Thursday, November 29, 2012

The House of Reprehensibles

This is the 200 anniversary of the term Gerrymander. In 1812, Elbridge Gerry, the Massachusetts governor redrew districts to insure his Republican-Democratic party’s reelection in such a way as to create an area resembling a salamander, claws and all. The practice has never left us.

With Democrats sleeping during the 2010 election, the Republicans stole the House of Representatives for a decade. What was off-year for a presidential race was very much on-year for the census and redistricting.

One hopes the lesson has been learned. The good guys depend on high voter turnout. We were taught in Civics class that democracy rests on informed participation. The red states urge us to stay home and if we get aroused they will do anything from broken machines, intimidation at the polling place, restricting early voting and misinformation about time and place. Goebel lives.

The imminent threat to America is less from Al Qaeda than from the subversion of Tea Party Rovenoids. In control of dozens of state houses they have become the proto- fascists in our midst. Aggressive and shameless, their latest ploy is to apportion the electoral votes not according to population but according to congressional districts which are considerably disproportionate in number.

Imagine a class of fifty students in a room with a hundred seats. Thirty are divided and bunched together on each side of the room. The remaining twenty are spread out here and there. This resembles a map of the red/blue divide in this country with both coasts bluish and a red middle excepting some rust-belt states.

It is also Pennsylvania, Philadelphia to the east, Pittsburgh on the west, containing the bulk of the population, heavily Democratic. What we are moving toward is a body of Congresspersons representing either blue population centers or ruddy, rural, empty space…. rocks, ranches and rows of crops. Grassland needs love, I know, but not from Congress.

Despite the 33 seat advantage held by Republicans over the Democrats in the House the Democrats actually got more votes for their candidates. Thanks to gerrymandering the tilt went in the opposite direction. While each seat represents the same number of people they are drawn to bestow great advantage to the party which dominates the state government. For example Ohio and Pennsylvania are two blue states for Obama but are controlled by red State governments. Obama won the former by 5% yet Pennsylvania ended up with 13 House seats for Republicans to 5 for Democrats. Likewise in Ohio the margin is 12 to 4. 
There seems to be a slight disconnect between the Obama brain trust and the DNC. Will the Jim Messina/David Plough computer design be passed along and deployed for the  Congressional races to come or was that a two-time phenomena reserved for the president?             

Greater still is a disconnect between the will of the people and the make-up of the Congress and Supreme Court. Republicans just appointed 19 people who will chair committees in the House, all white men. They ignore women in both leadership roles and policy-decisions. The demographic drift in the general population toward people of color must be reflected in the legislative and judicial branch.   

Even greater than a redress of the odious campaign finance decision, would be a federal ballot measure extending the Civil Rights Voting law to all states and prohibiting suppression moves such as we have seen and including Election Day as a national holiday. Instead, the five dangerous men on the Supreme Court will hear a case brought by Alabama which would end the Voting Rights law altogether. What would my high school Civics teacher say to that?


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