Friday, January 11, 2013

Kill Gerrymandering!

I laughed when pundits actually dared to be baffled over the election results this past November.  On the one hand, the public re-elected President Obama and added more liberals to the Senate, while at the same time basically giving them the same House of Representatives, with very few Republicans being tossed from there.  It was almost as if America wanted its infighting.  How on earth did that make any sense?

Well, it made perfect sense, as I well knew. That’s the power of gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is basically the practice of drawing congressional districts in a way which deliberately favors one party over another. With it, a political party can thwart the will of the people who deliberately voted for the other party instead. It’s an anti-democratic maneuver which has plagued our elections process from the very beginning, and has bafflingly remained unresolved in the two and one-third centuries America has been in existence. The term comes from former Massachusetts governor Ellbridge Gerry, whose 1812 state senate redistricting was so twisted and convoluted that it caused a great deal of controversy. One particular district was said to look like a salamander, hence the portmanteau of "Gerry-mander". Yet despite this deliberate back-stabbing of voters being two hundred years old, nothing has been done to change it in all that time! Here’s how it “works:”

Let’s say you have a municipal region which is 50/50 in terms of its registered Republicans and Democrats. Should make for a fairly even split in representation, right? But more of one or the other happens to be concentrated in a particular neighborhood. So, if the districts are drawn to concentrate as many opposition neighborhoods into as few districts as possible, a political party can effectively surrender one congressional seat in exchange for securing two or more for itself. For example, Republicans in Wisconsin helped ensure that Gwendolyn Moore’s seat in Milwaukee was completely safe by giving her Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, while helping to keep safe the seats of Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan by giving them more republican-leaning areas in Mequon, South Milwaukee, and my home city of Greenfield. Two for one, see?

This shameless maneuver to undermine people’s votes would be bad enough all by itself, but the dire consequences of it go even deeper, especially in today’s world of hyper-extremism being preached over the Internet and the A.M. radio waves. The more gerrymandering there is, the more extremist representatives in those slanted districts tend to get. Populations with lopsided districts elect lopsided people. Party loyalists, not centrists, decide not only the primaries but also the general election, shutting out moderates from the political process. Gerrymandering helps ensure that the maximum number of moon-bat wing-nuts goes to Washington. This is a large part of why an entire political party is currently hell-bent on steamrolling our nation’s economy in a mad attempt to protect the monetary hordes of the super-rich at the expense of inner city children and desperately underemployed parents. This is why there is such a willingness to play chicken with the vehicle of our nation, while playing Russian roulette with the debt ceiling. It can all be traced to gerrymandering, and the evil it permits.

Gerrymandering has such a key role to play in fostering political wickedness that I’m shocked no one is pissed off! When an attempt was made to slant the vote through voter I.D. requirements, it was argued that interference with the democratic process was anti-American, and a backlash rightly ensued. Yet where is the outrage over gerrymandering? When the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary took place, the whole nation said that enough was enough, and gun-laws are now seriously about to happen (finally). But when the nation’s children are directly attacked by the politicians who are completely untouchable through gerrymandered districts, not just in one New England town but nationwide, where is the outrage there? Why isn't there an equal, no, greater, sense of being goddamned fed up?!

I won’t bore you with the answer. You already know how subtle evil flies under everyone’s radar, and politicians who accuse their opponents of gerrymandering are just as quick to embrace it themselves when the opportunity arises. So the question becomes, how do we fix this?

The solution comes from the examples set for us by the states of Washington, Idaho, California and Arizona. They have something called Independent Districting, where an entity other than the elected politicians decides and then draws the congressional districts. In other states, the state legislatures decide upon the districts to be drawn on a semi-regular basis, which means that the political party in power can gerrymander those districts to favor its own interests. But an independent commission, not affiliated with any political party, guarantees that that rather obvious conflict of interest can never happen!

Ideally, one might think that there should be an equal number of Republican and Democratic districts. But it goes much deeper than that. All districts should be drawn in such a way that the number of registered Republicans and Democrats are about equal, thus allowing the issues which affect people in the center to win the day. This ensures that any politician who loses the center gets tossed out on his ear, and that’s the way it should be! Also, this ensures that moderates will always win, regardless of party affiliation, and that cooperation is the norm on Capitol Hill. Contrast this with the stubborn, pit-bull-headed insistence upon scorched earth policies, and you see just how important it is to have congressional districts drawn well, and fairly.

Well, there’s our solution. But how do we implement it? Minority parties will always claim to be in favor of it while majority parties will always oppose it, even when the roles were reversed in the previous term. Can there be any way to break the temptation of a politician to be able to vote favors for itself?

The only possibility, as I see it, is for our entire nation to shriek for this with one, unified voice! The federal government in Washington must require ALL states to adapt non-partisan, independent commissions to draw their districts, and it must require it today! We must all realize that this issue is more important than taxes, more important than abortion, more important than guns, more important than nukes in Iran, and more important than any other political issue I can think of! If we remain unified on this one, overriding issue, we can greatly improve our nation and our future for both political parties in one, bold move!

Kill gerrymandering! Kill gerrymandering! It must become our two-word battle cry! It is a bipartisan issue which should have 100% support from all of us! And it should be as much a part of our American heritage as the cry for “no taxation without representation.”



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