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Yes, I know Shakespeare didn't actually endorse killing all the lawyers, (the line is spoken in his play Henry VI by a villain). And yes, I know "gerrymanderers" isn't really a word (try and say it 10 times fast). What I also know is that gerrymandering, among other factors, has created a Republican House majority where virtually all its members have nothing to fear from being seen as too right-wing, in particular on fiscal/spending issues. Not only is their extremism a problem because of the noxiousness of their views, it is especially dangerous because of the way our Congress was designed to function—namely that, absent a landslide victory, one party can make it virtually impossible to get anything done, even the most basic tasks like paying our bills on time. Gerrymandering feeds that extremism, in particular on the right and in particular in the House of Representatives.

At least in the Senate, at some point, Republican primary voters may realize that nominating the Christine O'Donnells, Todd Akins, Sharron Angles, Ken Bucks and Richard Mourdocks of the world only leads to Democratic victories in all but the reddest of states. Either way, those extremists did not become senators. In the House, however, Stuart Rothenberg currently ranks 211 out of 234 Republican-held House seats as safely Republican in 2014. The safety of these seats means that the only flank 90 percent of House Republicans need to cover is their right flank, as no Republican nominee will be too Teahadist to lose a general election in these districts—thanks in large part to gerrymandering.

Look, I have no problem with the Republican Party campaigning to repeal Obamacare, as they did in 2012. But they lost. The people spoke, and re-elected the president. The party that loses cannot be allowed to implement its agenda as if it won. It certainly cannot be allowed to threaten defaulting on our debts if it doesn't get its agenda passed—after losing an election. That would mean the end of democracy as we know it. Non-extremist Republicans like Sen. John McCain understand this. As President Obama succinctly put it:

That's why we have elections.
It's not just that the extremist policies put forth by tea party Republicans offend any decent sense of morality, deny the notion of the common good, and would weaken us as a country. It's that our Congress is structured in a way that the extremism of one group can—if one party has the White House and Senate and the other holds the House of Representatives—literally bring the country to its knees in a way that could not happen under other kinds of legislative systems.

Please get up off your knees and follow me beyond the break.

Not to get all poli-sci on you, but let's talk just for a second about the differences between ours and the systems that exist in parliamentary democracies. In countries with a unicameral legislature (i.e. one legislative body as opposed to our two), in which the parliamentary majority can simply pass its legislative agenda and there is no president who can veto it, an extremist group cannot gum up the works (although I'm focused on the U.S. House here, obviously the filibuster has wreaked much havoc in the Senate as well). In a parliamentary system, either that extremist group is elected by the people to be the majority and can pass its legislative program (which, obviously, presents a different set of problems), or it is in the minority, and can do nothing to stand in the way.

Would I regret living under such a system if a tea party majority were ever elected? You bet. But I firmly believe their ideas could not compete and win a majority in this country, either under our current system or any other fair one, especially after voters have seen the kinds of things they've done in states (like North Carolina) where hard-right conservatives have won full control of the legislative process. Nevertheless, in the system we have now, they don't need to win a majority of votes to be able to accomplish their main ideological goal at the federal level—stopping the government from operating. And make no mistake, they will be able do that unless House Speaker John Boehner abandons the majority of his party.

Now let's step back from the nitty-gritty of procedure. More broadly, our system's design means that major changes can only occur either with the support of fairly bipartisan majorities or if one party wins the White House and working control of both houses of Congress. Perhaps that's as it should be. But such a design was never intended to allow a party that has not won such a decisive electoral victory—or even lost an election—to turn around and threaten massive economic damage if it didn't get what it wanted.

And apparently, Boehner can't even enough Republicans on board with what Joan McCarter rightly called a "wingnut dream" bill that would raise the debt ceiling, and has had to postpone the vote on it as of Thursday night. Some Republicans are radical enough that they won't raise the debt ceiling—which only allows us to pay the bills we've already racked up—even if Mitt Romney's agenda were signed into law by Barack Obama. I don't even know how to react to that.

The "majority of the majority"—which is, in fact, a minority overall even within the House of Representatives—dictates the direction of the Republican party and thus the House itself. This minority faction potentially exercises an effective veto over the operation of the entire federal government.

And because House Republicans don't believe they have anything to fear from moving too far to the right, and everything to fear if they are perceived as open to a primary challenge from a tea party extremist, most of them are going to keep on doing what they are doing. From the perspective of self-preservation, it makes sense. Of course, from the perspective of patriotism, of doing what's best for the country they supposedly love, it's insane.

The question is whether John Boehner loves his country more than this faction. The question is whether he will allow this faction, to paraphrase a quotation from the Vietnam War, "to destroy this country in order to save it." Maybe the speaker will end up allowing the government to shut down briefly so that the Teahadists can get it out of their system, and thus avoid the even worse disaster of defaulting on our debts a couple of weeks later. I really don't know how this ends.

But it shouldn't come down to Boehner. In a system that functions well, a legislator who goes too far in one direction would have to contend with an opponent from the other side who appealed more successfully to a majority of his or her constituents. And a party that goes too far in one direction would be soundly defeated and unable to gum up the works going forward. Our system, due in large part to gerrymandering, does not work that way. Among House Republicans at least, extremism is almost always rewarded while moderation—or even sanity for Pete's sake—is punished in the form of a tea party challenger.

In the long run, the answer to this problem is to have non-partisan bodies draw the lines of legislative districts for state and federal elections. Although there are certainly crazy senators (do I really need a link here after the last week of shenanigans?), the fact is that the borders of states can't be gerrymandered in a way that leaves virtually every Republican invulnerable to a challenge from the left either in a primary or general election. So we know that non-partisan redistricting would help rein in the nuttery—if done across the board. There can be no unilateral disarmament by Democrats here.

The problem is, there's always a short run, there's always something more pressing, more urgent. In fact, that's a feature of a system like ours that allows an extreme faction to hold it hostage. We spend so much time cleaning up their messes that it's impossible to focus on anything else.

My hope is that I'm wrong, along with all the other analysts who've argued that House Republicans are only vulnerable to a challenge from the right, especially in mid-term elections. But if we aren't wrong, then even if John Boehner somehow figures out that he needs to solve this crisis by cutting loose the extremists and coming together with Democrats, something he's done a few times this year already, there will always be another crisis around the corner. And if Boehner does do the right thing this time, he may well get replaced as Speaker by someone even worse (Eric Cantor?), someone really willing drive us over the cliff, and the next crisis will bring a truly catastrophic result.

But we shouldn't have to count on John Boehner to not shoot our country in the head. We need a comprehensive, long-term solution to the problem of right-wing extremism. That solution has to include an end to gerrymandering.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've tried here to analyze in a serious way a (89+ / 0-)

    key structural cause of Republican extremism in the House.

    What I'd rather do -- if I had the opportunity -- is get up in the grill of these despicable extremists and tell them to their face that their obvious hatred of democracy makes me physically ill.

    And I wouldn't do it in language anywhere near that polite.

    •  Democracy only works when majority rule is (40+ / 0-)

      respected. If the minority party cannot accept the fact that they lost an election and they choose to obstruct, attack, and literally call for civil war against the majority, then the rights of such a minority can no longer be protected. The gloves have to come off. They must be denounced and defeated in the strongest possible terms. Obama's major miscalculation in both terms of his Presidency is to think he can bargain with the terrorists who comprise the Republican Party.

