Did Illinois Republicans object when Scott Walker was taking his gerrymandering journey across the midwest? Nope.
Did Illinois Republicans object when Scott Walker was taking his gerrymandering journey across the midwest? Nope. Credit: gage skidmore

I woke up Sunday to the sounds of sobbing.

Also, weeping, wailing, and bleating.

No, it wasn’t LeBron James or Luka Dončić complaining about a referee’s call. On a tangent—has any basketball player ever fessed up to committing a foul, no matter how egregious?

No, the sobs didn’t come from the playoff games I’ve been watching. They came from Illinois Republicans, weeping over the allegedly low-down treachery of Governor Pritzker for having signed legislative maps that, in the vernacular of mapmakers, “ratfucked” the GOP.

I read about it in a front-page Tribune story filled with self-pitying Republican quotes from . . .

Senator Dan McConchie: “How can we trust him [Pritzker]?”

And Senator Jason Barickman: “He joins the all-too-long list of Illinois politicians who promise one thing and then do another.”

And state representative Jim Durkin . . .

Ah, that’s enough Republican sob stories for the day.

Having read the article, I had a decision to make. Did I feel even a teeny-tiny tidbit of pity for these Republicans? Or did I write them off as a bunch of self-serving hypocrites?

Before I answer those questions, let me answer these.

Is Pritzker, as the Republicans contend, a promise breaker? I suppose. As a gubernatorial candidate, he promised not to approve legislative maps unless they were approved by at least some members of both parties.

Does breaking that promise make him a hypocrite?

Tough question. It requires me to travel into the soul of Governor Pritzker to determine whether he meant what he said when he said it, or whether he was just saying it ’cause it seemed like the right thing to say at the time.

Like Mayor Lightfoot on the elected school board, which she wholeheartedly supported as candidate Lightfoot—only to vociferously oppose as Mayor Lightfoot.

By the way, curious silence from the Republicans on Mayor Lightfoot’s elected-school-board flip-flop. Most of them voted against the elected-school-board bill in large part because the Chicago Teachers Union favored it. One thing Chicago mayors and Republicans agree on is that they hate the CTU.

Back to the sobbing Republicans . . .

The issue has to do with redistricting, which happens every ten years after the census to make sure that all districts have roughly the same number of people.

Is the map that Pritzker signed fair? I think we’ll all agree it is not.

It’s classic gerrymandering—intended in this case to help Democrats and hurt Republicans.

Mapmakers have a word for what this map does to Illinois Republicans. It “wastes” Republican votes by packing them into super Republican districts. The more voters of a party you “waste,” the less power that party wields. Maximizing the influence of your voters while minimizing the influence of your opponent is the whole point of gerrymandering.

Is that fair? No. Should it be tolerated? Of course not. Does it lead to partisanship, and rancor, and make it easier to elect extremists, like—just to pick one example from downstate Illinois—Congresswoman Mary Miller, the Republican who declared that “Hitler was right”? Unfortunately, yes.

By the way, Miller “apologized” for declaring “Hitler was right.” Though, as I’ve previously discussed, her “apology” was in some respects as offensive as her original statement. Judge for yourself.

So, yes, Illinois Republicans—and their allies in the nonpartisan do-gooder community—make a good point when they say gerrymandering is potentially corrosive to democracy.

But are they consistent when they make this point? Do they raise opposition when Republicans do the gerrymandering? For instance, did they denounce Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, a Republican, when he ratfucked the hell out of Democrats in 2011?

Walker and his legislative allies passed a map that was so beneficial to the GOP that they wound up winning 61 percent of assembly seats even though they got less than 50 percent of the statewide vote in legislative elections.

That enabled Walker to further empower his party by passing anti-union laws, paving the way for Donald Trump to win Wisconsin over Hillary Clinton.

And yet, not one word of opposition from any Republicans in Illinois.

It gets even worse. In Michigan, voters said enough with the gerrymandering after Republicans in that state gerrymandered Democrats, proposing a referendum to take mapmaking away from elected officials and put it under the control of a nonpartisan commission.

That referendum passed with about 61 percent of the vote.

Did Republicans go along with the will of the people? Of course not. A bunch of Republicans—aligned with Scott Walker—sued to overturn the referendum on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. 

And what was the response from Durkin, Barickman, McConchie, and other Illinois Republicans to Walker’s suit?

You know the answer. More silence.

Wait, wait—there’s more. In 2016, legislators in Nebraska passed a law turning mapmaking over to a nonpartisan commission. Republican governor Pete Ricketts vetoed it. (Yes, he’s part of the same Ricketts family that makes it so hard for any Democrat to root for the Cubs.)

And, of course, there’s the congressional For the People Act, which would limit gerrymandering throughout the country. It has no Republican support. For the obvious reason—if you fairly drew legislative maps, Republicans would lose control of legislatures all over the country.

All in all, it’s pretty obvious that Illinois Republicans couldn’t care less about abusive mapmaking. And they’re only looking for excuses to bash Pritzker in the hopes of replacing him in the 2022 election with a right-winger who will, among other things, declare Trump the winner of the last election, abolish abortion, eradicate collective bargaining rights, and do away with environmental protection laws.

In conclusion, do I feel even the teeny-tiniest tidbit of pity for the sobbing Republicans?

Hell, no. They’re shedding tears of the crocodile persuasion. In contrast, LeBron and Luka seem sincere.  v