As the midterm elections become clearer, so does my concern about the big pressing issues: inflation and the economy, Ukraine and Taiwan (note I didn’t say Russia and China), Trump and his very All surveys that deserve to be rich. Congressional rule, and the mild civil war simmering just below the surface of the republic, pierced with chants of anti-Semitic and xenophobic hatred.
I also have another concern about this election cycle. Listening to the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, a Boston native and caricaturist’s dream. His gray hair slanted in shock, his ever-red cheeks blushing more and more, his flat New England accent widening further, he bellowed, “All politics is local.”
I should have paid more attention to the old Tip. And I think I should have paid more attention to his decennial surveys following each US Census. Apart from producing a large body of evidence about our parenting, spending and plumbing habits, it also forms the basis for redrawing our legislative and congressional districts. It’s about enabling demographic changes to be reflected accurately, and it’s about enabling people’s homes to function more closely with the heartbeat of voters.
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At least, that’s a lofty theory.
Often what follows is bare-handed political brawling or frenzied gerrymandering, bending some districts into grotesque shapes and prompting inevitable court dissent. We recently witnessed these scenarios play out with vengeance. Especially with the Red Fortress trying to win over each other by overturning long-established laws and precedents.
In a Garden State not known to be shrinking violets for the most part (pardon the painstaking botanical analogy), this bit of business has been done in a relatively polite manner. Players know what’s going on. And during the pandemic, the process became even more opaque. The New Jersey Redistricting Commission is a state constitutional-mandated body consisting of 12 members, six from each party chosen by legislative leaders (talk inside baseball! ), the 13th possibly impartial chairman draws. The bankruptcy vote needed to validate the new parliamentary map. In many cases, this person is a professor of political science and, in 2020’s example, a retired state Supreme Court Justice, who seems like the ideal choice to lend a respectable patina to the ongoing.
The Commission must hold three public hearings to review plans submitted by the public. And the meeting where the plan is adopted must also be open. However, commissioners are allowed to conduct private sessions, where political sausages take root and redrawn district outlines are formed.
I am writing this because, like many other Jersey citizens, I have apparently not received a memo regarding the newly drawn congressional district. I got it! — to find out in the most roundabout way that another Congressman will represent me…again. When sample ballots for this year’s primaries arrived in the mail at his Orange home in West Democrat Mickey, not in his Cheryl name, but Donald, also a Democrat and a descendant of pioneering black political leaders. Noticed that his pain his junior name was used. at Newark. Apparently, the Essex County Clerk’s Office made a mistake printing the sample. Because I was still bombarded with Ms. Cheryl’s fundraising emails. She represented my 11th district for just her two terms, and in 2018 won the election after incumbent Republican Rodney Fringheisen her junior decided to retire. After the 2010 remapping squeezed parts of Essex into his own district, Mr. Frellinghuysen, who had his base of power in Morris County, came to represent the region.
Well, my district was squeezed again. I felt comfortable with Mr. Sherrill as my representative, but I was displeased with Mr. Frelinghuysen, a 12th-term workhorse who chaired the committee on pure seniority and seldom deviated from the Republican party line. I felt comfortable. On the other hand, she is moderate, liberal, thoughtful, a Navy helicopter-flying Annapolis graduate, a mother, a lawyer, a prosecutor, and sure to be on the right side of issues I deem important. Conversely, Mr. Frellinghuysen traced his lineage to one of New Jersey’s earliest and most prominent families, symbolizing the past. They did little against the generally healthy constituents of the less diverse districts.
Now I have been thrown in the opposite direction. Donald Payne Jr., apparently my new representative in January (Democrats are the virtual locks of the bright blue 10th Ward), was in Newark before being elected to fill his father’s Congressional seat in 2012. Having enjoyed a modest, high-profile career in politics, Elder Donald Milford Payne has died. In 1986, Payne Pail became New Jersey’s first black legislator, winning his 12th term in Congress. In the process, he entered the top ranks of black leadership nationwide with a distinctly liberal voice (not necessarily against Israel) and a penchant for delivering supplies to his Newark constituency. .
But I haven’t heard any peeps from my juniors. In the primary, he overpowered Montclair’s black women’s challenger and got a decisive boost from the Essex Democratic machine.
Like Mr. Freelingheisen before him, he has practiced a modified version of benign campaign ignorance in our region. No mail or email alerts. Just a few lone signs stuck in the ground at important crossroads. I googled the guy and from his pics I could see that he likes bow ties and is much more handsome than his father.Mostly on the basis of votes considered There is none. And oh yeah, he made an obligatory trip to Israel, showing the same concern his father had for Sudan and South Sudan.
I’m not biasing the person by any means, but I certainly cringe at the completeness of the process. to recreate it). As a result of Mr. Frelinghuysen’s previous and another remapping, the venerable William Pascrell became my voice in his DC. Many voters in Bergen, Passaic, Essex and elsewhere are familiar with his name, face and resume. Passionate, credible liberal, Mr. Pascrel has literally been all over the map and continues to thrive on behalf of District 9. Prior to Mr. Paskrel, my Congressman was another intrusive Morris Republican, Dean Gallo, who wrested the seat from Joseph Minish that had been held for 22 years. At least, that’s how it seemed when I was young and just beginning to wonder about political shifts.
I’ll end this tortuous backwards gaze by pointing out that Mr. Minish’s predecessor was the infamous Hugh Adonizio.
And now it comes down to young Mr. Payne. What do you expect? In fact, I’m giving up on not expecting much, except that he will automatically vote Democrat in the potentially Republican House of Representatives in November. Yes, his views and mine seem to confront issues that are important to me, but can we count on his focus and passion? directed to his Newark-area constituency. My suburban sprawl is like a rearranged afterthought.
Old Tip may have been right when he said that all politics are local. But he didn’t say it had to be daunting.
Jonathan E. Lazarus is a former editor and copyeditor of The Star-Ledger and an occasional columnist for the Jewish Standard/NJJN. He will definitely vote for Mr. Payne in November.