Redistricting in Delaware: a better idea

Last in a three-part series. Here’s parts one and two to catch you up.

Over the last few years, I’ve become aware of a group called the Institute on the Constitution. Its purpose is to “restore the constitutional republic through grassroots education,” but one wrinkle they’re adding in the near future is a course on Delaware’s Constitution that will be held around the state.

However, all I had to do was read the document to see what the intention of its writers has been regarding legislative districts, as both the initial layout and proposed expansions were spelled out – if rather archaically – in Articles 2 and 2A.

Interestingly enough, the original intent was for 35 House members representing various districts, usually Hundreds. (In the city of Wilmington, it was broken down further to Wards.) Despite the population disparity between New Castle County – then, according to the latest Census at the time in 1890, it had 57.7% of the state’s population – and the rest of the state, New Castle was assigned 15 Representatives, while the other two counties were given 10 apiece.

In Article 2A, it was further decreed that once a district reached a population of 15,000 plus a “major fraction” (which I would interpret as over half, or 7,501) it was entitled to another representative. Obviously over time, some areas have well exceeded their apportionment while others are way short. It’s probably enough to render a strict reading of this provision meaningless, particularly since the Delaware Constitution also states that, “After each official federal decennial census the new Representative Districts created pursuant to this Section (2A) shall be abolished and the Representative Districts set forth in Section 2 of this Article shall again be re-divided as set forth herein.” In theory, of course, these lines can be bent and shaped any way the majority party pleases, although to me that provides legitimate Constitutional questions as to why a district can be in two counties and how Kent and Sussex counties no longer have ten representatives apiece. (I’m betting it’s an effect of something I’m discussing later on.)

Oddly enough, the state Constitution also provided for seven Senators from each county and laid out Senate districts based on Representative districts. I’m going to come back to this in due course, but first let’s discuss an idea for the House.

In Article XVI of the Delaware Constitution, there is a provision to allow voters a say on whether there should be a constitutional convention. It would take a 2/3 vote of each chamber to put it on the ballot.

Now one would think that the majority party might jump at the chance to change the state Constitution, but it doesn’t appear they pay much attention to it anyway. Regardless, assuming such a motion were to pass, the next step would be to choose Delegates for the convention, and that’s where it would get interesting. Because there’s no precedent, the General Assembly would legally have to hew to the initial 35 representative lines for the convention’s membership (15 from New Castle, 10 apiece from Sussex and Kent) then add six other participants – two from New Castle County, two from Kent County, and two from Sussex County. All of these participants would have to be selected by the voters of the respective districts or by the counties at-large, which would give us the opportunity to place 25 or so right-thinking people on the convention committee.

The idea here would be to reset the House: not to the initial 15/10/10 arrangement, because that would be unfair to New Castle County, but to expand the House to about 75 members, which would place districts under the initial 15,000 population threshold with room to grow. In such an arrangement, New Castle would currently have 43 members, 14 for Kent, and 18 for Sussex, with each district averaging about 13,200 people. It could also be incorporated that the House would expand at each Census as necessary to keep the representative district population at 15,000, like the state Constitution initially intended.

The Senate is where things get intriguing. While we still have 21 state Senators, this provision was nullified by the incorrect judicial overreach in two separate cases dating from the 1960s, Baker v. Carr and, later, Reynolds v. Sims, which mandated all state legislative districts be of equal population, whether in the lower or upper chamber. While the subject states were incorrectly maintaining population disparities in their lower legislative chambers, the model of the U.S. Senate should have remained valid for states to follow. In his dissent on Reynolds v. Sims, Justice John Marshall Harlan correctly asserted that, “I think it demonstrable that the Fourteenth Amendment does not impose this political tenet on the States or authorize this Court to do so.” We take the Fourteenth Amendment way too far sometimes and pull our punches in others, but that’s a subject for another day. But it is sufficient to say that the SCOTUS ran roughshod over our Delaware state constitution in both House and Senate composition.

I can work with this on the House side, since the intent is for equal representation for the people. However, one aspect the Court did not appear to address was this: what if it was no longer an individual’s right to directly vote on their Senate representative?

Prior to the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, each state legislature chose its Senators. This insured states would have a voice in the federal government commensurate with that of the people, who directly elected House of Representative members that were apportioned by state population. (Thus, for most of its history Delaware has been represented at-large by just one House member.) There was nothing wrong with that model, which remains somewhat in effect since the number of Senators from each state hasn’t changed, just the method of selection. While it would be even better if the Seventeenth Amendment were somehow repealed (sigh), it’s still an important check on large states, whether they be California, Florida, or Texas, running rampant on federal government as a coalition of smaller states can keep legislature detrimental to them at bay.

To me, it would be worth the court fight certainly required to install this system in the Delaware Senate, where the legislative bodies of each county would select seven Senators apiece on staggered terms to serve in the Senate. It would make local elections vastly more important and allow for the counties to have their voice heard, because the individual concerns of Kent and Sussex are drowned out by the massive delegation New Castle brings to the table. News flash: we ain’t NCC down here.

I can guaran-damn-tee that people are going to read this final part and think I have lost my ever-lovin’ mind. But look at all the Left has foisted on us in the last 20-30 years and think about how crazy some of that would have sounded in 1970 – yet here we are, dealing with it. At some point, the pendulum has to swing, and with any luck and assistance from the Lord above I will be around to see our Constitution come back stronger than ever. It has to begin someplace.

Redistricting in Delaware: where we are going

This is the second of three parts.

As noted in my first part, Delaware Democrats had a problem in redistricting – according to population, they were going to have to move a House district (and potentially a Senate district) out of the Democrat stronghold of New Castle County to the more reddish climes of Sussex County because, of the trio of Delaware counties, Sussex grew fastest by far.

That was what they were supposed to do. Instead, they decided to cram just as many people as they legally could into Sussex’s five Senate districts, which all are larger than average to the point that Sussex has five of the state’s seven largest Senate districts by population. Their only concession was to move Senate District 18, which formerly was roughly split in half by the Sussex-Kent county line, southward to place most of its territory into Sussex County, with a small carveout in Kent County for the city of Milford. Even with this shift, it’s probable that, by the end of the decade, most of the Senate districts in Sussex will exceed the state average by 10 percent while Democrat stronghold districts in and around Wilmington will be hollowed out more. While districts in New Castle generally moved southward, they kept the same number they had before despite the smaller share of population.

As for the House: fortunately, they had a House member from New Castle County who wasn’t planning on running for re-election in 2022 (the politically incorrect Rep. Gerald Brady) so his was the district they selected to transfer to Sussex. By contrast, the Republican map only moved that district southward into a different area of New Castle County and removed District 18, where Rep. David Bentz had similarly announced (under much more acceptable circumstances) that he wouldn’t seek another term, to the fast-growing Long Neck area of Sussex. Regardless, the net result was that of terminating a district that Democrats won with an average of 70% of the vote and moving it to a district where Republicans have an advantage in voter registration.

I’m going to shift the goalposts a little bit now. Let’s use 2% as the new standard for district over- or underpopulation with the revised districts and see how the state is now arranged. I’m also going to concede House District 4 to the Republicans for the purpose of this exercise – hey, they’re now only down 25-16 in the House now!

If all Senators maintained their districts, Democrats in underpopulated Senate districts would be 8 of 14 (57%), while just 3 of 14 (21%) would be from overpopulated areas. On the other hand, 5 of 7 Republican Senators come from districts with more than 2% above-average population, with none from the converse underpopulated districts. All seven current GOP members have larger-than-average districts, although Senate District 15 is so by just six people.

Turning to the House, 10 of the remaining 25 Democrats (40%) represent underpopulated districts, again mostly in the Wilmington area. However, 9 of 25 (36%) come from the inverse overpopulated areas. As you’ll see in the next part, the shifting in New Castle County played a role in this; suffice to say the majority could have done a little better in fine-tuning things. Unlike the situation in Sussex County, several of these overstuffed districts lie in the Middletown and Newark areas, as well as one in Dover.

As for the Republicans it’s the opposite. 6 of 16 (38%) come from districts 2% or more over average. Two of them are in Sussex County districts left alone by the House District 4 shift, and two come from the southern end of New Castle County (or Kent County, as House District 11 continues to straddle the two counties.) Meanwhile, 5 of 16 (31%, including our presumed District 4 rep) hail from underpopulated districts. Three of them, however, were affected by the District 4 move.

The reduction of House District 4 is an interesting case. This is its lay of the land in the last go-round:

The former House District 4 is in red. Redistricting necessitated its relocation to Sussex County. (All images: screenshot from Davesredistricting.org.)

And this is the new map of the same area. Most of its former physical territory appears to have been absorbed into House District 12, but House Districts 1 and 3 on its former eastern flank added enough population to address two of the most serious population shortages.

Most of House District 4 appears to be absorbed into House District 12.

Here is where House District 4 ended up. As you can see by the top map (the existing condition), once you plop in House District 4 the Long Neck area of Sussex County won’t be sharing a district with Georgetown anymore. House District 37 trends to the west, taking a little bite out of House Districts 35 and 36; meanwhile, districts along the Maryland border really aren’t affected.

The state of play in Sussex County before last month.
Long Neck will have its own representative now. We lost the northeastern fringe of our district to District 37.

 Overall, then, I would have to say that the Democrats didn’t take a whole lot of advantage in the House, but their hand was somewhat forced by the obvious population shifts. In ten years, though, it’s likely the GOP strongholds will again be the ones that run well above average.

In the final part, I have some ideas on how to make our legislature more responsive to all interested parties.

Redistricting in Delaware: the current state of play

This is the first of a three-part series on our state’s recent legislative redistricting.

In 2010, the state of Delaware was politically much like it is today, with Democrats in control of both the executive and legislative branches. Jack Markell was early in his first term as governor, while the Delaware General Assembly had Democrat control in both chambers: 14-7 in the 21-seat Senate, and 26-15 in the 41-seat House – this despite an electorate that, at the time, was 47% Democrat, 29% Republican, and 22% unaffiliated, with the remainder scattered among minor parties. Given that control, the Democrats pushed through maps that attempted to continue favoring them.

Although the maps created districts that were reasonably compact and contiguous, and divided the state up pretty much properly between counties in terms of number of seats per county, they also maintained the Democrats’ stronghold on the state. As of this writing, the House and Senate numbers are unchanged from those in 2010, and while the fortunes of the Democrats have ebbed and flowed – a special election in 2017 put the Democrats in jeopardy of losing their Senate majority, although they prevailed thanks to lots of campaign money – the electorate has barely moved in terms of registration: it’s now 48% Democrat, 28% Republican, and 22% unaffiliated, with the rest still enrolled in minor parties. If you assume the unaffiliated and minor party voters line up with the proportion established by the duopoly, Democrats outperform their 63% portion in the Senate by a half-seat and fall right in line with the proportions in the House. However, based on recent state voting results, the non-affiliated electorate tends to skew somewhat more Republican, so in essence the Democrats have “stolen” a couple seats.

And there are reasons why. But let’s begin with the basics: for this discussion, it’s worthy to note that districts in Delaware are numbered in a generally north-to-south fashion, although there is shuffling to some degree in New Castle County, the northernmost county where most of Delaware’s population lives. Over the years, a population shift southward toward the beaches of Sussex County has necessitated the breaking of this pattern: Senate District 6 and House Districts 14, 19, and 20 have all been transplanted from New Castle to Sussex. Otherwise, Sussex has the Senate districts from 18-21 and the House districts from 35-41. (In the new adopted map, Sussex will have another “out-of-place” district as House District 4 moves from New Castle to Sussex. District 4 is currently represented by Democrat Gerald Brady, who has already announced he would not seek re-election thanks in part to cancel culture, so his district was available to move.)

The shifting of districts entirely, writes Captain Obvious, means the population trends in the state have rendered the old districts obsolete. In Delaware there is an allowed 10% deviation in population within districts, which can be 5% higher or lower than average. Knowing that, it’s no wonder that those in charge have an opportunity to heist a few seats by making their safe districts smaller than the average and the opposition’s districts larger. In this case, Delaware’s political makeup and population shifts (which planners were obviously aware of in 2010) have conspired to really give short shrift to the minority Republicans.

To figure out the current state of play, I found some of the measures relied on a website called Dave’s Redistricting. (I’ve used it before to draw a fairer Congressional map in Maryland, where there is such a thing as a Congressional map. It was much better than the brutal gerrymandering that eventually passed.) As of the 2020 census, there are 6 current Senate districts and 9 in the House which exceed the 5% threshold for overpopulation; conversely the underpopulated districts number 9 in the Senate and 12 in the House. In a growing state like Delaware you would expect the opposite, but it’s less surprising when you find out the overpopulated districts are the Republican ones: 4 of 6 in the Senate and 5 of 9 in the House. Put another way, 57% of Republican senators and 33% of Republican House members represent overcrowded districts; the same is true for just 14% of Senate Democrats and 15% in the House.

In contrast – and not unexpectedly – all nine Senate districts voters (and others) are fleeing are controlled by the Democrats. Moreover, 10 of the 12 significantly underpopulated House districts are Democrat-controlled – so they are catering to a shrinking population. Again, no Republican Senator represents an underpopulated district but a whopping 64% of Democrat Senators represent a Senate district more than 5% below average population. In the House, only 13% of Republicans hail from a district severely short on population, but 38% of House Democrats do.

Knowing all that, there was no question that districts had to move, and the Sussex County beaches were going to gain representatives. The question would be how begrudging the Democrats would be in giving Sussex – the most Republican of the three counties – its due.

In part two, I’ll look at where the state is going.

Maybe showing up is not enough.

As I promised the other night, this is the second part of my impromptu series that began when I quoted the Delaware state Libertarian Party chair at length. I want to go back and remind you of the portion that was the springboard for this part of my thinking:

The “Patriots of (sic) Delaware” and before them the 9-12 groups and Tea Party groups also showed up and volunteered and did all the things. The result has been an absolute tanking of DEGOP vote totals since Christine O’Donnell knocked out Mike Castle in a primary and now the Republicans do not hold a single statewide office and can’t even block bills requiring a 2/3rds vote in the Delaware Senate. They have been catering to the people who show up instead of the people who don’t and it’s destroying them.

Will McVay, Delaware Libertarian Party Chair, December 5, 2021.

Part of the problem I have with that assertion is finding out that the trend away from Republicans began long before Christine O’Donnell ever ran for anything.

If you look at Delaware now, you would see a state that is solidly blue politically. What Will McVay said made me go back and do some research, using voter registration and election data from the Delaware Department of Elections. With some exceptions, their online database goes back to 1972, so let’s begin there.

This, then, is a short and abridged history of the downfall of Delaware’s two-party system.

1972: At that point fifty years ago, Democrats only outregistered Republicans by just over six points (41.2% to 34.9%.) That was as close as the GOP has come to the Democrats over the period I’m covering, and in that year’s election the results were bipartisan: Richard Nixon carried Delaware in his re-election bid, bringing along House member Pierre duPont. Sherman Tribbitt was elected governor as a Democrat, and he had a mate in some young unknown to the U.S. Senate seat named Joe Biden.

1976: Perhaps the shift toward Democrats began with Watergate, as the Democrats picked up four points among the electorate in four years, expanding to a 43.3% to 32.9% registration lead. Jimmy Carter won Delaware as he did nationally, but the Delaware Republicans bucked an otherwise dismal trend by keeping GOP Senator William Roth in office and buttressing him with newly-elected House member Thomas Evans, Jr. The House seat opened up because fellow Republican Pierre duPont won the governorship, defeating incumbent Sherman Tribbett.

1982: While Republicans held at 32.9%, Democrats continued to increase by rising to a new high of 44.6%. (I’m using 1982 registration data because the 1980 set is missing.) In that 1980 election, Ronald Reagan carried Delaware for the GOP, bringing with him Thomas Evans Jr. and Pierre duPont for another term apiece. Two years later, Evans would be replaced by Democrat Tom Carper, which brings us to…

1984: As part of his 49-state stomping of Walter Mondale, Ronaldus Maximus carried Delaware. He also began a restoration of Republican fortunes in Delaware as their registration total rebounded to 33.6% while the Democrats held practically steady at 44.7%. The Reagan revolution also kept the governorship in GOP hands as Mike Castle won the job. Delaware, though, retained Democrat Joe Biden in office and kept his party-mate Tom Carper in the House. (You’ll notice a lot of these names begin to sound familiar.)

1989: Don’t ask me why, but the state has 1989 registration totals under their 1988 file. Regardless, the GOP continued to eat into the Democrats’ lead, trailing just 43.6% to 36.1%. The 1988 election, though, would be the last time the GOP won Delaware’s electoral votes as George H.W. Bush carried the state, along with William Roth maintaining his Senate seat for the GOP and Castle winning a second term as governor – the last GOP governor to be elected. Tom Carper was the one successful Democrat, keeping his House seat.

1992: This was the year of the big switch in more ways than one. The Republicans were at their peak, garnering 36.8% of registered voters compared to 43.4% for the Democrats. Bill Clinton won the Presidential election, but the controversy was in Mike Castle and Tom Carper trading jobs, with Castle relocating from Dover to Washington as Delaware’s newest member of Congress while Carper came home to become Governor. Neither Senator was on the ballot.

So in the first twenty years of this study, the Republicans lost ground for awhile in the post-Nixon Watergate era but steadily gained it back under Reagan/Bush to return pretty much to where they were when this began.

1996: Whether it was the Perot factor, or reaction to the Gingrich-era Contract with America, both parties lost ground in the mid-90s. Democrats fell to 42.4% – a low they have since continued to recover from – while the GOP slipped to 35.5%. And aside from Castle keeping his House seat for the Republicans, it was a disaster for them as Bill Clinton still won the state and Joe Biden and Tom Carper retained office.

2000: Republicans fell to just 34% of the voters in Delaware, while Democrats moved up to 42.6%. Al Gore carried the state, while Tom Carper returned to Washington to become Senator and his former LG, Ruth Ann Minner, advanced to become Governor. Mike Castle continued in the House for the GOP.

2004: Still slipping, the GOP fell to 32.9% of the voter share, while Democrats continued to increase as they recovered to 43.7%. John Kerry carried the state, while Castle and Minner stayed in their positions. (No Senate race.)

