My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Just an interesting random thought

I started this Sunday like I normally do:  cooking a breakfast that is decidedly bad for you followed by reading a couple of papers and watching a bit of the Sunday morning talkers.  Some weeks I fit a 9:45 church service in but not this weekend.  I caught an interview with the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, on "Meet the Press."  While he comes across as a decent Joe, he doesn't strike me as a particularly deep thinker. 

After listening to that interview it became clear to me that the Speaker is a problem and really needs to go.

The interview covered things like Gerrymandering, money in politics and the influence of special interests.  When asked about "Gerrymandering" (not "redistricting") he said, "well, in Ohio the Democrats had the pencil in their hands for 50 years and now it's our (GOP) turn."  On special interests: "every person in America is a special interest."  I've never thought much of the speaker but I was surprised by the intellectual laziness of that answer.

You know what our current political leadership in Washington is? It's the perfect expression of the two-party system that produces perfect political animals, kinda like thoroughbred horses that can do little other than run like hell for 2 minutes but can't drag a wagon around the block.  There is a lot of evidence that when this level of evolutionary perfection has been reached, things begin to go wrong as something new disrupts the system.  The Bismark – the purest expression of the dreadnaught battleship that could withstand a direct hit by a 2,000 pound shell had her fate sealed by a pesky new technology: a torpedo plane.  

All of these things, these purest expressions of an evolutionary process are doomed to fail in some way at some point.  The only question is how they fail and what collateral damage occurs.  If the citizens can wrest control of redistricting and money in politics the current system will simply fail into the next system.  That would be the best possible scenario but for that to happen it will take much more involvement by ordinary people.  After all, it's pretty clear the political parties have tuned the system to their liking and now the system perpetuates itself by churning out more of the same.  At some point in the past, the parties were in control of the system but now, it's running them and, as any faithful minion will do, they will  go to any length to defend it.

In Virginia, the districts are pretty gerrymandered.  It would be best if the politicians would hand that process over to the citizens.  Would it be perfect?  No, but that no reason not to try it.



  1. Russ Harrison

    May 4, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Interesting idea Andy, but which citizens?  Almost all the citizens who really care about things like redistricting are partisans of one flavor or another.  Putting the process in their hands will result in exactly what we have now. 

    I sympathize with your position, but creating a neutral redistricting process is very hard, primarily because there is so much at stake.  Both Parties have enormous incentives to hijack the process, and the general public isn't engaged enough to stop them.  Plus the general public tends also to be partisan, just not as much so as the political-types. 

    The issue is actually more complicated than just partisanship.  For example, if districts were to be drawn in a neutral way, the impact on our current Congress would be fewer Republicans, but also far fewer minority legislators.  Our worst drawn districts are not created to favor a Party per se, but rather to create majority-minority districts (see NC 12, SC 6, LA 2).  This helps African-Americans and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics get elected to Congress by lumping huge numbers of Democratic voters into a few districts, leaving the surrounding districts relatively more Republican.  If you want to end gerrymandering, the majority-minority districts have to go.  (Just for the record, this arrangement was the Democrats' idea.)

    This is an issue worthy of a national debate, but the solutions are complicated and messy. 


    ^^faithful minion speak.   'Solutions are complicated.  Messy.' 'It's the other guys fault'.  

    Andy's point exactly. 



  3. Russ Harrison

    May 4, 2015 at 11:26 am


    I didn't say it was the other side's "fault," only that majority-minority districts were the Democrats' idea.  Gerrymandering is a bipartisan activity, but is also more complicated than just "we want more of our guys to win."

  4. andy

    May 4, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Russ, you are right:  I know it's hellishly complicated no matter what you do and I may be guilty of simplifying this a bit.  I also know you've been at the sharp end of the electoral stick that not many folks are so you've got good insite there.  Also, even when one thinks they have come up with a great solution the Federal courts may not agree.  

    I'm only arguing that we need to try!

  5. Russ Harrison

    May 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I agree with you entirely Andy.  Congress' approval ratings are in the teens, yet 90% of Legislators know they will be re-elected next year.  That's just not healthy for a democracy.

  6. I think term limits would go a long way to address the problem. I don't think the founders ever considered "the career politician" as part of the process.


  7. I'm not positive term limits would fix the ills Andy describes, but it sure could go a long way towards fixing a whole lot of what is wrong with our political system. That said, I do fear what would come next, as "inexperienced" legislators would I think rely more and more on "experts" (I.e. lobbyists) to define their policy goals and positions. I do very much agree though that "career politicians" was not an intent of the framers.



  8. steve thomas

    May 8, 2015 at 8:21 am

    I favor term limits, but don’t think they go far enough to stem the growth of the professional political class. This, I see, is a much greater challenge to our republican form of government, than is gerrymandering of districts.

  9. Ray Beverage

    May 9, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Back with Census 2010, there was a competition in this State among the various Schools of Public Policy at the Colleges/Universities to draw the best map.  As I recall, GMU won.  The Schools all used various technical models to balance out each District.  Alas, not favorable for the politicos so our good ole GA created maps.  The idea though of having the various Schools somewhat meets Andy's idea of citizen involvement.

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