RootsCamp LA 7 is coming to Lafayette on March 18-19 and it’s a ‘must make’ event this year because of the surge of new activists that are now engaged in the political and civic process, many for the first time.
RootsCamp started small and has been growing organically since 2010. The first session Dawn Collins organized was in a union hall assembly room near Alexandria. It moves in two-year cycles and has been held in Baton Rouge and New Orleans since the first two events in Central Louisiana.
What’s great about RootsCamp is that the agenda is set by the attendees once they arrive. There are some panel discussions that are scheduled, but the vast bulk of the agenda is set on-site by attendees voting their level of interest.
What became starkly clear last year during the Democratic primary season – where the first wave of 2016 activists were drawn into the process – is how little understanding there is among people about how government is organized and operates, and how parties work. Progressives seem to need Civics classes. Many people couldn’t distinguish between their congressional representatives and their state legislators. Not a minor issue.
We are in a tight spot here. Those who are focused on trying to get members of Congress to respond to voters’ demands are, in many instances, engaged in futile activity. Why? Because the U.S. House of Representatives has been gerrymandered in succeeding Census cycles to lock in congressional Republican majorities in the Congress based on minority vote totals.
Oh, by the way. Those House congressional district lines are drawn by state legislatures. Look at Louisiana as an example. Louisiana has had six congressional seats since the 2010 Census. Louisiana happens to have a non-white population of 37% — about 33% African American, with the rest being Hispanic, Asian, Native Americans and others. Under the concept of one-person, one-vote, Louisiana should have two of our six congressional districts that are winnable by non-Republicans. But, we don’t. Why? Because in 2011 the Louisiana Legislature did the work of then-7th District Congressman Charles Boustany (whose district was disappearing) and carved the 3rd District in such a way as to give Boustany the advantage over then-Congressman Jeff Landry who represented the 3rd District at the time.
I’m not saying Louisiana is a progressive state. See the 2016 presidential election results to settle that. But, I am saying that congressional redistricting and redistricting of districts in the Louisiana House and Senate have been carried out in a partisan way to lock in Republican advantage and to make our state appear more conservative than it actually is.
For those of you whose interest is primarily at the federal issue, this is critical information. Why? Because we cannot see better outcomes in Congress unless and until we understand and change the redistricting process in Louisiana (and other states). Control of Congress, then, can be and has been affected by actions at the state level.
The next state legislative elections are in 2019. The next Census is 2020. The redistricting of the Congressional seats will take place in 2021 for the 2022 elections. The redistricting of state legislative districts will likely take place around the same time, although that work does not have to be completed until 2023.
All of these things require that citizens engage in the process and assert their ownership rights to it. That is the essential requirement of the United States’ experiment with our democratic republic. It’s gotten away from us in recent decades. The corrective is activism and engagement.
That’s why RootsCamp LA is essential.
See you there!
Thanks to Matt Roberts, AOC’s Community Programming Director for help locating the music used in this segment.
A Foolish Game by Hans Atom (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/hansatom/55394 Ft: Snowflake