Two centuries ago, when Massachusetts Gov. Eldridge Gerry and his allies gamed the decennial work of drawing legislative districts to ensure that members of his Democratic-Republican Party would win key elections to the state Senate, the Boston Gazette highlighted a district with lines so contorted that it stretched across the state in the shape of a salamander.

The paper’s editors referred to the creature that had been spawned by the governor’s political avarice as a “gerrymander.”

And the rest was history.

To this day, warped and dysfunctional redistricting that is designed not to foster competition but to stymie it is referred to as “gerrymandering.”

The decennial process of drawing congressional, legislative and local government boundaries is in full swing, and it is getting ugly out there. Both parties are drawing districts to their own advantage.

But nowhere have things spun further out of control than in Wisconsin, the state where since February Gov. Scott Walker and his minions have dismissed the rule of law and run roughshod over the basic rights of state employees, local elected officials and the citizens Walker swore an oath to serve.

What Walker and his legislative lackeys — Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and his brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald — have done in the current redistricting process put Eldridge Gerry’s machinations to shame.

The maps of legislative and congressional districts that the Fitzgeralds produced last Friday — after squandering more than $300,000 in taxpayer funds on the hyper-partisan gambit — is such a mess that the term “gerrymandered” no longer seems sufficient.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, former co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, coined the phrase “Fitzwalkerstan” to refer to Wisconsin in the lawless age of one-party governance defined by the Fitzgeralds and their gubernatorial puppeteer.

So perhaps we should refer to the Wisconsin redistricting as having been “Fitzwalkermandered.”

Whatever word is used, the term must describe the most politicized redistricting map in the history of Wisconsin.

Consider the abuses that have characterized the “Fitzwalkermandering” process and the crude map it has spawned:

1. The Legislature is, by law, barred from drawing legislative district lines until after local governments have drawn the lines for aldermanic and county board districts. There is a reason for this law. It is on the books to ensure that legislative districts are respectful of local boundaries. That way, communities are not cut up for partisan purposes and citizens with shared history, shared needs and proximity to one another can be grouped in districts designed to ensure that their interests are represented.

The Fitzgeralds disregarded the law — as they have so many others — and drew legislative district lines before many communities and counties across the state had completed their mapping processes. And they created such a warped map that those communities that have drawn new lines based on the 2010 census may have to do so again.

How do the Fitzgeralds propose to get around the law? Simple. As part of the consideration of the new maps, the legislative leaders are asking their colleagues to pass a new law that lifts the requirement that the Legislature respect the need for local governments to go first.

2. Why the rush by the Fitzgeralds? They wanted to produce the map before the recall elections that threaten six Republican state senators who voted with Walker to attack union rights, local democracy, schools and public services. (The recalls also target three Democratic senators who opposed the governor’s agenda.) Although this summer’s recall elections will occur under the current map, they could cost Republicans control of the state Senate and the ability to later game the redistricting process.

So the Fitzgeralds decided to rush the process for a purely political purpose rather than respect the will of the people.

3. But that’s not where the political gamesmanship stops. The Fitzgeralds drew maps that push three candidates who have chances of winning recall elections out of the districts that might elect them: state Rep. Fred Clark, who is challenging state Sen. Luther Olsen; former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum, who is challenging state Sen. Rob Cowles; and state Sen. Bob Wirch, who faces a recall challenge. All three candidates whose homes are drawn out of the districts in which they are running are Democrats.

The point of this unnecessary removal of Democrats from districts they could win is two-fold: to create confusion with regard to the recalls and potentially to force winners of the recalls to run in different districts in 2012.

To achieve their political ends, Walker and the Fitzgeralds cut up counties and communities in ways that those places have never before been divided. They disregarded concerns about minority representation and the need to ensure that the makeup of the Legislature reflects the diversity of the state. And they set the stage for future elections in which few if any seats are competitive — and their political dominance over the next decade is protected not by the will of the people but by the lines on the map.

There is no question that the maps will be challenged in the courts. And it is hard to imagine how they could pass legal muster, as they disregard both the letter and intent of the law on redistricting.

But for now at least, Wisconsin has been Fitzwalkermandered.

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