Saturday, October 5, 2013

Gerrymandering and Hostages

In the popular press, the current government shutdown is being treated as a hostage crisis or an act of civil disobedience.  For Fox News enthusiasts, brave patriots such as Senator Ted Cruz are correcting executive branch abuses.  For another segment of the public, the Tea Party is holding the federal government hostage because they despise the federal government and wish to shut it down for good.  Most of the public views both Congressional leaders as childish and pedantic.  Few want to admit what it really shows.

American politics is broken.

One of the things which broke it, is the Gerrymander.

The source of Gerrymander as a noun, dates from a political cartoon published in Boston in 1812.  Elbridge Gerry , then Governor of Massachusetts, had signed a bill into law which favored the Democratic-Republicans over the Federalists.  One of the districts was sinuous, like a mythical salamander.  The cartoonist superimposed the drawing of a mythical salamander over the District and dubbed it the Gerrymander, placing full credit and blame on this outrage on Governor Gerry.

Gerrymander is now used as a noun or a verb.  The word is used to describe the use of redistricting to give political advantage to one political party by concentrating political opponents into a district.  Thus, we call it gerrymandering whenever one political party uses redistricting to increase their political advantage.  In a two party system this is particularly effective, especially when combined with single member districts and closed primary elections.

In 2012, American voters cast 1.3 million more votes for Democratic candidates in the House of Representatives than for Republicans, yet Republicans increased their control of the House.  As many as 21 net Republican seats in the House of Representatives are reflective of an advantage in Republican gerrymandering following the 2010 census. 

The United States has been infected with gerrymandering abuse for 200 years.   Both parties have done it.  Everyone agrees it is wrong. The 2010 census gave House Republicans a gerryamandered advantage which will persist until 2020.  This insulates those seats from any response to political pressure from independents in closed primary states, as only a primary challenge from the right can unseat a gerrymandered representative. 

Now it has killed our political process and has taken our government hostage.

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