I’ve been asked for my personal reflection on the new map for the newly-drawn North Carolina 11th congressional district. This district, while not perfect, suggests democratic benefits to the voter while providing more opportunities and challenges to me and the Republican candidate as we advance to the November general election.
First, for the voter, the reconfiguration will lessen the impact of factions within the district. George Washington, in his farewell address to the Union in 1796, warned of factions. Although the practice of carving up a district for the political advantage of one party was not considered, the insidiousness of gerrymandering results in the dangers of a faction to our Republic about which Washington spoke. Gerrymandering, by design, is a “misrepresentation” of the interests of the people and causes what Washington suggested was a “ground . . . furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations.” This practice of “geographical discriminations” undermines national unity in pursuit of power, guaranteeing the party in power control of the legislative branch of Congress.
In past congressional races, the candidate favored by the gerrymandered partisan lines spoke only to the base, which all but guaranteed a majority vote. The candidate didn’t have to consider the “other” party or the broader population of moderate and independent voters. The candidate preached to the choir, but not to the congregation he should also represent.
The benefit for constituents of the new district is restoring the value of their vote. Fortunately, the new map undoes much, but not all, of the overarching advantage of one party over the other in the 11th district race. It allows for what Washington desired — “a more distinct expression of the public voice.” The redrawing of the congressional map refreshes the principle of our constitutional democracy that every vote matters. This is the most important outcome of the new congressional map.
There are also new opportunities and challenges for candidates. First, as a Democrat, I understand that as the party’s nominee, I will have a more equal footing with my Republican challenger in earning the votes of those whom I will be entrusted to represent. The potential voters I need to reach will be more representative and more diverse.
This can also be a challenge. I firmly believe that the Democratic party represents the best interests of the people in our district and our country. The national and state party platforms and positions reaffirm why I am a Democrat. I know, as a primary contender, I am preaching to the choir as I earn the right to be the Democratic candidate in the general election. The challenge is that in the general election, I will speak with the entire congregation of voters– moderate, unaffiliated, and yes, Republican. However, my Republican opponent will have to do the same.
I welcome this challenge! All votes matter. As Madison wrote in Federalist 10, with the “greater number of citizens . . . it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practise with success the vicious arts, by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre on [candidates] who possess the most attractive merit, and the most diffusive and established characters.”
I encourage all voters in the 11th district to review my credentials, my record, and my background as they decide who is best equipped to defeat the Republican challenger. Voters will know that their choice matters. And I, as your representative, will represent everyone in the district to support and defend the Constitution.
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