Monday, January 2, 2017

The Arithmetic of Deceit: The Perversion of the Republic (Gerrymander)

When people say Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million, it leaves me unimpressed. That number does not speak to the underlying psychology of voting in this country, and the implication of the statement is that a majority of voters in this country wanted Hillary Clinton to be President, not Donald Trump.
That number cannot tell you what was or is in the minds of the American population or even the American electorate (which are two different things.)

As anyone knows who lives in Maryland or Massachusetts knows, if you are a Democrat,  you don't need to go vote for your state to go the way you want it to--so you may go to work or go bowling instead of waiting in line at the polls.  Same is true for Mississippi and Idaho, on the Republic side. It is entirely possible, if the voters knew the election would be determined by the popular vote, millions more in the South and Mountain states would have voted for Mr. Trump.

We, by now, all realize we do not have a democracy but a republic. A democracy is ruled by a majority of the people; a republic is ruled by the representatives of the people, very different. Our hallowed founding fathers hedged their bets, not trusting the mostly uneducated rabble which constituted the population of America in the 18th century, before public education and mass communications. 

So we have the electoral college.  
We also have a largely unexamined concept that a country is not simply the people living within the geographic borders of our nation, but it is, somehow, the actual geographic territory, the mountains and farmlands and lakes and rivers which should have a say in how our nation is governed.  
So we have people living in Wyoming and Montana and the Dakotas complaining bitterly about the people in Washington, D.C. trying to take away their "country" from them. In fact, those people have somewhere between three and six times the voting power of the Black man living in Philadelphia, or certainly the Black man living in Washington, D.C.
a safe Republican district in Texas 

The fact is there is something which has taken away our country from the majority of its citizens for at least a century,and that is the perverse practice of drawing Congressional districts to take power and representation away from the majority of people living in a state: Gerrymandering.

One could ask why we have states represented in Congress at all, why we couldn't simply create a grid for the nation and elect people from that, or why we need to spread out the representatives by geographical territories at all. Historically, the interests of the industrial the  Northern states, of New England, were at odds with the agricultural South.  New England shoe factory owners and workers might have wanted tariffs ,where South plantation cotton owners wanted no tariffs because they sold their cotton to England and Europe and they wanted no part of a trade war. 

But now, the country is more integrated commercially and financially and these state borders we live with now may be anachronisms.

Doing away with states, or re drawing their boundaries will likely never happen, but it is remotely possible, however unlikely, we might do away with the bizarre boundaries which define Congressional districts which are designed to deny representation to the majority of people living in a state.

To mention just one of fifty possible examples, Pennsylvania:  Pennsylvania has 18 seats in Congress, 18 votes of which Republicans claimed 13.  In 2012 it took roughly, only 180,000 votes to send a Republican to Congress n Pennsylvania,  where it took 270,000 to elect a Democrat. (Wyoming sent it's Republican Congresswoman to Washington with only 166,000 votes.) Put another way, Republicans voting for a Republican put him in his seat with an 87% success rate and Democrats voted for a winner only 49% percent of the time, despite the fact about 51% of the votes were for Democrats and 49% were Republicans.

If these numbers make your head spin, think of it this way. If you took all the Democratic towns from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and drew a line around them and connected them into one Congressional district then the 51% of the vote would send only 1 Democrat to Congress and the Republicans would sent 17. 

The fact is, it doesn't have to be this way. If Congressmen ran for the House the way Senators run for the U.S. Senate, i.e., "at large" then the Pennsylvania delegation would have 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans, rather than 5 Democrats and 13 Republicans.

Of course, we still have to ask ourselves about the U.S. Senate whose members are elected at large. But then you get back to the idea that the Senators from Wyoming, Idaho and Montana all get two votes even though they represent fewer Americans than live in Washington, D.C., whose voters get no U.S.Senators at all.
Reaping the benefits of a perverted system

If Congress actually reflected the will, the philosophy, the needs and the opinions of the people, it would not much matter whether Donald Trump won.  In fact, the past 8 years of paralysis, during which a popular President was stymied by a Republican House and Senate, would have never happened.

Think of what that would have meant in just one area: Health care. The votes for a "public option" or "Medicare for all who want it," would have been there. Instead, all the Democrats could get through was an organism (Obamacare) so wounded and tied in knots by Republican opposition it had to sink beneath the waves, bleeding and dying before it was barely born; then the Republicans had the chutzpah to shout: "There we told you it would never work!"

And don't even get me started on the Supreme Court, which next to the House, is the most reactionary, Right Wing Tea Party, originalist bastion in government.

Wealth follows power
When Benjamin Franklin was asked by that lady outside the hall in Philadephia, "What sort of government have you got us?" Franklin famously replied, "A Republic, madam, if you can keep it."

We have our answer now. 

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