Gerrymandering Dilutes Representative Government

A big problem in national politics is hyper-partisan redistricting with computer software — gerrymandering of Congressional Districts — so that the party that garners just 51 percent of the popular votes for the House of Representatives in a state can actually win 75 percent of the House seats.

How to Gerrymander Your Way to a Huge Election Victory, by Christopher Ingraham in the Washington Post.

This inflates partisans sense of their political power. Republicans thought when they took control of Congress in 2011 that they would be able to repeal Obamacare and block many other Obama initiatives, but they couldn’t agree on an Obamacare replacement and faced a presidential veto. They couldn’t agree on an immigration bill, nor even on infrastructure improvement legislation. So Republican activists were angry at their leadership, pushed for the ousting of House Speaker John Boehner and the selection of “anti-establishment” Donald Trump as their presidential nominee.

But it’s not just a problem of using computer software. There’s the longterm issue of clustering. As described by Bill Bishop in his book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of America is Tearing Us Apart, “America may be more diverse than ever coast to coast, but the places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote like we do. This social transformation didn’t happen by accident. We’ve built a country where we can all choose the neighborhood and church and news show — most compatible with our lifestyle and beliefs. And we are living with the consequences of this way-of-life segregation. Our country has become so polarized, so ideologically inbred, that people don’t know and can’t understand those who live just a few miles away. The reason for this situation, and the dire implications for our country, is the subject of this ground-breaking work.”

Alec MacGillis in the NYT defined the problem this way: “The fewer people you encounter of the opposite political persuasion, the more they become an unfathomable other, easily caricatured and impossible to find even occasional common ground with. By segregating themselves in narrow slices of the country, Democrats have also made it harder to make their own case. They are forever preaching to the converted, while their social distance also leaves them unprepared for what’s coming from the other end of the spectrum. Changing that would mean adopting a broader notion of what it means to live in a happening place, and also exposing themselves to discomforts that most people naturally avoid, given the human tendency to seek out our own kind.”

How Large Is the Divide Between Red and Blue America? Counties that voted for the Republican or Democratic presidential candidate by 20 percentage points or more.


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