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:19:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. Our founding fathers (16+ / 0-)

        set up a system of checks and balances because they were leery of concentrated power.

        But they also set up a strong, effective national government because they had first-hand experience with the perils of a weak, ineffective system (the Articles of Confederation).

        In both cases, they assumed a certain level of good faith.  Not that they assumed political opponents would be noble or self-sacrificing, but that they would play by the rules and, even in opposition, have a general consensus that the good of the country trumped their political goals.

        Our system works when that good faith exists.  It was in place at least from the depression through George HW Bush's Presidency.  (Example -- the Democrats would have been justified in impeaching Reagan for Iran-Contra, but they forebore for the good of the country.  And Reagan was willing to compromise with Tip O'Neill even on matters of (his warped) principle.) This good faith, let's make the system work mentality started breaking down with the election of Clinton and the resulting rise of Newt Gingrich with his win at all costs, damn the institutions of government mentality.  Hence the Starr report and the impeachment.  It only got worse with Bush's legal coup d'etat and the vilification of Democrats as terrorists.  We have now gotten to the point where a sizeable percentage of the elected officials from one of our two major parties calls the legitimacy of the government, democracy, and our elections into question.  

        The system no longer works because one of the two major parties is no longer dealing in good faith.  They don't respect the outcome of elections, they don't care about the harm their actions will cause -- all they care about is accomplishing their political goals, whether for a warped extremist philosophy or for pure power.

        "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

        by RenMin on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:54:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are really just a few ways for dealing with (6+ / 0-)

          traitors, and they are not pretty. But, the next time an elected official calls for civil war, secession, or the assassination of the President, I think law enforcement needs to make an example of that person that literally brings them to make tearful public apology. I also think the President needs to stop tolerating people who negotiate with him and then immediately go bad mouth him in public, questioning everything from his patriotism, honesty, and even his citizenship. I think he should just say the deal is off unless repubs come back to the table with negotiators who are mature, adults...and not cowardly, little trash talking traitors.  

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:11:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The Court setup the Gerrymandering Tactics. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ian Reifowitz
            •  Sure, SCOTUS ruled it is ok to Gerrymander (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ian Reifowitz

              as both parties do it.

              Had they ruled that the citizens are entitled to be able to select and influence who represents them by a fair system redistricting of those representatives we who be able to vote the crazies out of office.

              With the SCOTUS ruling, we are unable to get ride of the extremists. Who in-turn Gerrymander the voting districts to prevent all accountability to voters.

              •  Is Partisan Gerrymandering Unconstitutional? (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chuck utzman, Ian Reifowitz, RenMin

                Is Partisan Gerrymandering Unconstitutional?

                While the Supreme Court has consistently found certain types of racial gerrymandering to be illegal, it has a much more ambiguous record on partisan gerrymanders in which voters are grouped or split based not on race but on their political orientation.

                In his time on the Supreme Court, Stevens consistently opposed so-called partisan gerrymandering, but he was often in the minority.

                While the Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional and could be challenged in court, it set such a high standard of proof that it made legal challenges of such districts extremely difficult. Since then, the Court has remained divided on whether there is any viable way to set a judicial standard for what makes a given district an illegal gerrymander.

                Stevens has long argued that some kind of standard — based, to begin with, on the principles of compactness and contiguity — is possible.

                "This is one of my major disappointments in my entire career: that I was so totally unsuccessful in persuading the Court on something so obviously correct," Stevens said.

                As we explained in an investigation of special interests and redistricting, and in our latest music video, the ways that politicians manipulate districts are so well-known that political insiders have a special gerrymandering vocabulary: Politicians can "pack" certain communities into a single district, "bleach" out minorities, "crack" troublesome voting blocks between different districts, "kidnap" a troublesome representative by putting his or her house in a separate district from his or her former constituents, or "hijack" a district by redrawing the lines to pit two incumbents from the same party against each other. (For more details on these tactics, check out our Devil's Dictionary of Redistricting.)

                While Stevens has long judged these kinds of tactics unconstitutional, other justices have been more skeptical. Justice Antonin Scalia has argued that the "fairness" of districts is not "a judicially manageable standard," and that there is no constitutionally discernable basis for deciding whether a district is an illegal partisan gerrymander.

                It's worth noting that even Stevens' suggestion that courts base their evaluation of districts on the traditional principles of "compactness and contiguity" is problematic. While compact and contiguous districts may look good on a map, they aren't necessarily fair.

                These seemingly "neutral" standards "really are incredibly arbitrary," said Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan group. The shape of a district may be easy to judge at a glance, but odd-looking districts may simply reflect the real shape of a community.

                And judging districts to be "illegal gerrymanders" just because they're filled with voters who support one party would also be a mistake, Gaskins said. "It can be that communities of interest line up along partisan lines."

                Despite the difficulty, Gaskins said, "we all want to see a workable standard under which these claims can really be adjudicated."

                So far, this "workable standard" has proved elusive.

                While the Supreme Court opened the door to partisan gerrymandering challenges in 1986, it set a high bar: Plaintiffs would have to prove that the shape of a district demonstrated "both intentional discrimination against an identifiable political group and an actual discriminatory effect on that group."

                But this standard proved nearly impossible to meet in practice. As Whitney Eaton noted in a University of Richmond Law Review article:

                The twenty partisan gerrymandering cases that followed Bandemer resulted in the federal courts denying relief in each and every one, leaving commentators to conclude that its "standards are fundamentally unworkable and incorporate such ambiguous and unclear commands as to be unfit for any manageable form of judicial application."

                In a 2004 partisan gerrymandering case, the Court deadlocked on the question of whether partisan gerrymandering, given the difficulty of establishing a standard, should be subject to judicial review. Four justices argued yes — but proposed very different standards for how to tell whether a district has been gerrymandered. Four justices argued no, and one, Anthony Kennedy, argued that while no standard for judging what makes a district "fair" had emerged yet, it might be possible to find one.

                In the Supreme Court's most recent consideration of partisan gerrymandering, in 2006, the confusion persisted.

                While defining partisan gerrymandering has always been difficult, the Brennan Center's Gaskins said increasingly sophisticated mapping software makes the issue more problematic — and more pressing.

        •  You hit the nail on the head. Good faith (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Subterranean, tekno2600, roadbear, RenMin

          is required. Just as in the Parliament of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth -- one member could issue a "veto," which would nullify all legislation passed in that session. This was supposed to be for extreme emergencies, where one's liberty was being violated. Of course, once the veto was abused once, that was the end, b/c it kept getting abused. It became a tool for outside interests (Russia, Austria, Prussia) to destroy Poland-Lithuania.

          Our system also relies, as you said, on good faith to not gum up the works. That good faith is gone. Period.

      •  I disagree (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tekno2600, walkshills, Ian Reifowitz

        Obama as the responsible adult tried to behave as such. Some of it might have been the politics of not being seen as the 'angry black man' or not I leave that argument up to others. But I certainly think in the recent past Obama has been much less willing to give the GOP any slack.

        •  Obama is starting to realize he can't trust the (3+ / 0-)

          Republicans. But, when he starts using equivalent rhetoric against them that they use against him every day, sometimes right after they get out of a meeting with him, then I'll believe he understands the extent of their hatred toward him and how to respond appropriately.

