I was just reading this piece by CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/18/politics/gerrymandering/index.html?on.cnn=1 about gerrymandering and it got my blood boiling on the issue.
Gerrymandering as a political practice needs to end. It is a tool which is not in the hands of the electorate and yet allows for huge control over electoral regions. The people in power should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever be the ones deciding this kind of thing. Giving elected leaders tools to maintain their own positions of power that bypass the electorate are not healthy for democracy.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the vile temptation to gerrymander, and people will never stop doing it while its legal because its too powerful of a political tool. When you can redraw districts to make sure that there simply aren’t enough members of the opposing party in it to elect someone else then you have bypassed the purpose of the system. Of course its tempting. Of course I would love it if we just split some big Republican concentrations up by redrawing district lines to force hatemongering, fearmongering, warmongering Republicans out of office and replace them with Pro-education, pro-taxation, pro-infrastructure Democrats. But, I can’t agree that its ok, and the practice needs to end for everyone’s sake. A system used universally throughout the country is needed to place and shape districts. No party or politician should have the power to reshape districts to shape the outcome of elections. That is not democracy, its a farce.
The “culture wars” between left and right have lead to lines in the sand drawn so deep that the country may never recover. The feelings on both sides that they must “win” at all costs to have a culture and society they are happy living in has led to a corruption of democratic ideals that would disgust our founding fathers. They worked pretty damn hard to write up documents that created a fair democracy and put in place the tools the citizens needed to protect themselves from the inevitable oppressive nature of government, tools that we are throwing away, baffled looks on our faces, too ignorant of their purpose to realize what we’re discarding. Americans have become quick to give away their freedoms in exchange for vague reassurances that doing so will make them safe, or even just allow them to keep living life as they are now. Its time to start demanding that we get a real working Democracy here and stop giving away powers that should be the people’s to elected officials who have proven again and again how little they deserve the trust. Send legislators to Washington, or your state capital, to legislate, not to play games with maps to protect their jobs.
Gerrymandering must be replaced with a system that automatically updates districts yearly based on population concentrations while maintaining simple grid patterns to avoid sneakily cutting townships out of districts they might tip the elections of. An automatic system has its potential flaws too: Districts made up of diverse populations with very different needs for their representatives to pursue, Districts which include small sections of cities that are largely made up of another district, etc… I am not trying to claim that those situations do not create problems of their own, but I would posit that the problems they create and the potential conflicts of interest experienced by Reps who’s diverse constituents may be seeking very different goals are irrelevant when compared to the larger evil of Gerrymandering and the potentials of abuse it brings with it. Districts should be based on population numbers, overlaid onto a simple grid, so that representatives all represent similar numbers of citizens but do not get to dictate which of their citizens they want to be responsible for reelecting them.
How about we all agree that we should live in a real Democracy, and suck it up when the other side is in power sometimes, instead of trading away freedoms and laws which men have fought and died over the centuries to gift to us today?
Demand Democracy. End Gerrymandering.