2008: The GOP registration decline accelerated in the mid-aughts, as they slipped close to the 30% mark for the first time (30.2%) while the Democrats established a modern high of 46.4%. Needless to say, they carried the state with Barack Obama as president, Joe Biden (winning a Senate seat he would have to resign weeks later to become vice-president), and Jack Markell as Governor. Mike Castle remained in the House for what would become his last term.

2010: The O’Donnell-Castle election. This was the first election for the TEA Party, and when they came on board the GOP was in its most dire straits yet. The GOP was now down to 29.3% of registered voters, while the Democrats finished a decade of domination by reaching another new high of 47.1%. In a decade, the margin between the parties had grown by nearly 10 points. Democrat Chris Coons won the special Senate election to finish the term Joe Biden began, while John Carney took the House seat Mike Castle abandoned in his unsuccessful Senate bid. The Republicans held on to just one statewide seat, losing in the AG and Treasurer race but retaining the Auditor’s seat.

In the decade since, the GOP has only one statewide election win (Ken Simpler for Treasurer in 2014) and has seen further erosion of their statewide share of voters from 29.3% to its current low of 27.5%; meanwhile, the Democrats have gone up from 47.1% to a new high of 47.7%. Compared to the 2000s blowout, the 2010s were a slow leak, even with the whole controversial Trump term.

So now that I’ve taken 1100 words to set this up, the question is what has caused this long decline? What was different about the two parties in 1972 (or even 1992) that voters were relatively evenly distributed and both parties could win a statewide election?

I think what McVay would argue that the Republican Party has become too conservative, catering to the populist bent of Donald Trump’s supporters and losing its tolerance of what used to make it a “big tent.” At the same time, Delaware Democrats have been more reserved in their march leftward, rebuffing challengers from the left of the incumbents in their two most recent primary elections for Governor and U.S. Senate. (Much of that, though, is probably name recognition or lack thereof for the upstarts.)

Yet the popularity of the party in the Reagan-Bush years belies that assertion. There’s no question Ronald Reagan was a conservative Republican, but he also had a certain amount of appeal to the working class and built a wildly successful coalition of Republicans, independents, and so-called “Reagan Democrats,” bridging the gap between white- and blue-collar workers to dominate electoral politics for a decade. (If he weren’t Reagan’s VP, do you really think George H.W. Bush would have won in 1988?)

In my estimation Donald Trump tried to rebuild the Reagan coalition, but despite his television experience Trump wasn’t really the “Great Communicator” Reagan was. But he also faced a Democrat Party establishment that was radically different than the one in Reagan’s day – while it happened a couple times under Reagan, the George H.W. Bush term was when we really saw that, when Republicans reached across the aisle, the Democrats would rip off their arm and beat them with it. Remember, “read my lips” was supposed to come with spending cuts, too. Guess which part of the bargain wasn’t held up?

So we have had a hardening of the sides and a coarsening of political discourse. More importantly, though, we have to ask the question: when was the last time you heard anything good about the Republican Party?

People tend to operate in an information silo, so when most of these outlets say nothing good about the GOP people tend to shy away from their party and, by extension, their ideas. To a small extent, Donald Trump had pulled back that curtain but he still lost the House at his midterm election, ruining the trifecta built up with takeovers of the House in 2010, Senate in 2014, and Trump himself in 2016. (Delaware had nothing to do with any of that, though. Those red waves bypassed the state.)

The message the Democrats have managed to sell to the state of Delaware is that they are business-friendly moderates – but they’re generally only a step or two behind California, Massachusetts, and Maryland in enacting liberal policies. We have to get enough people fed up with the way things are going to enact change, but you can bet your bottom dollar the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) will do their best to maintain the status quo by deriding Republicans as racist, radical, and uncaring – never mind they are none of the three.

Now you would think that the thousands who have arrived in Sussex County over the last decades would help turn the state toward the Republicans but it’s obvious enough of them have maintained the voting habits that made their former states uninhabitable to them that they’re fouling this nest.

Maybe what’s needed is a Contract with Delaware. Something is needed to shake up the lethargy in the Delaware Republican Party before it falls further into irrelevancy. There are good, conservative candidates out there who need to tell us what they are for, not what they’re against.

But to answer the contention: how can you cater to the people who show up when no one shows up? As I said in part one, at least having the 9/12 Delaware Patriots and Patriots for Delaware means we have a bit of a force to counter the waves the other side can bring from the union ranks. It’s a start, so once our side learns which hills are best to attack and which ones aren’t worth dying on, we can begin to make real progress in this state.

Is showing up only half the battle?

Because they’re my ideological cousins – and have occasionally received my vote – I keep track of what the Libertarian parties of Delaware and Maryland are up to through social media. Every once in awhile I think about changing my registration over to their party, but like a bad case of the stomach flu that feeling passes rather quickly once I remember where they stand on issues like abortion and marriage. If they were inverse on economic and social issues they would probably be Kennedy-Humphrey Democrats of a bygone era.

That being said, though, I want to point out a couple things the current Delaware LP chair, Will McVay, noted on social media. Let’s set this up with a very descriptive opening set of paragraphs:

There’s a man. He’s a registered Libertarian. He was born in 1948, making him 73 or very close to it. I only know his name because I just now read it off of the voter file, but for the sake of his privacy we’ll call him DB. He’s been a registered Libertarian in the State of Delaware since 1972. Wikipedia only acknowledges our affiliate being founded in 1975 so this man registered Libertarian before Libertarian was even really a thing here. I do not know him from meetings. I do not know him from conventions. He’s voted in every general election going back to at least 2004, but we have never met.

I could ask some of the few people who have been involved here longer than even I have, and maybe one of them might recognize DB, but there are others just like him who registered Libertarian in 1976, 1978, 1979, and 1980. These people have been registered Libertarian in Delaware since before I lived in Delaware. Since before I was even born. They don’t come to county meetings though. They don’t come to conventions. They don’t come to bogus “special meetings” commanded by the LNC in violation of their bylaws and ours to involve themselves in the petty drama that seems to be the focus of far too much of our time lately.

They registered Libertarian 40 years ago or more, they protect our ballot access, and I’ll bet you they are consistently voting for us in elections when one of us is on the ballot.