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:46:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Also would be helpful if (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Odysseus, Ian Reifowitz

            instead of telling the public how he wants to hear the GOP's good ideas, Obama instead hammered it into people that GOP ideas are the very source of our troubles.  

            It's good that he can rise above the GOP's malignant attacks on his character.  But to let the GOP's tried, tested, and failed policies stand as proposals worthy of serious consideration is absurd.  Every time Obama tries to negotiate over these failed ideas he gives them credibility.  

            I remember during the 2008 campaign when Obama actually did call out the GOP policies for what they are:  failures.  I miss that guy.  

            "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

            by Subterranean on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 06:38:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed. He has undergone a major shift (0+ / 0-)

          in tactics compared to earlier in the first term.

      •  Needed: A Baker v. Carr II test case. (4+ / 0-)

        When the Supreme Court threw out districting that didn't adhere to the One Person- One Vote principle, they argued that it was a kind of abridgement of the right to vote that could be penalized by reducing the number of congressional seats that a state was entitled to.

        I think we should set some test of gerrymandering and find a test case that would impose the same penalty on states that violate the requirements for districts that are compact, contiguous, and adequately represent minorities; for the purpose of entrenching and augmenting the power of a party in charge

        Freedom's just another word for not enough to eat. --Paul Krugman's characterization of conservative attitudes.

        by Judge Moonbox on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 06:22:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It used to be called the loyal opposition... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ian Reifowitz

        Because there used to be dire consequences for a losing party that did not accept that it lost, and tried to act like it had any power, and it usually ended when the opposition leader was hung from a gibbet, and his successor was asked what his policies would be.

        Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. It is by the picket line and direct action that true freedom will be won, not by electing people who promise to screw us less than the other guy.

        by rhonan on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 10:08:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  If You Say It In French, It Will Sound Pretty (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ian Reifowitz, micsimov

      even when you are calling for hellfire and brimstone to rain down upon the tp jihadists.

    •  i ain't got shit to say to them (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, Ian Reifowitz

      except this:  i If the dnc dscc or dccc send you mailers, send that link back to them and tell them you won't send money to people who defend democrats who betray progressive principals!

      by daeros on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:00:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This language is silly. (5+ / 0-)
      Their obvious hatred of democracy makes me physically ill.
      Both parties use redistricting  to create "safe" districts.   If that is "hating democracy", then the entire House hates democracy.

      I'm not a misanthrope, I'm just very selective about who I'm willing to waste my time on.

      by SpamNunn on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:29:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is a way of dealing with gerrymandering (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ian Reifowitz, paradise50

      ... but it isn't pretty.

      I've heard that the Republicans control the House even though they got only 47% or so of the popular vote for House members.  This implies that there may be a substantial minority of Democratic voters even in the reddest of districts.

      If there are any sane Republicans left, get them to mount a primary challenge against the local Tea Party traitor.  Promise the challenger that you will get a sufficient number of Democrats to change their registration to Republican so that the total votes the challenger gets will exceed that of the Tea Party traitor.

      Then, follow through and vote for the challenger, even in the general election, if necessary.

      This would solve at least three problems.  First, it puts the fear of God back into the Tea Party, because they can't stop you from doing this and forcing them out of office altogether.  

      Second, it punishes rather than rewards the wingnuts who are trying (rather successfully) to undemocratically seize control of the Republican Party and the whole country for their own purely selfish purposes.

      Third, it may actually get someone who cares about the country (rather than party purity) elected in your district.  While this may not meet our own strongest desires, it may be the best that can be done in today's environment and it is surely better than what is happening right now.  I would rather lose an argument to the party of Lincoln than the party of stinkin'.  Know what I'm sayin'?

      The Tea Party -- Not Your Father's Jesus(R)

  •  Of course it's a word. (11+ / 0-)

    Of course gerrymanderer is a word.  If you can gerrymander, you can be a gerrymanderer.  Don't be absurd.

  •  These people are not susceptible (20+ / 0-)

    to reason, compromise, or fair play. There is no real honor in them. They have created permanent (rotten) boroughs for themselves and are backed by the vilest big money guys in the world...

    We have a terrible problem. I'm glad Village dems are finally figuring it out. Hope it's not too late.

    There's none so blind as those that will not see. --Jonathan Swift

    by chuckvw on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:06:40 PM PDT

    •  Many are primarily driven by reason ... (7+ / 0-)

      ... but the GOP has created a system in which a career politician who hopes to win and hold a House seat in a gerrymandered district has to act crazy to avoid being primaried.

      Now, sooner or later a politician driven by reason will face a strong reason why they should depart from the crazy, while a crazy politician will always be crazy, so its true that we have also created a system that helps increase the number of crazy politicians.

      But we cannot ignore the multiplier effect of only fearing a challenge on the right in a GOP primary and not fearing any challenge from the center or center-right during the General Election.

      Given advantages of incumbency, if the system was changed, the first big impact would be that the multiplier would vanish quite quickly, as the reasonable politicians who simply have good reason to act crazy would quite quickly and cynically moderate their positions.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:18:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Makes good sense, what you said. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chuckvw, on the cusp, daeros, walkshills

        But maybe you're really crazy and just acting rational. :)

      •  Most of the tea party congressmen are not (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama, Ian Reifowitz

        canny careerists cynically pretending to be crazy. Many of them - maybe not all (hard to say) - are zealots. It's not that I don't share your cynicism over doings in the Village. The idea that our enemies are base opportunists who will shift with the changing winds is the optimistic view, IMO. Sad that!

        There's none so blind as those that will not see. --Jonathan Swift

        by chuckvw on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:42:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  However, if it was just the tea party ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ian Reifowitz

          ... congressmen, there wouldn't be a problem. Any time that the majority of the House Republican Caucus that are not tea party congressmen wanted to crack the whip, they could draft legislation that would attract enough Democratic votes to pass.

          But if they did that, they would get primaried. So they don't do that.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 08:18:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So those who are not zealots (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ian Reifowitz

            fear facing and losing to a zealot in the primaries. The problem is right wing zealotry, the billionaires who fund it, and a handful of compliant DINOs who sometimes enable it. It's actually as bad a problem or worse at the state lege and gubernatorial levels. It's not just a passing fad or short term tactical positioning.

            There's none so blind as those that will not see. --Jonathan Swift

            by chuckvw on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 09:20:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Hunter quoting Jim Fallows in the open thread (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              LillithMc, Ian Reifowitz
              In case the point is not clear yet: there is no post-Civil War precedent for what the House GOP is doing now. It is radical, and dangerous for the economy and our process of government, and its departure from past political disagreements can't be buffed away or ignored.

              There's none so blind as those that will not see. --Jonathan Swift

              by chuckvw on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 09:24:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Quite so ~ the foundation of the gerrymander ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chuckvw, Ian Reifowitz

              ... at the Federal level is in the state legislatures, in many states, after all.

              And in a state like Ohio, where the balance of power in the gerrymander is in statewide offices, the fact that 2010 was a first term mid-term election for a Democratic President was fatal: we had a majority of State Representative votes for Democrats in 2012, and the Republican majority is 59 to 40.

              Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

              by BruceMcF on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 09:49:42 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  2010 redistricted me... (4+ / 0-) instead of being in a quasi-swing district (the old NY-29), I'm now in a very safely gerrymandered blue district and represented by the sainted Louise Slaughter.

        But I keep an eye on my old congresscritter, Tom Reed, who ended up with a more safely red district.

        After several years of observation, I still can't quite figure out whether he's crazy-crazy, or reasonable-acting-crazy-to-win.

        The district he represents, while safely Republican, isn't crazy-crazy Republican; it was created at the behest of one of those now-defunct sane moderate Republicans, Amo Houghton. It includes a big swath of New York Appalachia, but also includes the high-tech mecca of Corning (where Reed was once mayor) and deep-blue Ithaca and Tompkins County.

        I don't think Reed needs to side with the crazies to have an easy path to reelection. Yet every chance he gets to go hard-right, he does, to the point where there's never an inch of daylight between Reed and the backside of Eric Cantor. (Ewww.)

        It may just be that Reed isn't all that bright. He seems to keep having issues with properly paying his taxes, something a brighter politician would know to avoid.

        He has, in keeping with current Republican back-bench tradition, precisely nothing to show for himself when it comes to legislative initiatives or accomplishments. He's brought damn near nothing by way of economic improvement to his district, which could desperately use some.

        And yet he's probably safely entrenched in his seat until at least 2022. Sigh.

        Intended to be a factual statement.

        by ipsos on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 04:29:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  the homology with jury-rigging is intriguing (9+ / 0-)
    The phrase "jury rigged" has been in use since at least 1788. The adjectival use of "jury," in the sense of makeshift or temporary, has been said to date from at least 1616 when it supposedly appeared in John Smith's A Description of New England.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:07:18 PM PDT

  •  Yet Obama all too frequently blames "Congress." (16+ / 0-)

    When the problem is House Republicans. This undermines efforts to defeat the GOP.

    Thanks to everyone, whether they agree with me or not, for making this such an outstanding community. I know we usually want to see the same things for the country even when we disagree over individual politicians.

    by expatjourno on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:08:13 PM PDT

  •  I am hoping that the NC Dems run on redistricting (13+ / 0-)

    In NC it would be very easy to create a constitutional amendment that takes politics out of redistricting.

    In the past Dems have done it (which I liked) and Repubs have done it.

    It should now be done away with.

    The highest form of spiritual practice is self observation with compassion.

    by NCJim on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:11:12 PM PDT

  •  Wish I could hang around longer, (9+ / 0-)

    but have to step away now for a while. I will read and reply to comments. Thanks for stopping by.

  •  Gerrymandering and Texas (13+ / 0-)

    Should be among our highest priorities. So, upset about Ted Cruz or Perry? Support Wendy Davis. She is expected to run for Governor of Texas. Turning Texas Blue would end a lot of insanity we currently seeing.

  •  Tried the gerrymanderers tongue-twister (6+ / 0-)

    I didn't find it that difficult.  The one that gets me is "unique New York"

  •  Excellent (12+ / 0-)

    I remember a diary Markos wrote several years ago about reforming the House of Representatives. Did you know we have one of the highest ratios of Reps to population of any Democratic country in the world?

    The House needs reform. The number of Reps needs to at least triple if not more. What will that accomplish?

    A more representative House.

    Dilute the influence of lobbyists.

    Dilute the effect of gerrymandering.

    Reduce the cost of running for a seat, thereby reducing the effect of money on the House.

    Just off the top of my head.

  •  I've been advocating that we push initiatives (14+ / 0-)

    in states that allow them to stop gerrymandering. This problem doesn't just exist at the Federal level but also at the State level.  Specifically Ohio and Michigan should be prime targets ( I think Wisc also allows initiatives not sure?)

    It would be far more of an efficient use of money to fund 3 of these campaigns then to try and defeat 7-8 Republicans in deep red seats. If Ohio, Michigan, and Ohio, had nonpartisan redistricting Democrats could easily pick up 7 of the 17 seats we need to win back the House. We also need to strengthen Florida's new law and just wait out both demographics as well as time (as incumbents retire or are term limited out at the state level) to see greater results there.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)! Follow on Twitter @dopper0189

    by dopper0189 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:19:32 PM PDT

  •  On a side note I used to work in that dragon (5+ / 0-)

    approximately where the wings are. I worked there for about 7 years. LOL

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)! Follow on Twitter @dopper0189

    by dopper0189 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:20:56 PM PDT

  •  Can anything be DONE about gerrymandering? (4+ / 0-)

    Or is it an understood American political principle that the party in power can create districts that have shapes that are like nothing found in the halls of mathematics, nor in the kingdom/queendom of nature.

    Nothing can be actually done about it?  Gerrymandering remains a subject of rants only?  Sincere question here.

    •  Yes, something can be done about it. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      high uintas, on the cusp, jan4insight

      Through the same legislative process by which any other law is changed. That's an oversimplification, but generally accurate.

      •  Ah, but there is the flaw. The gerrymandered (5+ / 0-)

        legislatures are the ones that have to approve of the change and that is about like asking them to disembowel themselves.

        Should has no bearing here. Of course we as a nation should do this. The trouble is that there is a significant minority that has entrenched itself using this tool that has no real interest in this nation. Their loyalty lies elsewhere just as much as a deep red Communist in the 1930s—1950s. Their loyalty is to an ideology of monied/ racial/sexual privilege or a religious tradition as hostile to free thought and "freedom" as the Taliban—they just aren't as rough edged.

        If ever we get the political power, and we all need to vote strategically in every election down to dog catcher to do so, we need to start the ball rolling on a constitutional amendment at state and federal levels requiring redistricting by impartial commissions required to use open and reasonable formulas.

        The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

        by pelagicray on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 03:11:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting letter in today's paper: (0+ / 0-)

            "The government shall be broken up" connects plenty of dots. Quoting Lincoln for the start the writer concludes:

            Southern states were demanding a “compromise” on slavery in exchange for not seceding from the union. However, their proposed “compromise” required that the victorious party make all the concessions to ensure the continuation of the institution of slavery. We just completed an election in 2012 in which Democrats won the White House, the Senate and a majority of the popular vote in the House “on principles fairly stated to the people,” yet the Republicans (a large percentage of them Southerners) threaten to “break up” the government (through defunding and defaulting on debt) unless the victors surrender to the losers. Has anything changed in 150 years?
            This is an attack on the nation, the concept of the "United States" and as serious as any fifth column effort in the  20th Century and, in my opinion, could use an effective put down as a neo Confederate subversive movement.

            The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

            by pelagicray on Mon Sep 30, 2013 at 10:16:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Iowa uses a non-partisan commission that (6+ / 0-)

      does an extraordinary job.

      "Where some see a system for encouraging discussion . . . others see an echo chamber of bad grammar, unchecked stupidity, and constructive interference . . . " -- Ars Technica

      by Rikon Snow on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:27:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Several states HAVE done something about it (5+ / 0-)

      including California and Arizona.

      Ohio tried, but the Republicans threw everything but the kitchen sink at our ballot amendment and got the rightwing state newspapers to nitpick to death the nonpartisan commission system on trivial details, when it would have been a tenfold improvement over the current system, which was in any case violated by the Republicans who redistricted in a probably unconstitutional way. But the state supreme court is 6-1 Republican thanks to the purchase of those seats by big money special interests (another huge problem) so there was little we could do. hey did, however, strike down the first ballot language contrived by our GOP secretary of voter suppres ...I mean STATE ... Jon Husted because it contained too many lies even for them.

      Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

      by anastasia p on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:37:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  At least in Ohio (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ian Reifowitz

        You can still attempt a signature initiated amendment every election year (granted, 10% of number of people who voted in your governor race is no easy task, probably).

        Last I checked in Louisiana, only the state legislatures can get the boll rolling on amending the constitution. It is also the only way to start a constitutional convention, which probably explains why my state has rewritten its constitution 9 times since it became an official state of the Union in 1812.

        Hooray for broken governments!

    •  Take charge and draw more Dem districts. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ian Reifowitz, hmi

      The idea that you can take politics out of something as fundamentally political as drawing Congressional districts is a fantasy. It's not going to happen in most states. We have to do the hard work of getting Democratic Governors and state legislators to draw more Democratic Districts. That's how Illinois took five Republicans out of Congress in 2012.

      •  Other countries have managed it. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ian Reifowitz

        So has a number of states in the union.

        •  So you're willing to give up Dem seats? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ian Reifowitz

          What you're saying is that you're willing to give up Democratic seats in Congress in order to support this notion that you can take the politics out of politics. Personally, I'd rather have a bigger majority in Congress. It will be a real problem when Republican states are gerrymandering to maximize their seats but Democratic states aren't. That won't get us a Dem majority.

          •  A couple of responses (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ian Reifowitz

            1) California voters put in a nonpartisan redistricting plan over the objections of Democratic party poohbahs who had the same objections you do. The result: With nonpartisan districting Dems GAINED five House seats. Glad we didn't listen to the party hacks.

            Gerrymandering is an incumbent protection racket. That's why even minority party incumbents don't complain about.  Their jobs stay safe. But in a fair fight Democrats did better in California than when they tried to rig the results. Go figure.

            2) Democrats gaining seats by giving up gerrymandering isn't going to happen everywhere.

            To avoid the unilateral disarmament that you and Ian rightfully worry about there doesn't have to be a national plan. States can pair themselves with equally sized states that vote for the opposite party. Heavily Republican gerrymandered Ohio with 16 seats would agree to go nonpartisan when Democratic Illinois with 18 seats does. New York and Massachusetts have as many seats together as Texas does on its own. They could pass legislation to go nonpartisan when all of them do.

    •  Brennan Center for Justice (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Torta, Ian Reifowitz

      at NYU Law School ( is one of the best, most competent, most knowledgeable left-leaning think tanks on all things voting. They were directly involved in the redistricting battles after the 2010 Census, and are now engaged in challenging the insane voter ID requirements. Give them some love, and turn to them for information about what's going on in your state and elsewhere.

  •  Promoting fairness in democracy? How absurd! (4+ / 0-)

    Don't you know that monopolies and trusts have been the American way since even before the American Revolution? Injustice and power imbalances are about as American as apple pie.

  •  Where's the Dems' national voting rights law? (7+ / 0-)

    Why haven't the Senate Dems pushed a national voting rights law like the house GOP repeals Obamacare?  Why aren't we making this a really BIG issue? Withhold federal funds from states that don't follow the law.

    3 right angles in every congressional district.

  •  And then there's California (12+ / 0-)

    The Republicans had been trying to get the redistricting process out of the hands of the California Legislature for years. Even after the Democrats who controlled the legislature did a "protect the incumbent" redistricting after the 2000 Census, they tried, thinking they should have more seats. Open primaries failed. Other things failed, so FINALLY they proposed nonpartisan redistricting, and it turned into one of those "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it" things. It passed, and the Democrats GAINED seats. The Republicans wanted the State Senate redistricting thrown out because they were afraid it would give the Democrats a super-majority, and it DID!

    We have to get behind nonpartisan redistricting in every single state where the Legislature gets to draw the lines.

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:28:55 PM PDT

  •  May also need to include filibuster rule changes.. (3+ / 0-)

    nuclear option, if you will.

    Are Dems too afraid of their own management capabilities to use it rightly?

  •  I've said it before and I'll say it again (6+ / 0-)

    Democrats represent voters and Republicans represent land mass.  California Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were elected by how many millions voters?  Meanwhile, we have the state of Wyoming with their two Republican Senators John Barraso and Mike Enzi, and they were elected by how many voters?  There is not even one effing million people in that state.

    So I shall quote Dorothy Day:
    "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system."

    The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

    by micsimov on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:35:45 PM PDT

    •  The Senate is designed to represent the states. (5+ / 0-)

      You can argue about whether you think states in the modern US require that kind of representation, but there have always been large population differences between the states, and the Senate is so thoroughly embedded in the nation's Constitutional structure that it will never change anyway.

      The House of Representatives is meant to represent the people.  That's where gerrymandering matters.

      •  There were big states and small (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ian Reifowitz

        states when the constitution was written. True. But there wasn't anything then like the 70:1 discrepancy between California and Wyoming that exists now. I don't think that can be dismissed with just a wave of the hand. Structural distortions built into the Constitution insure that rural areas are over represented in the Senate and electoral college.

  •  Why Don't Voters Realize (4+ / 0-)

    That certain election years are more important than others--it's well known that the party in power after each decennial census is responsible for redistricting, so why don't we see GOTV advertisements aimed at this?

  •  Is this really how it works?? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    I see Democrats wringing their hands because republicans have gerrymandered districts so that they hold a majority they do not deserve (given the national popular vote), while having also made their districts safe from challenge by Democrats.  I don't see how both can be true.

    Gerrymandering is a manipulation of "natural" district boundaries designed to cause an outcome not possible if all districts were proportionally drawn.  Republicans can create safe districts by gathering large GOP majorities into them, or they can create more GOP-held districts by spreading republican voters broadly to more districts.  But don't these work against each other?

    I don't see how gerrymandering can simultaneously create more GOP districts as well as safer GOP districts.  To the extent that you spread your voters out to gain additional seats, you reduce the size of your majority in those districts.  Making more GOP districts makes them less safe.  Conversely, making safer GOP districts creates fewer of them.

    I don't see any other way the math can work.  So given that the GOP holds more seats than they should (since Democrats got something like 1.4M more votes), I don't believe these seats are safe.

    Welcome to the Peasantry

    by SBucher on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:39:37 PM PDT

  •  Let's be honest here. (3+ / 0-)

    The gerrymander is a bi-partisan abomination. Democrats have fought just as hard to preserve majority-minority districts at very high levels, resulting in suburban districts that are, in many cases, more Republican than expected. Regardless of which party controls the state when redistricting time comes around, the try to preserve too safe districts for their incumbents.

    I won't believe corporations are people until Texas executes one. Leo Gerard.

    by tgrshark13 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:46:57 PM PDT

  •  You're right and you're wrong (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    These are rough numbers because I'm too lazy at the moment to look them up...yes, I sometimes get that lazy.

    About 30% of Americans call themselves Republican.  About 20% of Americans call themselves Tea Partiers.

    These numbers have shrunk considerably in the last few years.  If these numbers continue to shrink, as I think they will, this means that many formerly safe gerrymandered districts will come into play.

    The Republicans are vulnerable.  This is good for a functioning government, but is a complete wash for progressives, since most of the "Democrats" coming online to challenge extremist Repubs will be at the conservative end of the spectrum.

    Near-term, over the next few election cycles, even though the country as a whole is expected to become slowly more progressive (another number from a web site I'm too lazy to find), the House will remain fairly conservative even as it gets much bluer.

    Somethings blooming out in the desert, huge rain a few days ago, and as a consequence, I have a sinus headache.  Sorry, this is as good as it gets when I have a headache.  Can't wait for the first big freeze.  I hope I made sense.

    Tell me what to write. 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

    by rbird on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:49:54 PM PDT

  •  One day, gerrymandering will be unconstitutional (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ipsos, kat herder, Ian Reifowitz, Red Bean

    Obviously it will never happen under today's Supreme Court, but in the future if we continue have situations like PA, where there were 100,000 more votes for D's than R's but the Congressional delegation is 6-12 D-R, or worse, it could be found to be a violation of equal protection. Fanciful? Well, until 50 years ago, it was constitutional for legislative districts to represent unequal numbers of constituents. Then Baker v. Carr required equal population for Congressional districts.

    Remember, as long as the Electoral College is not allocated by (gerrymandered) Representative districts, the Presidency and the non-gerrymanderable Senate will determine the future Supreme Court, so gerrymandering by state governments alone can't stop it.

    Absent that, a slightly-less radical solution is to go to multimember districts, like most other democracies do. Finally, nonpartisan redistricting boards can help, but as long as Democratic voters are disproportionately in urban areas and Republican voters in rural, there will be a gerrymander-like bias to representation.

  •  The problem is political culture (3+ / 0-)

    The public has accepted the metaphor of war for so long and "all's fair in love and war" that they tolerate the scorched earth culture-war politics of the Republicans.

    And key to that acceptance has been a corrupt media that paints false equivalences and feels under no obligation to provide their audience the truth (unless their customers, the advertisers push it).

    The Federalist Papers were very clear about the causes and consequences of "faction", which is what the House Republicans have become.

    Previously, that was a majority that did not feel obligated to be inclusive of minority interests in coming to a legislative compromise.  That was bad enough examples of faction.

    In this case it is a minority that does not feel obligated to be inclusive of majority interests in coming to legislative compromise.  It's not just that they want to re-run two elections and all of the passed legislation since.  They seek to undo the legitimacy of law by treating it as if it is still a bill.  Even after they have failed through normal order to repeal it.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:54:34 PM PDT

  •  Gerrymandering isn't the source of the extremism (5+ / 0-)

    I have written very extensively on this subject and even if every single US House district had been drawn by a commission like California's were, we would still be looking at 170+ Safe Republican districts where Romney won with ease. We'd still be looking at a majority of the Republican caucus being very hard right. Yes, it is a terrible problem and there's very good reason to believe it is the sole reason we do not control the House today, but the problem with Republicans electing extremist batshit crazy representatives isn't a result of gerrymandering, it's a result of Republican primary voters being fucking insane.

  •  Don't forget: Gov. Gerry pronounced his name (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    desert rain, Ian Reifowitz, claude

    with a hard "G"; it's "Gerrymandering" with a "g" as in "Gimme", not as in "Jerry".

    The "Shot heard 'round the world" is now known as the "Pinochet Ricochet". --commonmass

    by commonmass on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 01:59:36 PM PDT

  •  Gerrymandering, in its usual sense (2+ / 0-)

    should lead to FEWER safe Republicans and less extreme ones.

    The usual idea of a party based gerrymander is to get more seats for your side than the overall % would indicate. You do this by putting all of the opposition in one district and making a lot of marginal districts for your own party.

    The problem is that political gerrymandering intersects with "natural" gerrymandering (that is, Republicans and Democrats tend to cluster, geographically).

    •  PA is a good example (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Berkeley Fred, plf515, Ian Reifowitz

      In PA, Democrats won a majority of the votes in congressional races, but Republicans have 13 out of the 18 seats. In part, Republican-led redistricting weakened Democratic chances in the suburbs. But, even if Rs hadn't done that, you still have the fact that Philly will have a lot of wasted votes because Chaka Fattah gets 90% of the vote and Bob Brady, 85%.

      Personally, I'd like to see proportional representation--whether on a state level or in multi-member districts.

  •  The drawback to partisan gerrymandering (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    Bipartisan gerrymandering, such as CA was notorious for for decades, is easier to explain.  If both parties want to protect their incumbents, they conspire to carve out districts with lopsided performances -- the tendency to vote for on party or the other -- for one party or the other.  A state that is evenly divided overall in performance gets chopped into districts that perform overwhelmingly for on side or the other.  That way neither party's incumbents have to worry about being ousted by the other party.  Individually, both parties are only interested in getting hostile voters out of their protected districts, but those hostile voters have to go somewhere, so each party dumps their hostiles in the other party's safe districts ,where they are friendlies to that that party.  

    Now, if one party gets greedy, and uses its control of districting to try for a gerrymander that benefits only them, and not incumbents of both parties, they have to give up some degree of safety in order to get smaller majorities of friendly voters in each of their districts.  They have to create really safe districts for the other party, because that party's voters have to go somewhere.  But they want as many of those hostiles in as few districts as possible, which means really high performance districts for the other party -- just not many of them.  Conversely, their side gets plenty of districts in which their friendly voters are a majority, but a much slimmer majority.

    The risk of the partisan gerrymander is that in a landslide year, they lose all of these districts in which they gave themselves only a relatively small majority.

    So, sure, our side ought to be agin' partisan gerrymandering, and for having districting done apolitically.  But we aren't getting there except by way of winning the federal trifecta.  You can't do this at the state level, because we actually want gerrymandering to continue in states we control, if we are to have any hope of offsetting the effects of gerrymandering in states the other side controls.  And, yes, we probably will need a landslide to get back the House

    If that's what we need to do, let's do it.  It's great that we won the presidency in 2012, but not at all great that we didn't try to nationalize the election so as to win the House too.  We can't make that mistake again.

    And once we get the trifecta, we need to pass laws that protect this country from times when our party doesn't hold the trifecta.  That includes taking districting away from the states, and away from the political process, and it includes getting rid of the debt ceiling and budget reconciliation so poorly designed that it can be used to hold the nation hostage.

    The states must be abolished.

    by gtomkins on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:02:15 PM PDT

  •  Ireland (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    The bitter fighting in Ireland began with the North doing illegal gerrymandering which makes the democratic process impossible.  Once the fighting begins, it gets tribal, nasty and hard to stop.  That is where we are now in the US.  Between the red state partisan gerrymanders and voter suppression, they are fixing elections like they are destroying the country with the tea party House.  If they default it is serious damage.  CA has non-partisan elections and redistricting.  That should be a federal law.  None of this false equivalency.  What blue states are holding the government hostage or defaulting on the federal debt?
    Blue states for the most part have sensible gun laws, legal elections, respect women's health rights and have less poverty.  Red states are in open rebellion to the federal government and sometimes the Constitution.  Enough coddling these destructive extremists.

  •  While Democrats Worried About The White House (4+ / 0-)

    The right wing concentrated on the statehouses. Democrats have no one but themselves to blame for this. The Republicans did it correctly and they got what they wanted.

