Ignorance is bliss. At first thought it may seem that way, but, believe me, it’s not! We need to know what our politicians are up and we can’t get behind the curve because it may cost us our country. Remember how the Constitution starts?
We the people…
We the people elect our politicians, we the people are their employers, we the people need to effectively manage and supervise our politicians. To do that we need to be sure that we have fair, equitable elections. From that position we can use correspondence and phone calls communicate with our politicians and, if that doesn’t work, then we can use the ballot box to throw the bums out! However, if one political party obtains power and is able to hold onto that power through other than fair methods, then we have a political party that isn’t willing to compromise, won’t try to find solutions that will benefit most Americans, or make the hard decisions that we elect them to make. That political party then ends up doing exactly what it wants to do, even if it hurts most of us. Gee…have I just described the Republican Party? Yes, I’m afraid so.
I’ve wrote about politicians (especially republicans) who try to usurp our election/electoral process for their own very selfish goals, i.e. to stay in office (see my last post). Holding political office shouldn’t guarantee job security, but I’m afraid that is what our National and state politicians believe. Our system of representative government falls by the wayside when we let our political leaders gerrymander to their hearts content. This is true of all political parties but the Republican Party seems to be more successful than the Democrats. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I’ve voted for more Republicans than Democrats, so I’m not a die-hard democrat by any means, but the Republicans are pushing me in that direction, especially with their latest gerrymandering efforts.
What is gerrymandering, well I’m glad you asked.
Gerrymandering is the practice of establishing electoral districts in the attempt to give one political party the advantage or to help, or hinder, a particular group of people. Gerrymandering is a negative term when used to allege that one political party is gaining disproportionate power, much like our Republican Party is doing today.
In 1812, Massachusetts Governor Gerry (1744-1814) signed a bill that redistricted the state senate seats to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. When mapped, one of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander. The word gerrymander is a combination of the governor’s last name and the word salamander (originally written Gerry-mander) and was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812. Appearing with the term, and helping to spread and sustain its popularity, was a political cartoon depicting a strange animal with claws, wings and a dragon-like head satirizing the map of the odd-shaped district.
By the way, Governor Gerry’s effort was successful, the state senate remained firmly in Democratic-Republican hands; however, both the Massachusetts House and governorship were won by Federalists by a comfortable margin (costing Gerry his seat).
The Republican Party have worked hard since 2008 to get and hold onto state legislatures and that enabled them to gerrymander Congressional districts to get and hold onto a majority in the House of Representatives. Gerrymandered districts are very bad for democracies because it’s virtually impossible for an opposition candidate to get elected. With the “reach” that incumbents have and the “party” stronghold they’re in we have a difficult time throwing “the bum out”. It’s job security for one political party or candidate to our disadvantage!
The Republican state legislatures have also tried another tactic—tying the electoral vote to Congressional districts. That means that if the Republican congressional candidate wins a district, one electoral vote goes for the Republican presidential candidate even if a vast majority of voters in that district voted for the Democratic candidate. WOW!!! Talk about the beginnings of tyranny (courtesy of gerrymandering)!!! Using this method the we could end up with a Republican president even if that candidate didn’t get a majority of votes. Fortunately, the Republican party has dropped these efforts (have they?), but if they can find a way to sneak them through, believe me they will! Why am I so sure, they are politicians!
How do we prevent this? Well for starters, each state can adopt a model similar to the one California has in place. California has replaced the state legislature with a citizen commission to draw district lines, especially valuable after our census. The number of Congressmen in each state are decided on that state’s population. within each state, the census shows us where populations have moved within that state. In a ten-year period a lot can change and it does. In almost all the states, Congressional districts are set by the state legislatures. Whichever political party has the majority, has the advantage because they can draw district lines that favor their party and the republicans have been very good at this. But, there is an alternative. California used a Citizen’s Redistricting Commission to make the populations in districts equal again and ensure they are complying with “one person, one vote” requirements.
Gee, isn’t that a novel idea? Here in North Carolina the state legislature has complete control over creating redistricting plans for congressional districts and the governor does not have veto power over the plans. Our 1991 redistricting cycle was tied up in court battles until 2000. Redistricting lawsuits in the 2001 redistricting cycle lasted into 2008. So today we have two districts that ended up in the The Top Ten Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts in the United States and I’m not sure which district I belong to. Oh well, I write to both and get responses from both and Congressmen aren’t known for writing to people in other districts. Fortunately for our election process I can only vote for one but I don’t think I live in his district.
I’m going to work towards implementing a process similar to California’s because I see that as the best way for “we the people” to hold onto our vote and hold our elected leaders to some sort of standard. If I succeed, I may make my next cause getting the elected politicians to come to us (their bosses) for pay raises and benefits. Then again, I might make that concurrent with citizen redistricting. If you like these ideas, do them in your state.
Quote of the Day:
Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.
–General Omar Nelson Bradley