Friday, April 01, 2011

Today's vocabulary word is "Realpolitik"

There is a great deal of hand wringing going on in the leftysphere right now over the results of redistricting. Bizarrely enough, nearly all the criticism seems to be leveled at the Democratic Party and the Democratic-controlled state senate which produced the senate redistricting plan. The senate is currently 22 Democrats and 18 Republicans. The Democrats' plan for senate redistricting would likely produce a senate with 22-23 Democrats and 17-18 Republicans. The Democratic plan more or less preserves the status quo.

Republican plan for the Republican-dominated House of Delegates is far less balanced. The House of Delegates currently has 61 Republicans and 39 Democrats, but the Republican's plan for redistricting could produce a House with 72 Republicans and 28 Democrats. The Republicans achieve this result with some truly startling examples of gerrymandering, crowding Democrats into a few districts to ensure that Republicans will hold nearly three-quarters of the lower legislative body.

But progressives on the left seem to have become inured to such behavior from Republicans, so much so that they neglect to criticize it. Instead they are focusing their ire on the Democratic Party for having the temerity to act in such a way that it will have a chance to materially affect the course of Virginia government for the next ten years (until the next re-districting).

Ideals are wonderful things. It must be nice to live on those lofty peaks, looking down on the more practical minded. The scent of lotus flower is heady stuff at such high altitudes. It must be truly wonderful to achieve such heights of ideological purity.

But the reality is that the Democratic Party of Virginia and the people it has to fight for cannot afford for the DPVA to become an ineffective minority in all three branches of state government. Those of us who care about such things as restraining the far right wing's darling Ken Cuccinelli and preventing Governor McDonnell's attempts to sell Virginia's assets to his friends for pennies on the dollar can't afford your idealism. We need to maintain the status quo in the Senate to restrain the worst of the Republican excesses we see in other states.

The red-faced (but ideologically pure) who insist on stamping their feet, gnashing their teeth, and pouting would be well-advised to look up the definition of "realpolitik"--real politics, the practical application of governing power. The Republican Party isn't interested in your "fairness." The Republican Party is going to exercise brute power to ensure they grab as much influence as they can--the Republican Party needs that influence, it is their stock-in-trade. Influence is what the Republican Party peddles to the wealthy.

So while we all admire your idealism, you will have to pardon us as we act rationally to respond to the realities of the situation in which we find ourselves. The Democratic plan for redistricting the state senate is a completely rational response to the wild overreach by the Republican House. If progressives want a more rational approach to redistricting, then they ought to direct their energies towards persuading the Republican Party of Virginia to change their plans first. The Republican overreach is the political reality that drives the necessity of the Democratic response.

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