Everybody knows about the Battle of Maldon.

In August 991, an invading horde of Vikings were met beside the River Blackwater in Essex by a Saxon army led by old Earl Byrhtnoth. The Vikings had landed on a small island that was joined to the mainland by a narrow land bridge, giving Byrhtnoth a big advantage; if the Vikings were to try to cross on the bridge, the Saxons could cut them down one by one as each man came ashore. So Olaf, the Viking commander, asked Byrhtnoth to back his men up so the Vikings could cross over. Byrhtnoth did and before the day was over his army was decimated and old Byrhtnoth’s head was separated from his body.

Lesson: don’t give up your advantage without a fight.

State House Democrats opted for a little self-preservation of their own instead of fair representation this week when they rejected a House of Delegates bill backed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan that would have set up a nonpartisan commission to redraw congressional and legislative districts in Maryland. That idea, which is based on the recommendations of the bipartisan Redistricting Reform Commission, also has the backing of former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, himself the architect of a 2011 redistricting scheme that gifted Democrats with a solid seven-member Congressional delegation majority as well as full control of the state legislature. But Democratic lawmakers won’t embrace the proposal, fearing it would cut into their numbers.

Instead, Democrats support a bill that would set up a regional mid-Atlantic redistricting agreement with five other states, a move that’s widely understood to help Maryland maintain its significant Democratic majorities — both in Congress and in the General Assembly. But that bill is contingent on similar bills passing in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania and becomes void if no agreement is reached by 2020. The chances of this happening are little to none.

It’s hard to blame Democrats for pining for such a wacky idea though. Republicans have built solid majorities in Congress and in state legislatures across the country with the help of gerrymandering schemes that courts are only now beginning to examine. Couple those schemes with Republican-sponsored voter ID bills that are intended to suppress Democratic votes and right-to-work laws that hurt unions, privatization programs that hurt public employee unions, and tort-reform bills designed to dry up money from Democratic trial lawyers — and let’s not forget the disastrous 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that opened the floodgates to unlimited and unidentified election spending — it’s no wonder Democrats are left tugging at their collars like old headless Byrhtnoth.

The trouble for Maryland Democrats is that the redistricting scheme they embraced in 2011 that unseated 10-term 6th District Congressman Roscoe Bartlett is already being challenged in court, and rightfully so. As district boundaries go, old Gov. Elbridge Gerry couldn’t have done much better.

But, gerrymandering legislative districts does more to protect incumbents and majorities than it does to provide fair representation for constituents. The bipartisan solution backed by Hogan would help to depoliticize the process and craft district maps that better reflect the will of the electorate, not the machinations of party bosses. While we also support a bill before the House of Representatives that would establish bipartisan redistricting commissions in each state, we realize that as long as Republicans in states like Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina and Ohio continue to behave like Vikings, national redistricting reform will never happen. But backing up and allowing reform to happen here wouldn’t make Maryland Democrats Byrhtnoth — it would help give Marylanders the “one person, one vote” representation they deserve. And that’s a win for both sides.

(15) comments


"Everybody knows about the Battle of Maldon." --- I confess to never having heard of it, although I took my 2 semesters of "Art" - that is, the "History of the Military Art".

I suspect this resonates with the FNP Editorial Board because there evidently is some poem or other literary work associated with this battle. And we know that these "journalists" are basically English majors gone wild.

If the Editorial Board could tell me the significant feature of, say, the Battle of Canae without looking it up, I might change my view.


What was your take on Cedar Falls?


Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Cedar_Falls


Sorry, Gary, we didn’t cover anything past Korea – although by the time I took the courses (75-76) Vietnam was within our recent memory. Some of my best recollections of the course include:

- Watching John Huston’s “The Battle of San Pietro”, of which it was said that a few of the photographers died.

- Watching a training film from the Korean conflict, in which we were guided through the process of planning and conducting an assault on a defended hill – and later learned we were actually looking at things through the eyes of the enemy.

- Being part of a team representing Union forces at Vicksburg. We approached Vicksburg via a non-obvious route, deployed...and made no contact as we entered the city. So, we occupied the city, set up defenses…and waited for the Confederates to “come back home”. Needless to say, we got a good grade on that exercise.

As for Cedar Falls: Like most things related to Vietnam, I don’t have a strong opinion either way. Too much spinning by all involved. I know there are lessons to be learned – and hopefully the right folks have properly extracted the lessons and are in a position to influence the decision makers.


One man or woman one vote. Courts will in the long run fix this for everyone's advantage. It would be good for more states to become more fair and moral. And, it would be more fair and moral for all the states to give their electoral votes to the winner of the majority of votes. Then our votes would actually count in presidential elections like they count in senatorial elections. Then there would be an incentive to actually vote. Otherwise, my grandkids are right, their vote does not count, yet.


You call it a missed opportunity? For what, to commit suicide? When you have an advantage you don't give it up. If the Republicans want a change, they have control of Congress and can do it nationwide.


I love the Viking-Saxon example but its still Pyongyang on the Bay. At least we still have Mike Miller! Whew! What would we ever do without him?[whistling]


Run, des, run. [cool]


The only answer is TERM LIMITS..... The people keep the same people back in office (i.e. democrats).


Of course I remember tales of the Battle of Maldon. JRR Tolkien wrote a play about it. It is not wise to give up an advantage. But if it can gain a fair outcome, one has to consider it. I call that "looking before you leap." You can pick a good landing spot if oe is available. Maryland needs an honest map of Districts. This is the time to do it before a Court imposes its solution.


The Courts have already ruled in N. Carolina, where the Republicans did it for racial reasons. No racial reason is known, in Maryland, but if the courts were to rule, it would be precedent setting and that is not what the Republicans want.


Maryland needs honesty regarding everything. Elected officials are not looking out for constituents. Wake up Maryland!


The efforts of this editorial to rationalize Democrat objectives in slicing and dicing Maryland's electoral map fail to persuade. Despite their perpetual sanctimony and self righteousness, in the final analysis Maryland Dems are nothing more than venal politicians, opting for political expediency over principled governing. Their obstructionism on gerrimandering most likely will enhance Governor Hogan's popularity and help secure a second term for him.


The sad part, veritas, is most likely you believe that.


Looking in mirror and asking yourself if it is in you helps.

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