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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Waxman and Polarization

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has announced that he will not seek reelection.  Many pundits have commented favorably on his long career, but at Fox and Hounds, Tony Quinn offers a different view, saying that few other lawmakers "have contributed more to the partisanship, extremism and dysfunction of Congress."
Waxman’s first contribution to dysfunctional politics won’t be mentioned in the fawning accounts of his career in the state and national media; his involvement in the arcane world of redistricting. Waxman was elected to the California Assembly in 1968 and became chair of the redistricting committee in 1971.
Redistricting could be partisan, but at least people were honorable. Waxman was not. His main objective in the 1971 redistricting was to create a seat for his fellow Democratic and an old pal, Howard Berman. That’s fine, but in Waxman’s case he just rolled over the Republican opposition since his scheme required collapsing Republican seats. This set off a two year long redistricting war the likes of which California had never seen and out of that grew the partisan hatreds that colored life in the California legislature for decades
Over his decades in Congress, Waxman was well known for showing utter contempt for his political and policy opponents, never willing to admit that they may have a legitimate argument once in a while. That attitude led him to reshape the investigating committees which he chaired in the 1990s into star chambers, most notably when he harangued tobacco executives at a famous 1994 hearing.
Anti-tobacco liberals and Democrats loved that of course. But now Rep. Darrell Issa (R-San Diego), the current chairman of the main investigating committee, does exactly the same thing to his political enemies Waxman once did, and left wingers and Democrats decry his behavior. Well, maybe they should look at who started using Congress like a tool for personal inquisitions, Henry Waxman.