Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
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It's a redistricting year in the blue state of Illinois, which means that Republicans are getting less consideration than a missionary on the Las Vegas Strip. Democrats have been winning in the Land of Lincoln for a long while, controlling the state House for all but two of the past 38 years. But they see no harm in running up the score.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on a vow to take reapportionment away from politicians and turn it over to an independent commission. But that didn't happen, and when the General Assembly sent him district maps that exemplified partisan gerrymandering, he signed them into law.
"Make no mistake, these maps were drawn solely for the Democrats to maintain their political power in the state of Illinois," House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said. Democrats outnumber Republicans 73-45 in the state House, and those numbers are likely to grow more lopsided.
Similar things are going on in New York, where Democrats have plotted new district lines with the goal of cutting the GOP's eight members of Congress to four or even three of the 26 seats the state will have. That's less than 16 percent of the seats in a state where 38 percent of voters went for Donald Trump. New York's Republican Party chair Nick Langworthy said the redistricting "is a political sham built on a foundation of lies and hypocrisy."
Shams are the norm in this process, where lawmakers celebrate the glories of democracy while scheming to make elections an empty formality. Democrats in blue states are more than willing to ignore their good-government allies to cement their control in state legislatures — and to keep Nancy Pelosi in the speaker's chair.
After losing out on Maryland's last congressional map, Republicans took the fight to the Supreme Court, arguing that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. (The court disagreed.) So you might think that Republicans would be determined to put an end to partisan reapportionment. But hypocrisy is a two-way street.
Today, the GOP has control of the governor's office and the legislature in 23 states, compared to 15 such "trifectas" for Democrats. Such dominance is never more valuable than in a redistricting year, giving those in power the chance to supersize their advantage for a full decade.
Political scientists Alex Keena, Michael Latner, Anthony McGann and Charles Anthony Smith wrote in The Washington Post, "We found that, after 2011, 45 state legislative maps had been drawn with extreme partisan gerrymandering. Of these, 43 favor Republicans, while only two help Democrats. Because of these gerrymandered maps, Republicans held onto power after losing the statewide popular vote in Virginia in 2017, and in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in 2018."
That explains why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has no interest in a Democratic bill that would make it impossible to tilt the playing field. The For the People Act would require states to hand over redistricting to independent commissions. With that reform, incumbents would no longer get to tailor their constituencies to achieve permanent tenure.
It would not prevent either party from winning most legislative or congressional seats in a particular state. Such bodies already draw maps in several states, including Arizona, where the GOP has held a majority in both houses of the legislature since 2003, and California, where Democrats have done the same since 1997.
In most places, the issue is not which party will dominate. It's just by how much.
Besides, no one objects when a party getting a majority of the votes wins a majority of seats. Objections are in order, though, when the party getting a minority of the votes wins a majority of seats. Last year, Democratic candidates for Congress got 43 percent of the votes cast in South Carolina — but only one of the seven House seats, or 14 percent.
A federal solution is needed because at the state level, no party in power wants to cede control of redistricting. Democrats say they can't afford to unilaterally disarm in the battle for power, and Republicans show no interest in mutual renunciation of gerrymandering.
But in the long run, a fairer system would be a good thing for both parties. It would give each more opportunities to compete and more incentive to stay in tune with the preferences of those they represent.
It would be best of all for the voters, many of whom have been effectively rendered powerless. Democracy is supposed to rest on the consent of the governed, not the governors.
Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com
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It was a hell of a hot summer, exploding the tops off thermometers with deadly triple-digit readings across the country, including in far northern regions that've almost never seen such extremes. As we're learning, week after week of debilitating heat intensifies wildfires, causes electric grids to fail, kills millions of wild animals (including fish), burns up crops, and concentrates toxic air.
But there's another impact that draws little notice: Heat kills workers. Indeed, those searing days of 95, 100, 110 degrees kill and injure more U.S. workers each year than all the floods, hurricanes and tornadoes combined. Those toiling outdoors — including farmworkers, roofers and carpenters, airport ground crews, landscapers, road and street repairers, letter carriers and trash collectors — are in the direct line of fire for this invisible, insidious killer. But indoors is no better if there's no air conditioning, for sprawling warehouse and manufacturing plants made of metal and stone become ovens.
Then, welcome to climate change — 20 of the last 21 years gave us the hottest temperatures on record. Unsurprisingly, the yearly number of worker heat deaths doubled over that period. Also, researchers have determined that extreme workplace heat is causing about 170,000 people a year to suffer injuries on the job.
The impact of heat is poorly understood, even by workers. Sudden heatstroke is not the only worry, for rising body temperatures can quickly cloud the mind, weaken muscles and numb concentration. So, workers fall; their hands get caught in machinery; they touch the wrong wire; they get hit by a front-end loader.
Sitting in climate-controlled executive suites, distant legislative chambers and comfortable editorial offices, America's power elites literally don't feel the intensity of this heat, so the richest country in the history of the world continues to subject millions of its people to senseless suffering and death, not even talking about this embarrassment, much less stopping it.
America's corporate acolytes and right-wing moralists preach that an uncomplaining, nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic is what gives dignity to laboring stiffs.
Of course, that's "dignity" as defined and controlled by corporate elites, not by workers, and the reward for it frequently includes on-the-job injuries ... and death. Not that CEOs and well-heeled investors intentionally sicken, maim and kill thousands of laborers every year — but they certainly do put them in positions to experience such unhappy results. For example, they require that farmworkers spend hours picking crops on 105-degree California days, or that construction crews toil in the muggy dog days of Florida summers tarring the roofs of condos. Low-paid, powerless workers die, but no one in the corporate hierarchy did the deed — heat was the killer.
But wait, not only are aloof bosses back at air-cooled headquarters the ones who knowingly subject subordinates to that deadly heat, but they're also the ones who hire squads of lobbyists and lawyers to kill regulations that could prevent these deaths. Proposed solutions are not exactly high-tech or even expensive: Require ample water at work sites; ensure paid rest breaks in cool spaces; train on-site managers and employees to detect and react to signs of heat stress; require good ventilation and proper clothing; establish emergency response procedures; foster a safety-first environment; and impose serious punishments for violators.
Such sensible steps have repeatedly been proposed as official workplace policy for at least the last 50 years — but intense industry opposition has killed the adoption of any such standards of prevention. Instead, the U.S. "protects" workers with a voluntary awareness campaign that essentially consists of posters urging employees to beware of heat, saying to them, "goodbye and good luck."
But at last, a real proposal has been put on the table by more than 110 grassroots groups. See it — and join it — by contacting Public Citizen at Citizen.org.
To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com
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