America’s Future – Gerrymandering

This is a companion post to “America’s Future – Continued”. It represents my expanded thoughts about Gerrymandering, one of the core existential threats to our democracy that I outlined in that earlier post:

Gerrymandering:  Gerrymandering has been a corrupt political power strategy in American politics for more than 200 years. It happens every ten years when a new census requires redistribution of Congressional representation among the states in accordance with relative changes in population counts. Gerrymandering is the process of drawing district boundaries to advantage one political party over the other and is exercised by both political parties, always with the intent of subverting the collective will of the people. The practice effectively allows political parties and Congressional politicians to choose their own constituents instead of the other way around. The strategy is named after Elbridge Gerry because as Governor in 1812 he signed a bill to redraw Massachusetts district boundaries to benefit his own political party; the shape of one resulting district was said to resemble a salamander, thus that name stuck.

In most states the political party in power in the state legislature draws the Congressional district boundaries.The goal therefore is always to design the state’s Congressional districts such that the voters likely to support the party out of power are mostly concentrated in as few districts as possible (packing), and/or alternately, to draw the districts so that minority party voters are distributed so broadly across districts that they have little influence on an election’s outcome (cracking).

That process was always seemly, but with the advent of big data and modern computer modeling the in-party can generate district boundaries with precision down to the precinct level. Using detailed voting history and these “cracking and packing” strategies they can control the majority of Congressional districts in a state regardless of the overall preference of the voters. That makes the practice very dangerous for democratic governance. Though the Supreme Court has had many opportunities to rule against this form of corruption they have so far declined, except in a few rare cases where racist motives were blatant and undeniable.

Besides being undemocratic gerrymandering produces a Congress that does not represent the collective will of the American people, but reflects the most extreme elements of the two political parties. That makes compromise nearly impossible on any issue where even small but significant differences of opinion exist. From its very beginning gerrymandering always made the Congress inefficient, often ineffective, in doing the people’s business. But with today’s sophisticated political machinery we are rapidly reaching the point where everything is politically contentious and nothing really useful and important can get done.

There are reasonable solutions to avoid this undemocratic practice. Congressional districts could be eliminated and candidates for Congress could just all run on a statewide basis. A better alternative would be for nonpartisan or bipartisan commissions to be established to draw the district boundaries along pre-agreed rational guidelines taking into account existing local governance boundaries and regional intra-state economic conditions. Other redistricting arrangements could also be found that would produce much more democratic results than what we have now. The Congress has the constitutional authority to set the rules governing how federal elections are conducted. But we have to have the will to refine our institutions and eliminate this corruption. For long term national democratic viability gerrymandering must be eliminated as an acceptable political strategy.

Portman Choses un_American Senatorial Behavior

Following is the text of another letter I sent to Ohio Senator Portman, one of two senators from my state. The other is Senator Brown who voted to hear all the evidence of the president’s abuse of the power of his office.

I am recording it here just for my followers to know what I am doing to fight back against this unprecedented violation of the constitutional role of the United States Senate and the rule of law in our democracy. I realize this and $2 will buy a cup of coffee. But at least I can feel better knowing I have challenged Portman’s un-American behavior.

*************************************

Text of Letter to Senator Portman

You must be really proud.  You helped assure that a corrupt president can continue to abuse the power of his office. At the same time you successfully kept the truth from the American people. And you only had to surrender (unlike Mitt Romney) your personal honor and ignore your oath of office.

I’ll bet you were thrilled to watch how, after your endorsement, the president publicly humiliated a serving officer in the United States Army simply for honoring a legal subpoena and telling the truth. I suppose you’re now confident that the president can successfully intimidate others who might consider raising concerns about wrongdoing?

What a loyal enabler you are! Maybe the president will give you the Presidential Medal of Freedom for your loyalty as he did Rush Limbaugh.

Sadly though, enablers are actually more dangerous than would-be dictators and demagogues like Trump. Hitler could never have subverted a democratic Germany without the support of enabling politicians like you. Fortunately for Trump he clearly can count on you and your other Republican colluders.

I am a moderate conservative, but not an extremist as most Republicans seem to be these days. I want politicians who care about our democracy and work to bring people together to solve our problems. You failed that opportunity with your cowardly vote not to hold a real impeachment trial and support finding the whole truth. I assume you think people will forget about your breach of trust. I will keep reminding them.

I realize my views matter little to you. But I will do whatever I can to see that you are replaced in 2022 with someone who actually cares about the constitutional separation of powers, Congressional oversight of the Executive, and the rights of the American people to know the truth about subversive behavior by their elected leaders.

Now with your help your president is attacking the verdict against his convicted criminal friend, successfully pressuring the Justice Department to change the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations, and going after the judge who will ultimately sentence Roger Stone. You must be ecstatic with all that!

Book Review Number 29

Open:  The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital –  Kimberly Clausing

The author is Professor of Economics at Reed College. She is one of the nations leading expert on taxation of multinational corporations. In this book she promotes the value of international trade, liberal immigration, and free flow of global capital.

Continue reading

Book Reviews

A few weeks ago I met a new friend. As we discussed books over lunch I told him that I had begun to write brief summaries of the key elements of the books I read. My intent is to occasionally review my summaries to refresh my memory of the volumes.

Continue reading

Las Vegas Last Week – Where Next?

We passed another milestone in America this past week: the worst mass shooting in modern American history. Predictably, almost before the shooting stopped, the gun control advocates were “up in arms”, so to speak. But this time Republicans have chimed in as well saying we need to look at “banning bump stocks”.  Even the NRA, caught a bit off its game, is promoting more regulation, but not legislation.

Continue reading

Letters to Ohio Senators and Congressman

Following is a letter drafted late in 2016 by a group of citizens expressing concerns about governance under the new Trump Administration. The letters were all identical, signed by eight citizens, and hand delivered to the offices of Senators Brown and Portman as well as Congressman Stivers. The goal was to outline our areas of concern and encourage our legislative representatives to exercise the authority of their co-equal branch of our national government.

Continue reading

The Trump Presidency

Following is a Letter to the Editor of the Columbus Dispatch I wrote in late December of 2016. It was written to express the concerns many of my neighbors and I felt about the reality of a Trump Presidency. The letter was published in the Dispatch in its entirety at that time.

Continue reading

Let’s End Congressional Gerrymandering in Ohio

Following is a summary of the key elements of a proposed Ohio constitutional amendment to end partisan gerrymandering of Congressional Districts in Ohio. The proposed amendment is a citizens initiative and is being promoted for passage in the 2018 general election. Petitions are currently being circulated throughout Ohio. 306,000 valid signatures are required to get the amendment on the ballot. I strongly endorse the initiative.

*****************************************************************

Continue reading