13 April 2007

The House of Misrepresentatives

American politics has become ridiculously polarized, to the point where the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is willing to travel to Syria in order to make her own foreign policy, but not to walk across the aisle of the House floor to talk with the Republicans. Our politics are so polarized that Democrats and Republicans fear and distrust each other more than they do, say al-Qaeda. (Because al-Qaeda may kill a few of them, but it can't really threaten their hold on domestic power.)

So how did this idiotic state of affairs come to be? I give you one word for it: Gerrymandering. Our state legislatures have drawn and re-drawn Congressional voting districts to advantage incumbents to the point that in any given year only a handful of Congressional elections are competitive.

The effect of this is that in order to win, you can't compromise. The voters in your district are dominated either by hard-over Moonbats (left) or Wingnuts (right). By showing any willingness to entertain the ideas of the other party, you merely show weakness to your own voting constituents. And then you lose. Compound this with a media that panders to the public's love of a good political fight, and you get politics that is progressively polarizing itself for no better reason that a positive feedback loop in the re-districting process.

What we need is for each state to have its districts re-drawn by a non-partisan committee of geographers, demographers, mathematicians, and a retired judge or two. People with a sense of justice and fair play with no major stake in the outcome. People who understand population distributions, and convex sets.

That way we could get Congresspersons who would have to demonstrate their willingness and ability to bargain and compromise. That way we could get a government that actually represented the Will of the People, rather than our current tragicomical lurching from left to right and back again. And maybe we could even get a more consistent and thoughtful foreign policy, that might do some good in the world rather than just kicking it one way or the other every four to eight years.

So Americans, unless you are a Moonbat or a Wingnut, your Congressperson does not represent you. Your voice has been Gerrymandered into silence. You don't count. And you won't count unless and until you get an anti-Gerrymandering measure on your state ballot, and vote for it.


E Chuck said...

Your absolutely right. I remember when first hearing about gerrymandering, how flabbergasted I was that this was actually a legal and accepted form of politicking.

Unknown said...

I'm not so sure gerrymandering is the
source of all the polarization in this country. Wouldn't certainty in the election process for candidates promote less defensiveness and less threats to political careers? In turn, shouldn't that enable politicians to more willingly compromise with opposing party members since gerrymandering has secured their present politcal role? I feel like there's some essential pieces missing here.

Scooper said...

Thanks, but check your spelling.

Politicians who are sure to get re-elected no matter what they do are dictators - like Zimbabwe's Pesident Robert Mugabe. They don't compromise with anybody, because they don't have to. Certainty of electoral victory does not make them less defensive - it makes them more arrogant and arbitrary.

Our congresspeople are in a different situation. They have been elected from districts gerrymandered to bias the vote artificially in favor of a left or right wing ideology. They are reasonably certain of electoral victory only if they constantly behave according to the ideological bias of their gerrymandered district. If they strike some compromise with someone of a different ideology, they may lose the next election. That is how gerrymandering rewards politicians for being ideologically inflexible (and punishes them when they are ideologically flexible).

Anonymous said...

I agree completely. The congressional district boundaries are blatantly absurd, and ought to be changed.

In Russet Shadows said...

While an interesting proposition, gerrymandering alone cannot explain the deeper currents which both sponsor it and permit its continuance. You have the inertial wheels of government playing a role; the natural adaptive of human beings to any given situation (individual inertia); you have the sound-bite mentality of shallow analysis from an overworked, overstressed, NIMBY-istic society, to name a few factors. I will not say that gerrymandering has no impact, but rather I feel it is a sign of deeper problems rather than a sole cause. Gerrymandering has been with us at least since the War Between the States. Polarization has been with us since the Revolutionary war (those Colonial papers were vicious!). We are in a kind of existential malaise, to be sure, but the causes are deeper yet.

Thanks for the blogroll, BTW. You made me think and I appreciate that.

Scooper said...

Russet Shadows,
You're right, of course, that gerrymandering is not the cause of political polarization. But it sure makes it worse, and I think that if we abolished gerrymandering (by taking the drawing of voting districts away from the politicians), the polarization would get a little bettter.