Blogger James Rowen wrote an quasi-philosophical op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel entitled, "In the Legislature, as in baseball, process and substance are connected." It should be no surprise then that the logic of the piece was about as awkward and meandering as its title.
James starts his article saying, "We know there isn't a separation between mind and body, and when it comes to law and the body politic, there's no disconnect between process and substance, either."
James talked about how Republican lawyers had secret dealings and withheld documents during statewide redistricting efforts. When the secrecy was brought to the attention of the Assistant Attorney General, she retorted that the process of legislation wasn't on trial. And she was right.
James remarked, "You'd hope that with the phrase, 'due process' in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that process in a case about voting rights would not get short shrift."
Soooo, what do voting rights have to do with due process or redistricting? Does James think the Assistant Attorney General testified in a case involving voter rights? Is he confusing the Voter ID lawsuit filed by Voces de la Frontera with federal redistricting lawsuit filed by the same organization?
He goes on to compare the Republican secretive "process" in redistricting to how "process" was relevant in the handling of Ryan Braun's urine sample. Because of process, it has been argued, Braun won his appeal and was vindicated from accusations of taking banned substances. But, is the comparison valid?
It was not preferable for Republicans to be secretive in their dealings with redistricting. We expect our government to be transparent so we can hold them accountable. In Braun's case, however, the ruling was overturned because chain of custody was broken. Instead of mailing Braun's urine sample to a laboratory as protocol required, the sample collector took it home and stored it in his basement for two days with no oversight.
James is indeed comparing the broken chain of custody involving a urine sample to secretive redistricting meetings. It's a false comparison. Is there any risk that secret redistricting meetings would contaminate state maps the way mishandling a urine sample could contaminate someone's T/E ratios? All secrecy does for Republicans in redistricting is conceal the "why." However, Republican motives do not matter to Latinos if the result gives them a stronger voice in state government. Voces de la Frontera disagrees; but then again, they don't have the Hispanic community's best interest at heart.
James says, "Open and evenhanded process matters because without it, fair and credible dispute resolution between people and groups with power differentials is blocked, even corrupted, and a basic tenet of living in a democracy is sacrificed."
What James is saying in a rather clumsy way is that we need to be open in our dealings so we can resolve disputes fairly. Okay, sounds great, but how does the preference of transparency translate into the overturning redistricting maps because Republicans were so secretive? Shall we throw the baby out with the bath water? To do that, I suggest that Rowen shows us how Republican secrecy could contaminate state redistricting maps. If not, he has no case.