    The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

    by The Lone Apple on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:21:42 PM PDT

  •  i have argued for compact districts for 10 years (4+ / 0-)

    and so many oh so sophisticated types have explained how that would lead to disaster.

    Funny, California does not appear to be a disaster

  •  we badly need this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    and no it can't wait. Personally speaking one of the few things I am disappointed in is that the Obama and the Democrats didn't push it though when they could.

    That said didn't people say the same thing in 2006? I don't know, I'd like to hope that if the GOP crashes the government enough people blame just the GOP for it (as the should) that we can take the House.

    But I don't know I might just be deluded but all I got at this point is hope.

  •  A possible solution (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz, claude, paradise50

    While it does nothing to stop the current crazies that have hijacked the government, I think the best thing Democrats can do in districts that have been gerrymandered to the point of making it impossible to beat the republicans is to become republicans.

    I know what a horrific taste that would leave in ones mouth.

    But since they in essence are in a futile position, by registering as republicans, they could at least exercise influence during the primaries. If they could at least help overthrow extreme tea party candidates, they would mitigate the insanity we see now.

    If a less extreme republican wins the primary, it may leave tea party nut jobs feeling disenfranchised. They may even stay home rather than vote for a candidate they think is too moderate. Or they may waste their vote on a third party candidate with no chance of winning.

    I even think in polls the false republicans should say they plan to vote for the republican candidate.

    This would leave the republican party feeling overconfident of their level of support in the district. Then when the election comes, and all the "republicans" vote Democrat, it could provide surprises.

    While I don't disagree with the statement that there are some benefits to a parliamentary system, they also have their negatives. Unless you have a proportional representation system of elections (like they have in Australia), you can still end up with a minority of citizens with majority control in government.

  •  Tipped & rec'ed nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:26:00 PM PDT

  •  Democrats do the exact same thing. (4+ / 0-)
    What I also know is that gerrymandering, among other factors, has created a Republican House majority where virtually all its members have nothing to fear from being seen as too right-wing, in particular on fiscal/spending issues.
    Republicans just do it better.   Here in NJ, the Democrats are fine with "safe" Congressional districts.   Until all districts are competitive, Congress will continue to be polarized and gridlocked.    

    I'm not a misanthrope, I'm just very selective about who I'm willing to waste my time on.

    by SpamNunn on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 02:26:39 PM PDT

    •  Exactly. (6+ / 0-)

      It's not like Republicans invented gerrymandering in 2010.  Elected officials have always considered the political implications of drawing district lines.  Democrats do not complain about the safe Democratic districts, such as those created when minority-majority districts are created (sometimes by drawing lines that have no rhyme or reason other than to put minority voters in one district).  

      Republicans won state elections in 2010.  In the state elections at that time, Republicans realized that control of state government would mean control of district lines after the 2010 census, while Democrats for some reason did not focus on this fact.  That was  (in my view) the most under-reported aspect of the 2010 elections -- that Republicans deliberately went after state elections in that year and were very successful. That's why Democrats are now complaining -- not because Republicans just invented gerrymandering (they did not) but because this last go-round, Republicans controlled the gerrymandering and used it to their advantage.  This, too, falls under the category "elections have consequences."  

    •  It's not JUST gerrymandering. (0+ / 0-)

      It's gerrymandering (and other factors) that create safe enough seats to reward crazy extremism. But of course you could have safe seats and not have extremism. Unfortunately for the country, Republicans have both.

  •  Parliamentary form is more complex than stated. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz, Nisi Prius, scott5js

    First of all, most countries with this form of government have multiple political parties, ( more than two). Second, more often than not their people elect minority governments, which means no one party won at least half the seats. What happens is the party who won the most seats forms the government with another party (or several) who gives that government over half the votes, promises to vote with the government and keep it in power. For now. Of course that party might decide to withdraw it's support and the government falls. That's one reason way we have 4 week election campaigns. It is true that a majority allows a government to easily pass it's agenda, but it does still have to pass the Senate in Canada and Australia. Usually a rubber stamp, but presumably if anything too crazy comes before it, it would be stopped.

  •  Gerrymandering is not some new Republican (4+ / 0-)

    invention. It's been around as long as Congressional lines have been drawn.   The reason Democrats see it as a problem now is because Republicans put a lot of emphasis on,and won, a lot of state elections in 2010 -- the year of the census -- and so they got to draw the lines.  

    And what people need to remember is that gerrymandering is not just done to create Republican majority districts.  The reason some of those "safe" Republican districts exist is because there are also "safe" Democratic districts -- notably,  "minority-majority" districts.  Here in Louisiana, for example, one reason that LA-01 is a "safe" Republican district is because of LA-02.  In some cases, when you draw district lines to create a minority-majority district, you lump a lot of Democratic voters in that district, creating safe Republican districts around it.  

    Frankly, I just don't think there's a completely "non-partisan" way to draw districts as long as you have to consider the one person, one vote rule AND have to make sure you have an adequate amount of minority-majority districts. In most situations, you can't just draw a grid.  Moreover, most voters WANT to be in a district with like-minded voters.  Do you think that the Republican sections of Orleans Parish (like Lakeview) would rather be in LA-01 (Republican) or LA-02 (Democratic)?  Drawing lines is always going to have political consequences, and it's kind of silly to think people drawing those lines aren't going to be aware of the political consequences.  

    It's always a matter in this country of elections having consequences. The drawing of district lines is one of those areas where elections have consequences.  

    And our system of government is deliberately NOT a system where a party can win a national election at something like 55% - 45% and then the 45% minority has absolutely no say whatsoever in governing until the next election. We have a system where three centers of power each come to office in a different way:  (1) the President through a single national elction; (2) the Senate through 100 state-wide elections, two per state; and (3) the House through 435 local elections, each of which has its own dynamics, (which is why looking at who "won" the popular vote for the House is an illegitimate exercise -- the system is deliberately designed NOT to be viewed that way).  In other words, our system is set up to give a significant minority -- like 45% of the population -- the ability to be able to influence government, and even to stop legislation at times.  It's designed so that our federal government has to govern by compromise, not by wild swings to the left or to the right depending on who got 52 - 55%  in the last election.  And some of us (like me) think a system that has some protection for the rights of the minority is a good thing.  

    The problem we have now is that there are some in the Republican party who think compromise with Democrats is a treasonous act and cannot be tolerated.  And that's a bad thing -- and a complete failure to recognize how our system is supposed to operate.   That's what has brought us to this latest crisis.

     Sadly, however, I see some of that same kind of "don't give in an inch" attitude by some here on the left -- who yell for the heads of people like Mary Landrieu, who is a pro-business, and pro-oil and gas industry Democrat, when she goes off the "progressive" line because that's a reflection of the population she represents.  And, of course, all past attempts by the President to open a discussion about the long-term problem with entitlements (yes, I know that Social Security is not as big an issue, but Medicare and Medicaid have significant long-term problems that need to be addressed sooner rather than later) are decried as surrender by some here.  The sequester -- which, of course, was a proposal put on the table by the President as a way to gain a compromise with intransigent Republicans -- was also viewed by some here at the time as a surrender by the President.  

    As long as we have a faction on each side that thinks any kind of compromise is tantamount to treason to their party, I think we are going to limp along from crisis to crisis.  

