Kirk Effinger: Drawing lines in the political sand

I’ve received some criticism for a column I recently wrote about the creation of council districts currently unfolding in Escondido. 

My calling into question the line-drawing process and suggesting politics were involved has been labeled by some as “irresponsible.”

In attempting to discredit that notion, these critics are either naive or disingenuous, professing the process is neutral and non-political because that’s what the rules say.

Anyone engaged enough to participate in such a process will not be neutral or non-political.

Let’s be clear — the very justification for the creation of the districts is political. To create districts that are, by definition, expected to deliver more political power into the hands of a group described as a protected class is political.

When certain proponents and defenders of the process state publicly and privately their preference for an Hispanic candidate for city council emerge out of the process, with lines drawn — as if in sand — to exclude the only declared candidate (who happens to not be Hispanic), it’s political.

When those same lines are drawn in a manner that bifurcates the Grand Avenue corridor in downtown Escondido and logic tells you neighborhood character (a supposed component of the districting process) is being ignored, that’s political.

Rigging the game so the outcome is influenced in a certain direction is the antithesis of true democracy.

Efforts to increase voter participation by our government has meant gerrymandered jurisdictions to conform to a preferred result, and making voting as convenient — perhaps even more convenient — as ordering a pizza online.

This is an orchestrated dumbing down of the process, and as such it puts our government at all levels in grave peril.

The notion that any group is a monolithic body — thinking and acting as one — is absurd, and it is equally absurd and patronizing to engineer things to meet this imaginary goal.

The presumption that an elected official of the same ethnicity will naturally act in the best interests of their particular group defies reality. In my experience in the business world, members of ethnic minorities who specialize in servicing their own are often the worst actors because they are given trust they haven’t earned.

There is also concern that certain groups may find it harder to elect people who properly reflect their views.

From the beginning of our nation, every immigrant group that has struggled for its place has had to work harder than those who came before. The products of this hard work have become a part of American culture and lore.

People who find the idea of supporting a campaign for office or taking a few minutes out of their day once every two or four years to enter a polling booth inconvenient are not very likely to do much, if any, research into the issues or candidates upon which they are charged with making decisions.

Life is not easy or fair. Appreciation of the opportunities and freedoms our country offers is more acute in those who have worked hard to achieve success. We diminish those accomplishments by political patronization.

Kirk W. Effinger was born in San Diego and raised in Southern California. He and his family have been residents of San Marcos for the past 30 years. His opinion columns have appeared regularly in the North County Times and, later, the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1995. He can be reached at kirkinsanmarcos@att.net or follow him on Twitter at @kirkeffinger

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