Mero Moment: Approve That Map!

This week I’d like to follow up with some more thoughts on the controversial redistricting process. The state House has completed its responsibilities, and now Governor Gary Herbert must decide to approve or veto the new redistricting map. If I were governor, I’d sign it. And, as I did, I’d also add these thoughts.

I’ve wondered why the concept of “representative democracy” is so difficult for some folks to understand? Citizens elect people to represent them. Those elected officials gather as much outside input as they feel they need to make good decisions, and then the officials make them. Sometimes those decisions are the same ones we would make and sometimes they aren’t. Representation isn’t based on agreement. Representation is based on some aspect of the common good. It’s impossible for a state senator representing 100,000 citizens to do what each and every one wants her to do. More so, it’s impractical.

It’s mind-blowing for critics of the redistricting process to believe that representative democracy means that every citizen is entitled to their own unique and individual elected official who agrees with them all of the time. Of course, these disgruntled citizens would never admit to such nonsense, but their arguments against the process belie their true feelings.

These same critics also have some obsession with islands of partisanship. If indeed they believe that every citizen ought to have their own personal representative, it’s not a far stretch to see how they argue for political districts made up only of people who think like them. It’s funny how they object to what they call “safe Republican majority” districts when every redistricting map they’ve offered, or won’t oppose, includes a “safer Democrat majority” district. The fact is that the entire state of Utah is a safe Republican majority district. If the Legislature just follows the numbers – like when President Obama called on us to just “do the math” – every congressional district should be about 60 percent Republican and 40 percent Democrat (and that’s being generous to Utah Democrats).

Critics have complained about “closed-door meetings” where all of the real decisions get made. As I said when the GRAMA bill was crafted, I’ll say here again: That’s how final decisions get made in real life. There’s not one business or one family that opens their doors to the public when serious decisions need to be made – not KSL radio, not the Chamber of Commerce, not the LDS Church and not Sutherland Institute. But critics respond that the Legislature is a public institution and all of their proceedings should be public. First, all of their proceedings are public; it’s their brainstorming of ideas that often isn’t nor should it be. Second, again, “the people” either elected those legislators to do this work or they didn’t. Either we have a representative democracy or a pure democracy wherein 3 million Utahns can slug it out over 3 million opinions.

Lastly, evidently I created quite a stir in the progressive beehive by saying that urbanism is an enemy to freedom. I’ll stand by that comment. There’s a reason why the commute into Salt Lake City can get so time-consuming: few people actually live there. Like most big cities today, urban areas are nice places to visit but few people want to live there. In terms of redistricting, why would sane Utahns want to empower a spot on the state map where nobody really wants to live, a place where materialism is social tender and where children are an increasingly declining population? I understand that suburban and rural populations aren’t perfect, but take a look at demographics. In comparison, urbanism lacks families, lacks community and lacks safety. Even charity and compassion are largely imported into the city.

Yes, I realize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered downtown. You might also notice that it is spending over a billion dollars trying to insulate itself from the city surrounding it. The Legislature was wise to blend rural and urban voters. The result will be moderation over time, and that’s a great thing.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero.