Friday, November 27, 2015

A Plague on Both Your Houses

No, not those Capulets and Montagues but our very own Senate and House of Reps. Our legislative branch has taken the fun out of dysfunctional. They rank lower in public esteem than guys who pitch mattresses on TV. We have a Sig Alert in America with road-rage in our gridlock.

It takes 18 red states, with 36 senators, to equal the population of nearly 39 million Californians, granted 2 senators. The upper chamber is filled with mostly old white men representing a large land mass of grass, dirt, swamps, golf courses, ranches, tundra, massive lawns in exurbia and assorted agribusiness. But not a lot of people. It gets worse.

The House of Representatives has been hopelessly gerrymandered so the districts are a lock for the Republican Party. They need just 45% of the popular vote to control that body. Voting districts are neither squares nor rectangles nor any known geometric figures. They are salamanders, octopi, carefully calculated blobs.

In 2000 Gore beat Bush by a plurality of 500,000 votes but lost by decree from the Supremes. In 2012 Obama beat Romney by almost 5 million votes yet both legislative branches are owned by Republicans who together with the high court has been busy suppressing voter turn-out. What gives? The game is rigged but not only because of the above.

The real problem is the urban/rural divide in this country. The top ten states with the highest median household income are all blue while the bottom states with the lowest are red. Yet the cost-of-living is so much lower in the south and mid-America people might as well be living in a different country.

Is the only way to remedy this for large masses of urbanites to migrate and mingle with rednecks? No, I don’t want to join a bowling team and live in a trailer.

What we call red states often have 40% or more Democratic voters which are rendered silent and unrepresented. The same is true in reverse for blue states. Millions of people are disenfranchised and eventually don’t bother voting at all. There is a better solution which doesn’t shut out the minority vote in any state.

It is called proportional representation or Fair Voting. Louisiana, with 6 Congressional districts could increase the size of each and have 3 regions each with ranked voting from the various candidates. People would select a first choice, second, third and fourth. The state would retain their 6 seats but the minority voices would also be heard according to their share of the total count.

The same could be done in Massachusetts which would give the Republicans a say where they’ve been denied by the winner-take-all system. Suddenly Washington D.C. would be more reflective of our ethnic, gender and racial groups. The look of Congress would approximately describe America. Participation would be spurred along with a far greater voter turn-out.

I don’t totally understand how the balloting works but it sounds like a good first step. It is constitutional and already happening in certain municipalities In Minnesota and Cambridge, Mass. If interested check out this website and then you can explain it to me:

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