  •  It's all Boehner's fault (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    All he has to do is allow an open vote and the tea-nuts are history.  But, he likes his job too much.  The perks, the power (not!).  A rest cure at Betty Ford would do him, his party and surely his country a ton of good.  And hey, it would be paid for by his insurance to be bought under Obamacare.

  •  Redistricting Reality Check (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz, paradise50

    Unless major donors step forward to fund a serious effort to pass constitutional amendment referendums, initiatives and other ballot questions to change the way states redistrict, little will change.

    The GOP controls the majority of statehouses and there is little interest in those states to give up the redistricting pen.

    Independent redistricting reform efforts in NC and WI are underway and may test the waters for reform. Federal courts in Texas may help minority groups recoup a few of the losses from 2011 redistricting plans struck down.

    In NY, a bipartisan agreement made in 2012 sends a phony redistricting "reform" constitutional amendment to the voters in 2014. The amendment is actually retrogressive, locking in partisan control and limiting real reform for decades or more. The commission created by the amendment (and controlled by the partisan legislative leaders) permits the legislature to do anything it wants after plans are submitted for approval.It should be defeated.

    Attention to redistricting wanes dramatically after the first round of post-linedrawing elections and only gets more attention just as the next census is taken.

    Unless this attitude changes, readers shouldn't expect a miracle before 2021. At least not as far as redistricting reforms go.

  •  Lets tell it like it is.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    The current screwed up district mapping around the nation that overwhelming benefits Republicans was due to the fact that the DEMOCRATIC PARTY paid little or no attention to state politics in the 2010 election or the fact that 2010 would be the year of the national Census. Democratic politicians were so pre-occupied with DEFENDING the newly passed ACA in their town halls along with worrying about the effects of the ACA on the Congressional mid-term elections that they completely ignored the state level elections across the nation. Well the plutocratic cabal of the billionaires (Koch and others) decided to concentrate their political efforts on the state houses, which resulted in virtually 30 state legislatures becoming a Republican majority. The right wing cabal recognized that with the 2010 Census would come the opportunity to gerrymander House seats for the Republicans for the next decade, and ladies and gentlemen that is what we have currently in Congress now.

    The founding fathers never anticipated the possibility that in 1811 the gerrymandering scheme involving redrawing the respective districts for the legislative seats for the House body to advantage the numbers of one party over others would two centuries later create a serious construction dilemma for the U.S. Constitution.

    There can be no equable solution to the Republican gerrymandering to create not only "safe" seats but to the respective imbalance in the number of seats available to Democrats without an amendment to the Constitution. IMHO no redrawing scheme on the state level will ever be clear of political chicanery. If in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution redistricting should be done in conjunction with the Census, then the actual redistricting assignments should be drawn on the Federal level, possibly by an impartial specially certified computer program. The Federal agency established and tasked with redrawing House districts would be the oversight responsibility of special representatives from each of the three branches of the Federal government, namely the Executive, the Congress, and the Court System.  


  •  It is not just Congress but State Legislatures (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    We need to stop the Gerrymandering of the State Legislatures First and foremost.

  •  Don't forget about Democratic gerrymandering. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    Last year, Democrats in Illinois and Maryland gerrymandered themselves into safe districts as well. Not to mention the majority-minority districts, which are blatant gerrymandering as well (those districts often have 70-80% of voters supporting Obama). Redistricting reform should deal with both sides of gerrymandering, like it was done in California.

  •  The Hastert rule isn't even the biggest problem. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    The big problem is that given the lack of Democratic support, the only way Boehner can pass his bills is if 217 Republicans support him. This is what happened on the CR, and it effectively means that 20-30 Republicans have veto power over legislation. I think that if House Democrats supported Boehner's more moderate initiatives (such as a CR with a symbolic Senate vote over Obamacare) then they could take some power out of the hands of the 30-40 Teahadists.

  •  The people spoke (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coffeetalk, Ian Reifowitz

    Sure, the people always speak, just not unambiguously. If they had, they might not have elected Obama again in 2010 and a Republican House in 2012.

    The diarist suggests an end to gerrymandering, although he doesn't provide any guidance as to what that might look like—and says nothing about the kind of gerrymandering occasioned by Reynolds v. Sims (one man, one vote). How about neutral, racially-blind, party blind, and urban/suburban/rural-blind boundaries drawn up by neutral commissions whose only charge is to create compact, equally populous districts? Will that make us happy? I suspect not, as there are any number of oxen to be gored.

  •  It's interesting; (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

      The mental construct that the average person thinks of the word gerrymandering, from what was imbibed when we were young, learning, in school: "Gerrymandering, that was technically outlawed a long long time ago, but they still tweak it."
       It is the "gerrymandering" of thought that is the problem because gerrymandering hasn't been constitutionally defined & outlawed.
      It is gerrymandering: After Dems winning in 2008, I thought God, they'll finally outlaw electronic voting machines.
      It is gerrymandering: Well now WE can nsafisascotus spy.
      The problem being that when you don't stand on the construct of being a Democrat in the old FDR anti-trust, WE standard it comes back to bite a huge chunk outta our ass. Karma IS a BITCH.
       The absurdity to me is SCOTUS has legally used the construct of imbalance to accomplish equality, but in all the great minds of this nation, no one can put forth some cases to challenge gerrymandering? ALL of these fellow liberal organizations. Sometimes I see a list, LONG and I think how incredible. That they can't make it THE CAUSE. I.e. Put the "donkey to the cart" and head on down the road.
       Meanwhile back in average person land...

    March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

    by 3rock on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 04:43:11 PM PDT

  •  T&R'd, bookmarked for community edu. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    This is great. Very clear.

    How would you feel (or what would you think) if I push your envelope a little in my club's readership by substituting "Re[thug]" for your use of "Republican" (which also deserves to be in quotes...)? We're older folk (srsly) and among us are those who are not yet cognizant of the fact Cruz is not your father's Oldsmobile, so to speak. If my crew squirms a bit, they also accept the descriptor, and it helps them engage in frank speech on the subject.

    OK to say no, if you find it offensive. (We have a very very limited distribution.)

    Great post, though, no matter what.

  •  Fair elections (0+ / 0-)

    Why can't the federal government have standards for fair elections and redistricting?  The elections, redistricting and much legislation in the red states are corrupt, undemocratic and the numbers prove it.  Either fight for democracy or accept the GOP game of doing what they want and laughing "sue me".  Clearly the Democratic party has been asleep on this as well as Obama's compulsive caving.  The power of the tea party is similar to brownshirts in 1930's Germany and needs to be stopped.

  •  Gerrymandering vs Compact districts illustrated (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ian Reifowitz

    If you want to see the difference between gerrymandered (current) districts and impartial districts optimized for compactness, I have this to offer:

    •  Cool chart (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ian Reifowitz

      Rachel Maddow did a good job of showing the numbers of Democratic votes and the number of GOP representatives which were three times larger for GOP  in some red states.  Also the lines enclosed large districts of urban and Democratic voters while many small GOP districts had low rural populations.  This is where I think there needs to be federal guidelines for redistricting.  Also when the parties are confined that way it is easy for a partisan voting system to send few machines and ballots to the opposite party and create long lines for voting.  We need to take partisan out of the election system.

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