But they have better things to do than to take two hours out of their month and 6 hours out of their year to involve themselves in the governance of our party and it is frankly an insult to expect them to.

Will McVay, Delaware Libertarian Party Chair, December 5, 2021.

Most of you know my background: I was active for over a decade in the Maryland Republican Party, and I’m sure we’ve had hundreds, maybe thousands, of DB’s in the GOP all around Maryland and Delaware. Having been a minority party in these states for decades, the long-timers sort of knew what they were getting into when they signed up, and so did I.

However, I was one of those who did take a few hours out of my month and an overnight trip twice a year to involve myself in the governance of our party, and I assure you the sausage-making was as gruesome as advertised as we argued around and around about bylaw changes that may have threatened someone’s fiefdom. (In my case, that was the Rule 11 controversy when Heather Olsen and I decided the state party should ask the rank-and-file before advantaging one candidate over another in a contested primary.) All those business meetings did little or nothing to elect Republicans, but the parties of the previous evening may have had a little benefit in creating the conditions for further collaboration. That and they were fun.

Having never experienced a Libertarian convention, I can’t comment on their sausage-making but it appears they have more than their share of controversy, particularly based on their election results. Don’t worry, though – I have a few Democrat friends in high places, too, and they suffer from the same malady. Maybe that’s why it’s only the few who sign up for the grief.

Anyway, there was one other passage from Will that I really wanted to hone in on because, frankly, I think it needs something of a rebuttal.

If we are truly a political party and not a social club, then the metrics of our success are not how many people show up to our meetings or how much engagement we can get on a social media post by provoking people to argue with some edgy hot take that alienates more people than it converts or energizes. The metrics of our success are people joining our party. People voting for our candidates. Of course we want people to get involved, volunteer, contribute, run, and do all the other things, but those self selected passionate few are not our customers, in the marketing sense. They are our employees and our investors. The people who don’t show up and do all of those things but still register with us and stick around voting for us for 40+ years are our customers. DB is our customer.

The “Patriots of (sic) Delaware” and before them the 9-12 groups and Tea Party groups also showed up and volunteered and did all the things. The result has been an absolute tanking of DEGOP vote totals since Christine O’Donnell knocked out Mike Castle in a primary and now the Republicans do not hold a single statewide office and can’t even block bills requiring a 2/3rds vote in the Delaware Senate. They have been catering to the people who show up instead of the people who don’t and it’s destroying them.

Will McVay, Delaware Libertarian Party Chair, December 5, 2021.

By this assumption, I am now a customer of the Constitution Party since that’s how I’m registered at the moment. For practical purposes, though, we’ll say I’m a Republican since my ballot (in contested races) only included the duopoly, a Libertarian, and a member of IPoD and in all but one of the cases last time I pulled the trigger for the GOP.

There are two main points I would like to make here. In a lot of cases, the TEA Party and 9/12 groups brought people who were political agnostics into the fray and pulled back those who had wandered away, disillusioned with the direction the country was going. (I think I have a sort of “showed up” idea on this one.) In fact (and this may be of interest to Will) the TEA Party started out with a heavy libertarian influence until they exited because its Venn diagram collided with Christian conservatives who saw the TEA Party as an extension of the Founders’ Judeo-Christian beliefs – and there were far more of them. That was the point where the TEA Party may have jumped the shark but certainly it was much more mainstream by then.

But anyway, those people who were the TEA Party and the 9/12 also became the volunteers for the GOP side, but all that meant in Delaware (and almost everywhere else) was that the battle was joined because for years the Democrats and Big Labor had all those things, plus plenty of money. Trust me, I lived that one too because Toledo is a heavy union town and I’ve been a Republican working a polling place, spending time with the union thugs, for much of my voting life. That was way before the TEA Party.

As for the second part of Will’s assertion, I think it’s something of a chicken-and-egg analogy. Certainly Mike Castle was one Republican who could win consistently in Delaware, but you have to go back decades to find a time when the parties were truly competitive. Based on voter registration totals, it can be argued that the O’Donnell-Castle primary may have turned off GOP voters because their share of the registration totals have since declined. But I found this is part of a long-term trend, and it was such an interesting study to me that I decided to cut this part here and make this thought piece a loosely organized two-part series rather than spend another thousand words on a post rapidly veering toward tl:dr territory.

Trust me, you’ll be glad I did.

Presenting: The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2021

It may now be a misnomer because three of this year’s four inductees were Shorebirds of the Month, but I also have a couple Shorebirds of the Year who were never a weekly/monthly honoree here, so I can be fast and loose.

Back when I decided to go to the monthly format, I made this honor more of a performance-based award than it had been previously. Sure, there have been players who were one-month flashes in the pan, but by and large the talent has come through and it’s beginning to show now that we’re four seasons into this new format. Two of the four inducted this year were selected in the first SotM season of 2017 and one comes from 2018. Only one holdout is from 2016, and, for the first time in six seasons we do not have a player from 2014 as they have finally cycled out after sending eight players to the Hall of Fame. I don’t foresee ever having that sort of success out of a single year again.

Given the big club’s era of rebuilding and lack of interest in trading away prospects, it’s no surprise that all four in my Class of 2021 debuted with the Orioles, although one didn’t stay long afterward.

I was a little shocked that Ryan McKenna would be my first honoree this season as he debuted April 5, in part because he was a position player at a time when the Orioles needed pitching. They would get it with my other three players: Zac Lowther on April 25, Jay Flaa two days later on April 27, and finally Alex Wells on June 26. It was so fast I thought I would have a huge class of six or seven, especially with the revolving door of pitcher tryouts the Orioles were having – 14 of their 16 major league debuts this season were pitchers. And while it’s true none of these guys made a great impact, they still gained the valuable experience that could make them better – I don’t see this as a repeat of the Class of 2011 where the majority of the guys only made the Show for that one season.

As we transition into the Elias era and players he drafted from 2019 on begin to close in on the brass ring, we still see a number of late Duquette-era players on the cusp of perhaps making up the Class of 2022 – assuming a full non-lockout season, of course.

