This excerpt is from a piece that originally ran on April 25, 2023.
If it feels like you’re seeing drastic, disturbing and anti-democratic behavior in state legislatures, you aren’t imagining it. Lawmakers in some of the most gerrymandered states are abusing their power to try to further solidify that power and silence dissent. We have the Supreme Court to thank.
In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled along political lines that it could not review disputes over partisan gerrymandering. The conservatives in Rucho v. Common Cause insisted that the question of how state legislatures draw their maps is a “political” question and thus “nonjusticiable” by the Court. That means, according to Chief Justice Roberts, no matter how badly gerrymandering undermines the public’s representation—the very heart of republican democracy—the Constitution is silent.
The truth is more that the Court silenced the Constitution and set our democracy on a destructive course. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the liberals’ dissent, the Court had “encouraged a politics of polarization and dysfunction.” The resulting “unchecked” gerrymanders, she warned, “may irreparably damage our system of government.”
It didn’t take long for her to be proven correct.