Shows and partisan politics: Victim or participant?'
By By Buddy Bynum/ editor
February 24, 2002
U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows paints an interesting picture of himself as a victim of an unfair, partisan, political process, much like the grueling confirmation process under way for U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pickering.
Shows is an incumbent congressman likely to run against Pickering's son, U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, in a redrawn central Mississippi congressional district this fall. The state and national political stakes are high and this single election may play a key role in deciding which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives come January 2003.
Shows told us the other day that what Judge Pickering is going through as the Senate decides whether to confirm his nomination to a seat on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is similar to what Shows is going through with redistricting. It's all politics, he said, even reaching into the upper levels of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Judge Pickering's nomination by President Bush is aggressively opposed by a coalition of civil rights groups, which have succeeded in confusing his record, forcing two hearings and delaying a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination is just as steadfastly supported by U.S. Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran and a broad, bi-racial coalition of outstanding Mississippians who know the judge and his work. They were joined last week by our own Sonny Montgomery, who wrote a ringing endorsement letter to the Senate committee.
Shows likes a redistricting plan drawn up by a single Hinds County chancery court judge. It gives the district from which he would run a higher percentage of black voting age population than would a district carved out by a three-judge federal panel. Besides, he said, two of the three federal judges were appointed by Republican presidents.
If you believe the federal judges' role in Mississippi's redistricting was politically motivated, then the concept of impartiality in the federal judiciary is out the window. If you believe the Justice Department, which Shows accused of deliberately delaying a decision on the state court plan, is little more than a political tool of the president's administration, then why not agitate for removing the "preclearance" provision of the federal Civil Rights Act?
This provision forces Mississippi and a handful of other Southern states to get Justice Department approval before they can change any element of the political process, right down to moving a polling place. It is punishment for past transgressions. Shows said he was not prepared to address whether he would favor its removal.
And yet, he sees redistricting as a "state's rights issue." The state court plan should be approved, he said, because a duly-elected state court judge drew it up.
If you follow that logic, then a federal court should never have been involved in the Ayers desegregation case, recently settled at a cost of at least $500 million, because education should be a state's rights issue, too. But that's another story.
Shows is a former coach and farmer and a longtime elected official with a down-home, personable approach to running for office. Look for him to portray himself as a "man of the people" running against the rich Republican interests he claims are represented by Rep. Pickering. And, don't look for him to endorse Judge Pickering's nomination.
It's all politics in a state where raw political power is wielded like a sharp knife through a watermelon.