Believe it or not, though, that Shorebird of the Week crop in 2014 still has a couple guys out there playing who have not debuted yet. But I would be shocked if the agate type featured David Richardson, Luis Gonzalez, or Mitch Horacek – teams may be desperate for pitching, but I don’t think they are that desperate to use journeymen pushing 30 if they’re not already there. Similarly, you have 2016 Shorebirds of the Week Jesus Liranzo, Ofelky Peralta, and Brian Gonzalez toiling in the AAA ranks last season. None are on 40-man rosters.

More realistically, we look at those who are still standing from 2017-19. Only Preston Palmiero and Steven Klimek are non-major leaguers still active from the 2017 honorees, and while Palmiero made it to AAA this season and hit well, he’s a long shot to make the Angels. Klimek is now a minor league free agent.

The odds are much better for the 2018 Shorebirds. DL Hall was the only Shorebird of anything placed on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, making him the safest bet of anyone who’s still waiting for his debut. The next most likely in this group is infielder Mason McCoy, but others with outside shots are outfielder Zach Jarrett and pitchers Tim Naughton and Brenan Hanifee. Brenan may be more of a 2023 candidate since he’s missed two seasons to injury – but the Orioles still like him and have waited on him since 2019, when he was at Frederick.

Even more so, the Shorebirds of 2019 were a loaded class. After Hall, the two best prospects to be potentially featured in the Class of 2022 are pitcher Grayson Rodriguez and outfielder Robert Neustrom. Also lurking in the wings from making it to Bowie are pitchers Drew Rom and Grey Fenter, who was picked in last year’s Rule 5 Draft by the Cubs and returned in spring training. Less likely to make the jump are infielder Cadyn Grenier, outfielder Johnny Rizer, and pitcher Ryan Wilson. They are coming into make-or-break seasons, with Grenier also available for the Rule 5 draft.

Missing 2020 means we have a big gap, and none of the Shorebirds I selected in 2021 made it past Aberdeen this season. It will be interesting to see how they fare as their success (or lack thereof) will determine what the classes of 2024 and 2025 look like.

With the publication of this post, I’ll bring the newly updated SotWHoF back live and allow you to read and enjoy.

Reaching sweet sixteen

It’s gotten to the point where every year I have no idea how I did it and am amazed and thankful I’ve gotten through another one, but here we are – monoblogue’s sweet sixteenth birthday has arrived! Last Thursday I counted all my blessings for Thanksgiving, but one other one is this website because it’s enabled me to have a touchstone through the years, a journal of more than just thoughts and opinions but also occasionally of breaking news and first-hand coverage of events that may have slipped through the cracks otherwise.

And it’s a journal with a lot of entries – according to the back end of my site, where such things are accounted for, this is post number 5,225. I’m not sure if that counts or not my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame post I have publishing tomorrow but is already completed; regardless, that’s a lot of posts and words to be put up by one person who doesn’t write for too much of his living.

It’s quite apparent how my site evolved from occasional look at the political scene to daily news and commentary until I saved myself from perhaps being consumed by the monster five years ago and took the steps back from both the daily grind and the political world within about a month of each other. I kinda like where I have it now, although along the way I lost about 2/3 of my readership or more. I was looking at this the other night to document this and found that, back in 2014, I had over 70,000 visitors to this site. After the 2016 shift away from daily posts, that number dwindled to a point where 2019 featured less than 1/10 that number, averaging only about 120 visitors a week. Since I haven’t really stepped up my writing pace that much, the increase back over 30,000 this year makes me wonder if it’s counting bots and crawlers incorrectly or not – regardless, I always say that even if I have one reader who I inform or (even better) inspire to act to preserve our liberty, then I did my job.

My site’s been around long enough to make me realize it is sort of a dinosaur – you don’t see many long-form blogs anymore. As an example, a couple weeks ago I told you the story about Karen Wells, who was a blogger before she got into local politics in her town. Ousted as mayor in the most recent election, she put up a social media post revealing her intention to return to blogging along with a screenshot of her former blog from 2009 and its links – out of perhaps 15 blogs there, there are only two still operating that I’m aware of and mine is one of the two. You could say I’m a survivor and I suppose at this point I’m a lifer: I have no face for video and don’t think I can converse for a podcast in such a way to make it interesting. I like this format where I can choose my words carefully and easily edit out the mistakes before (and even sometimes after) publishing.

Another thing I have noticed over the years is that I have several different audiences. There are readers of mine who don’t care a whit about my politics, but can’t wait to see who my Shorebirds of the Month will be and speculate about who will be the next member of the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. By the same token, back when I had a lot of Weekend of Local Rock posts and album reviews I had a handful who followed my site just for that stuff. Of course, I also have my “stick to the politics!” crowd, too, as that was (and is still) the bread and butter of my site. While I’m sure it didn’t do wonders for my readership because I didn’t pick a specialty, I can say that I would have never made it sixteen years any other way. The burnout on particular subjects and lack of quality writing on my part was the reason I stopped doing this daily.

So, while in past years I’ve set a number of lofty goals for myself that were (in looking back) probably unrealistic – wealth? I will likely make far more in a month as a staff writer for The Patriot Post than I’ll ever get in the tip jar here – the only real goal I have this year is to try and keep writing good stuff on an occasional basis. I still plan on doing Shorebirds of the Month for next season and will definitely keep my ear to the ground on Delaware’s political races and General Assembly. (Thanks to compiling last session’s votes, I already have a head start on the monoblogue Accountability Project for next year.) If I think about it and have the time, though, I do want to keep working on repairing the old posts where needed because the photos were missing or they were old Examiner posts that are no longer on their site. As I say, don’t let good writing go to waste and that’s part of my legacy here.

So I’m going to close this little state of the blog address by once again thanking all my readers – near or far, every time I post or just one visit to read an obscure tale – because I couldn’t have enjoyed this nearly as much without you. Remember, I only have to impact one to be a success in my eyes so everything else is gravy in that regard.

An idea for Black Friday

I’ve talked about this many times in the past, so much so that it’s become a holiday tradition of its own. But Black Friday is always a good time to bust out this sampling of Made in America gifts from each state, courtesy of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

For the eighth year in a row, AAM has put out this list of American-made products.

