

The Chicago Tribune in commenting on the conviction of Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife on corruption charges notes the intimate relationship between the creation of “safe seats” by creating favorable district boundaries and official corruption:

To the humiliation that Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi, imposed on Illinois, you can add a political indictment: This state’s egregious gerrymandering aided and abetted the Jacksons’ long crime spree. If Jackson had been running for office in a competitive district — rather than in one of the nation’s most overwhelmingly Democratic — the couple arguably would have had to spend campaign funds on needs more urgent than Build-a-Bear toy animals, what the feds delicately call Costco “undergarments” and the goofy mounted elk heads.

Instead, Jackson throughout his career has been one among hundreds of congressional candidates of both major parties, running for seats in both houses, who raise bushels of campaign money that they don’t need.

They go on to enumerate ways in which the situation is corrupt. It may bear mentioning that the Democrats’ point man in the House on immigration reform represents what is possibly the most gerrymandered district in the country, as I have previously mentioned.

Better late than never, I guess. The Trib endorsed Jackson in 2008, only “withholding” their endorsement after news of Jackson’s corruption was brought to light—not by them. It used to be that newspapers tried to discover and report the truth. Whatever happened to that?

6 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw

    Jackson Jr. appeared to be an up-and-comer when he first got to Congress, and distinguished himself from his father in a way that opened up new doors. But then he largely disappeared from national and statewide attention. When he decided not to run for U.S. Senate in 2004, he left the door open for another post civil rights African-American to grab the ring.

    The article misses the elephant in the room; its not gerrymandering; its racial gerrymandering with majority-minority districts. The most Republican district in Illinois is +11R according to Cook. The most Democratic district in Illinois is +37D. Almost half of the Democratic districts in the state are more than +11D. The majority-minority districts are the means by which the Rs and Ds collude to marginalize black politicians.

  • It works both ways. The Illinois 4th District, alluded to in the post, was constructed specifically to ensure that an Hispanic was elected to the Congress from Chicago. At the time that it was laid out without the gerrymandering, no Hispanic would have been elected from Chicago because Hispanics didn’t have enough voting force in any single, compact area of the city.

    I strongly suspect that day is long past and the bizarre construction of the 4th mainly serves to keep Gutierrez in office.

    The Illinois 2nd District is also unconscionably gerrymandered. How it could stand up to court challenge I have no idea. I don’t know enough about downstate politics but my guess is that it’s designed the way it is to shut Republicans out rather than to corral blacks.

    Maybe the issue is one of standings. Are Illinois Democrats and Republicans colluding to maintain the power of incumbents?

  • PD Shaw

    Now, the 4th District looks like a gerrymander. Looking back at Jackson’s district, would you call that a gerrymander? Its fairly compact.

    It seems to me that you could say one of two things about redistricting in terms of Jackson’s district. One is that more effort should have been taken to recognize the political subdivisions of the state — his district should not have extended into another county. The other is that the Democrats should have pressed their advantage more and not concentrated so many Illinois Democrats in six districts.

  • I think I’d call it an artifact designed to disenfranchise the citizens of Kankakee County.

  • The Chicago Tribune was formerly the voice of Midwestern conservatism and isolationism dissenting from the New Deal and foreign intervention. Then it was the “Republican” newspaper in the nation’s most famously Democratic city, speaking for the establishment GOP and the Illinois Republican Party.

    Today, the Trib, like the Sun-Times and suburban Daily Herald are part of the state’s Combine, with their publishers sitting down together regularly with the other movers and shakers at Fahner’s Civic Committee.

    Not an arrangement begetting tough press coverage

  • PD Shaw

    Dave, to put it another way, if the problem on the South side is gerrymandering, then what would be the nature of reform?

    I think the gerrymandering is partly responsible to the extent the courts will coerce maintenance of majority-minority districts. Every other politician in the state is at risk of a redistricting that puts them in the same district as someone from their own party or a very different voter makeup, including white Democrats when the Republicans draw the maps.

    But Jackson’s district was 69.3% African-American, next to Bobby Rush’s 62.6% African-American. The district wasn’t an aberration of clever drawing; its a reflection of the demographics of the South Side. Most of the gerrymandering fixes I am aware of would do very little. So long as African-Americans will vote for one-party, perhaps a system of cumulative voting within a multiple representative district would make sense; it would not make sense downstate though.

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