Thursday, July 25, 2013

Congress: Structural Defects

When discussing why the Republicans in the House of Representatives feel they can vote against a law granting a path to citizenship for the children of illegal aliens, children who, through no fault of their own, wound up growing up illegal in America, the analysts on National Public Radio noted that 75% of these Republicans come from districts which are so conservative and white that they are actually representing the will of their constituents, or at least in no danger if they vote against this bill.

Of course, as the demographics of the country change, voting against bills which are ardently supported by Hispanics or Blacks i.e., non whites, can, in a national election hurt Republicans, but all politics is local for Republicans. And how can this be? If the demographics of the country are shifting toward non white, how can the Republicans keep their death grip on the House?

This is a phenomenon which has to do with the details, and apparently the details play out this way: In a state like North Carolina, if you had a long, slender corridor which has a dense Black population, you can make that one Congressional district, so all the Black votes elect only one Representative, whereas, if these voters were not packed together, they would be voting in 3 different districts and their numbers would be sufficient to elect three Representatives to the House. 
Packing in North Carolina 

Or, in the case of Ohio, if you have a dense population of liberals living in a city, who could elect a liberal Representative, you can split these voters off and group a third of these voters in each of three surrounding conservative suburbs, so their votes are diluted and no liberal Representatives are elected.

Cracking in Columbus Ohio 
[NB: Illustrations are from Wikipedia]

So now we have not only the best Congress money can buy, but the most Republican Congress the Gerrymander can produce.

As a result, we can elect President Obama, but he is faced with a Congress which can block every action he recommends.  We have a Congress which believes in austerity budgets, which froths at the mouth about the fictitious bogeyman of "budget deficits" and balancing the budget , a Tea Party House which digs in its heels, determined to block every attempt at governing. We have a Republican Congress which is committed to anarchy and the Tea Party Way.

And this process is aided and abetted by a Supreme Court which, as a political legacy of 8 years of President Bush, will continue to support the Tea Party for the next 20 years.

We have no easy way to fix any of this, but one thing is sure: If even the good guys, like Senator Jeanne Shaheen cannot be persuaded to vote to change the Supreme Court, then we are truly lost.  The Democrats have looked into the eyes of the beast, across the aisle and they decided that the soft answer turneth away wrath. They have decided the worst thing they can do is to look confrontational, combative, unpleasant. They are confronted with a tiger and they pull from the scabbard at their side a large, white feather.


  1. Mad Dog,
    The Republicans have really done an exemplary job of ensuring they'll retain control of the House for the foreseeable future, and with Senate seats in play next year, I agree the Democrats have to switch to Plan B and stop playing so nice..What exactly does Congress have to do to start the process of changing the Supreme Court anyway?

    The postings on your other blog have been quite interesting. The Windmill Manor nursing home story was pretty sad-not just for the elderly couple involved but for the fired administrators as well. Can you imagine them having the audacity to not fly into a panic when they find two human beings doing what human beings do-the nerve. Hopefully this case will prompt a look at the need for realistic and compassionate policies in this area and at at least the acknowledgement that elderly patients-including female ones suffering from dementia-have other "interests" besides bingo.Trying to determine what decisions a person suffering from dementia can make on their own will be difficult though. What should take precedence, the wishes of the person you were or the person you are? As they say, getting old isn't for sissies.

    As for your suggestion of "Operation Easter" in the New Yorker-I can't thank you enough. That was the most oddly interesting and entertaining thing I've read in I don't know how long. Who knew? Oology, the Jourdain society, men falling to their death from the tops of trees, SWAT teams,secret compartments and safe houses for eggs-every paragraph offered some weird nugget-I loved it. What really struck me though, was not the the fact that folks were collecting eggs, since these days what isn't collected, but the sheer quantity of eggs that the collectors acquired-didn't that blow your mind? It makes you wonder how there's anything still flying in the British Isles...One thing is for sure- I'll never think of the question "How do you take your eggs?" in the same way...

    P.S. Did you notice that all the egg collectors mentioned were men? Hmm...

    1. Maud,

      Congress can change the Supreme Court without a Constitutional amendment. There are several proposals including one in which the President would appoint one or two new justices per term and only the 9 most recently appointed get to vote.
      Yes, the Brits are not just Americans who talk funny--they are different and they take eggs very seriously.
      Actually, nowhere mentioned was the "fact" I have heard/read in many different places that cats take the lion's share (excuse the pun) of birds every year. Not power lines, not windows on houses but cats.
      Used to be we human beings, with our DDT got the birds eggs before the egg collectors could. Now it's cats. Our neighbor has a predator cat, and watching her skulking about in our back yard, I can believe it.

      Mad Dog

  2. Mad Dog,
    I do remember our discussion of the two new justices per term plan, I just assumed it would require a Constitutional amendment. Even without that requirement don't you think the chances of Congress enacting something like that exceptionally remote. If getting rid of filibusters is considered the "nuclear option" what would changing the Supreme Court be termed-Armageddon?

    I had heard about cats being lethal-the Discovery Channel or National Geographic did a program on this where they attached cameras to cats and it turned out they were far more deadly than the filmmakers had even assumed. Once they got outside the purring fur balls in the corner turned into killing machines. One more reason why, although I like cats, I prefer dogs.

  3. Maud,

    Has anyone ever attached cameras to dogs?

    Mad Dog