Obviously you’re not going to get the big-screen TV or cool electronic gadget from these small companies, but there is an array of stocking stuffers and specialty items that can be useful year-round, most of it hand-crafted by individual entrepreneurs. In fact, this year’s Delaware offerings fall into the jewelry category, featuring what’s called “wire-wrapped jewelry around stones, sea glass and other beach treasures” as well as a bonus company that sells “a large catalog of eye-catching rings.”

It’s a statement I’m going to play with in a moment, but AAM President Scott Paul reminds us that, “This (supply chain) crisis is a reminder about why it’s so important for our national and economic security that the United States is able to make stuff right here at home. Buying your holiday gifts from this guide is a good way to support companies doing the right thing – and show others they can make money manufacturing here at home, too.” They’re even doing a Cyber Monday webinar featuring a few of these artisans, although it’s not really conducive to working stiffs, being that it’s a mid-day webinar.

The parent term Black Friday has become so ubiquitous to retail that it’s spawned several new variations – we have Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday now. Except for the latter, which is devoted to charity, each of these terms most likely describes the companies defined in the Holiday Gift Guide – small businesses that do most (if not all) their business online and depend on people’s gift giving for their livelihood. (Let’s face it – aside from the satisfaction quotient, do you really need jewelry? I own one piece, and that’s my plain wedding ring.)

Since the AAM began soliciting ideas for their Holiday Gift Guide back in October, though, there are some places for whom the concept wouldn’t work as personalized gifts require longer lead times. As one example, Brent Zockoll is a good friend of mine – locals to the Salisbury area are most likely familiar with his company, Zockoll Pottery. And while he has a collection of available items, a lot of his work is contract work, made in batches, so he’s not the best fit for the Guide. But he is a small businessman, making stuff in the rural environs of Parsonsburg, Maryland – which, last time I checked, was part of America – whose livelihood has become slinging clay, not keeping a bricks-and-mortar shop open. (Once in awhile though, and especially around the holidays, his studio becomes a retail outlet – check his social media for details.)

I look at it this way: the more things we produce and buy in America, the less we have to depend on nations who maybe can’t stand our freedom because their religion prohibits it or countries who have nuclear missiles pointed our way. Yes, we live in a world dependent on trade, but I’d rather be the one in the most powerful position so we can maintain our freedom. That’s the biggest gift of all.

Happy Thanksgiving 2021

After a hiatus last Thanksgiving, I have returned to write my annual Thanksgiving post. I should explain, though, that the reason there was no holiday post last year wasn’t completely the pandemic, but the Wuhan flu did have something to do with it.

For a couple years, we had been taking vacations as a family – the “we” being my wife’s extended family of her sisters, assorted husbands, significant others and kids, and her mom. In 2020 we were supposed to go in June, but all the uncertainty over the CCP virus led the sister who planned all this to postpone the trip to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. I’m not sure who had the bright idea to make it a Thanksgiving excursion, but that’s what we did. And I usually don’t take my laptop on these trips and didn’t think to write a post beforehand. So much for tradition.

This year, thankfully for many reasons, we are back to our usual Thanksgiving arrangement, and you get this post.

Speaking of traditions, I’m completely surprised that more isn’t being made that this year is a quadricentennial anniversary of our first Thanksgiving 400 years ago. It makes me wonder what things will be like in five years when America celebrates its 250th birthday, particularly when I remember how we as a nation celebrated the Bicentennial in 1976, when I was 11. I suppose when the 1619 Project and its emphasis on slavery is more of a thing than the 1620 project of pilgrims seeking freedom to worship as they pleased it’s a sign of the times.

And I would imagine that people feel less than blessed these days. There is so much uncertainty in the world as people worry about their jobs, health, and families. At the moment I’m blessed enough to enjoy all three, but it takes some work, some vigilance, and some common sense to keep all of these things, and you can’t take them for granted. But could you ever?

Each day I try to take a few moments with my Savior and often as part of my prayers I pray a prayer of thanksgiving, even for little things like the opportunity to be with our small group. I probably don’t thank the Lord as often as I should for all my blessings: one in this case being the God-given talent of writing and having a place more or less of my own to write at, and another of having readers like you who have cared enough to stop by and see what I have to say. It’s not a number that makes me financially wealthy (not that I’m trying too hard to be) but if I steer one in the right direction I consider this a successful venture.

So whether you eat during the Lions game (they’re 0-9-1 and playing the 3-7 Bears, so I don’t blame you) or eat at dinnertime like we do, just take time to count your blessings, too. I’m going to get back to something I did for a few years and close with Philippians 4:4. Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Additional developments

Last week I promised you I was going to dig into Delaware’s redistricting? Well, I have all these piles of dirt around me and yet there’s still more gold in them thar hills, so that is a series I may begin in December since this is the time of year I take care of other blog business: the annual Thanksgiving post (if I don’t decide to use a prior version), my anniversary post on December 1, and the induction post for my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2021. (I may push that back a week to December 9, depending how the others and the updating of that page go – updating it takes longer and longer as the roster of members increases each season. Because of that, the SotWHoF will likely go dark for a bit as I start this maintenance this coming weekend.) Usually I try to do this sort of housekeeping last, but then I noticed I’d been away a week and I don’t like to leave y’all hanging too long.

One thing that happened in the interim was the local election in Delmar, Maryland. It would have normally been a boring ballot in a small town except for them having the whole controversy about the on-duty killing of Delmar Police Cpl. Keith Heacook this past April. Once things calmed down a bit, that incident sparked an allegedly well-funded slate of challengers in the town election as neither of the two incumbent commissioners opted to run again; meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Karen Wells drew her own opponent as she decided to seek another term. Last Tuesday the new broom swept clean as the reformer slate won all three positions. (They were assured of winning one commission seat as just three ran for the two slots, but the slate outperformed.) So Wells, who had been Mayor since now-Delegate Carl Anderton resigned the position to represent the town in Annapolis after the 2014 election, was ousted after six-plus years in office.

While it’s a peripherally Delaware story only because of Delmar being “the town too big for one state,” the other reason I brought it up was that Wells was a blogger before she moved into public office 12 years ago. I used to link to her sites, the most recent being Off The Cuff, a site for which she apparently turned the keys over to someone else when she became an elected official. I welcome her back to the game because she’s going to provide both insight and oversight to her erstwhile constituents in Delmar.

