Every decision we make is a calculated risk, trying to figure out if the reward and odds of success are worth the potential pain. Most of the time, we do fairly well. Every now and again, someone, somewhere, will make such a boneheaded miscalculation that the rest of us will scratch our heads and go “huh?” Utah Democratic Party Chair Jim Dababkis is having one of those moments right now.
For those of you not paying attention, Dababkis threatened a lawsuit over the current redistricting effort due to perceived gerrymandering. I’ve looked at some of the proposed maps and, yes, I think the Sumsion 6 Congressional one in particular is a real stinker. It’s kind of a problem, though, to threaten to sue over a map that hasn’t even been adopted yet. Already some substantively different maps have been seriously discussed (including one from Speaker Lockhart that actually looks half-decent), and there’s still plenty of time for back-and-forth to create more new maps. Throwing down the threat now is petulant foot-stomping.
This doesn’t even get into the risk/reward problem that following through on such a threat presents. Consider that the odds of winning a lawsuit on redistricting are extremely slim. Even if such a suit succeeded, we’re talking about maybe 3-4 total seats affected in the legislature. And the cost? I’d say a good six figures after all of the inevitable appeals. (Them lawyers don’t come cheap.) It’s a very high cost with a very small reward and a very high risk. The money might as well be put on red down in Vegas.
The whole affair has been correctly pegged as grandstanding. Dababkis isn’t enough of a rank amateur to think that any suit filed would actually succeed, but he knows that he can score a bunch of political points with the party faithful, even if it is a complete waste of their rather limited funds. Unfortunately, it’ll stop there, and fail to resonate with the rest of the electorate.