Day 30:So grateful that tomorrow is December, the month in which I will spend 2 weeks with my family.
Do these look like an ink blot test to you?
They are not. They are are congressional districts (hover over them to see where). They are gerrymandered districts, to be more precise. Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing district lines to include a certain demographic. This is done, by the party in control of the state, based on voting patterns. The idea is to create districts so that the votes will be easily predictable in elections. The goal is often to create a homogenous district. This can be either to gain a seat for the majority party in that district, or to suppress the vote of that district by compacting the minority votes into it. Boundaries are also sometimes drawn to split up the votes of a minority party. Both parties are guilty of drawing ridiculous boundaries in an effort to secure a congressional seat.
This is really nothing new. Americans having been doing it for nearly two centuries.
But, it has taken its toll. The practice has grown more intense over time, and the benefits of our two party system are getting lost. Long since, the best practice for a politician has been to play to the middle. Most Americans are moderate voters, and so elections were won by appealing to the middle ground between the parties, while offending the base of those parties (especially the affiliate party) as little as possible.
For many congressional seats across the nation, that is just not where and how the battle is waged anymore. Because gerrymandering has secured seats for the majority party—no matter who the politician is that is running for the seat—the real battle takes place in the primaries. If you already know that a district is going to vote Republican, then you’re not worried about the Democrat you’re up against in the final election. Before you get to that point, you’re worried about convincing your party base that you are more Republican than the other option in the primaries.
Congressional politicians have stopped playing to the middle, where most Americans are comfortable with them. (It is where we *need* them. The middle is where compromises happen. The middle is how government gets done. The middle is the whole point of a two party system.) Many of them have even stopped playing to their party bases. Who they are worried about are the voters that show up to vote in the primaries.
SPOLER ALERT: That is almost nobody. Such a small percentage of voters take that initiative, and often the ones that do hold the more extreme, party line views. And as members of Congress worry about reelection, as they are wont to do, that is the small group of people they are most worried about. (Well, they and the people who give them the most money…)
I’ve heard so many people wonder lately why Congress seems so dysfunctional… Why their Congress representative doesn’t seem to represent the interests of the state they are from… Why Congress in general doesn’t seem to have a clue what a majority of the American people want. Gerrymandering is the answer to all of those whys.
There is something we could all do about it, though. We could all become more politically active and show up to make decisions in early primaries and caucuses. If all the moderates opted to pitch in at that point, politicians would have to play to middle again.
Dare to dream.