It was rather funny as well because on social media she shared a screen shot of Off The Cuff from 2009, with a list of blogs that were “good” and “bad,” with the “bad” one being Salisbury News. I think out of the fifteen or so sites listed, mine and Salisbury News are the last two survivors. (And I’m the last one with the original author.) Maybe I’m the glutton for punishment, but it would be nice to have some of the old gang back. I miss those days of blogging.

Was Delaware gerrymandered?

Earlier this week the state of Delaware had new legislative districts come into effect. They had to be in place by one year before next year’s election so, after the usual suspects blamed Donald Trump for the late Census data – which had to be finagled to account for the last known address of the prison population – the Democrats got their maps through.

Over the next week or so, I’m planning on digging deeper into these numbers and districts. I don’t know where pockets of R or D voters live specifically, but just based on the population and registration numbers there are a few things which merit a second glance. I know my districts didn’t change, so there is that.

Since the candidates may now file in their new districts, I was hoping the state would update their website accordingly so we could see who was already running in 2022. Alas, it was not to be.

However, I did find an interesting calendar of municipal elections for next year. Our friends in Laurel are one of just a handful of towns in the state with no election next year – however, they were one of those that didn’t cancel their balloting this year. (Just one Delaware town remains yet to decide this year, although I happen to know that just across the border in Delmar, Maryland they vote next Tuesday in a hotly-contested mayoral race, among other things.) Maybe next year there will be interest in the tiny town of Bethel, which is just up the road a piece from me.

In looking at this year’s list, I noticed most of the spring elections were bagged, probably due to a lack of candidates. But more of the fall elections took place, which to me shows a newfound interest from the grassroots. It’s something to follow once the calendar flips over to 2022.

So I didn’t want you all to think I forgot about you. This is the month I start getting together my compilations and update some of my pages – hard to believe we are two weeks from Thanksgiving, 20 days from sweet sixteen for my site, and three weeks from inducting the Class of 2021 into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. It’s a busy month behind the scenes here.

And yes, I will delve into this data.

Weekend of local rock volume 76

Subtitled: The long-awaited return!

You know, I never really thought I would go almost 2 1/2 years between WLR volumes 75 and 76. But thanks to some irresponsible (or sinister) technicians in a Chinese lab, we had this pandemic from what some call COVID-19. I call it the CCP virus; regardless, it put a real damper on live music for the better part of a year and a half, including two summers. This fall we are finally beginning to see a recovery back to normal and one thing that sealed the deal for us going to the Unify Delaware Festival last month was the opportunity to see some live performances.

You may recall that in the past I’ve done a lot of multiband shows where I basically have space for the photo and a short overview. This time, though, I really have a bit of room to stretch my legs, as it were. The Unify Delaware Festival had three acts scheduled, and I caught the latter two: Jovon Newman and Trent and the Trainwreck. (The band I missed was Lincoln City.)

The second act, who played when the largest number was present, was local singer Jovon Newman.

Newman presents a unique story and, it can be argued, is a product of new technology that allows easier integration of a instrumental backing track. (I have a social media friend several states away who does the same thing, but specializes in Frank Sinatra songs and others in that vein.) I certainly won’t argue that Jovon doesn’t put his own stamp on things, though – one song with a twist I enjoyed is a tune that should be in his wheelhouse, Wagon Wheel.

Jovon wasn’t afraid to engage with the audience, such that it was when he began. It’s an advantage of his performing genre.

In reading his story, I can see just how he got his stage presence and demeanor. Jovon looked like he was having a good time and as the show moved along the crowd warmed up to him. His song mix was a pleasing combination that drew from both country and pop, so he was working in that crossover appeal with an audience that was most likely to lean in that direction.

Newman, though, only did about a 50-minute set, which left sort of a blank space that didn’t get filled by the DJ immediately. (You can see the next band was already pretty much set up in the photos.) It may be a product of him primarily playing on social media rather than a stage, but as he fills out his repertoire a little bit (he’s put out two singles in recent months) Jovon could get enough to be a headliner. If not, he has a valuable daytime job with the Delaware Air National Guard, which allows him to make music a hobby he can really devote himself to. (Sort of like writing for me, I guess.)

After that long pause, we were treated to Trent and the Trainwreck. As they describe it, they play “Southern Rock, Country, Red Dirt, originals, and everything in between.” Based on what they played: check, check, check, check, and check. (Okay, I’m assuming they did “Red Dirt” since that’s a description I’d not heard before. But I think they played it since they covered the rest.)

Closing the festivities for the day were the country-rockers Trent and the Trainwreck.

As opposed to Jovon Newman, who primarily “plays” online, Trent and the Trainwreck have done a fairly full complement of shows in various configurations: over the last few months they have played venues all over the coastal regions of slower lower Delaware like Lewes, Milton, and Rehoboth, venturing as far as Ocean City once, and in looking at social media they are already lining up shows for 2022. (One intriguing show: it looks like they’re playing the hopefully-resurrected Blessing of the Combines in Snow Hill, Maryland next August.)

So these guys had fun. As an example: the second song in, as I’m downing a great burger, was Folsom Prison Blues. All right, good choice for the crowd. But then it suddenly morphed into a song I wasn’t familiar with but somehow fit: I Don’t Even Know Your Name by Alan Jackson. Interesting, since I was today years old when I learned what the song was called – I just remember the lyric about marrying the waitress. Then back to Folsom Prison we went.

Throw in a couple originals of theirs, and you get the idea. I always have a thing for bands unafraid to play their own stuff – it may not be great or even that good, but to me (as someone who, admittedly, can’t carry a tune in a bucket) that’s how you grow as a musician. I think doing the originals will also help them shape the cover songs to their style better since they didn’t always quite to seem (to my ear) to match a complementary vocal style to the cover song. But maybe that’s the Red Dirt style coming out? (Just kidding.)

I think I’ll put up a few more pictures of the band that Kim took now…

My apologies to the drummer – if I had known Kim was taking these I would have gotten a close-up. They always get the short end of the (drum)stick.

Okay, I’ll show myself out. Let’s just hope I don’t have to wait 2 1/2 years to do the next volume of Weekend of Local Rock (and my first as a Delaware resident.)