There is an overwhelming feeling I see when I’m talking with friends. It seems to affect people of all types. One of the first pieces I wrote in this new series talked about depression. Depression is but a symptom of the feeling I am talking about. That feeling is the feeling of despair. Despair happens when we feel like things are slipping away and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
Whether it be watching America descend into chaos, politicians cravenly going back on promises that they’ve made, or democracy itself seemingly slipping away. I’ve had people tell me they’ve cried daily. I can’t say I’m there yet, but I find myself tearing up more often. It usually happens when watching something sad on television. Scenes that used to leave me unaffected have me making excuses. I was about to sneeze. There was an itch. I just had to wipe my eyes.
This despair ends up manifesting itself in numerous ways. Depression is just one of those. Sometimes people get angry when they experience despair. Sometimes they participate in dangerous activities. That could be to escape the feeling or to feel more alive. Everyone reacts in a way specific to them, but we all know the root cause of it.
Often times this despair is a combination or real life events and events imagined. I ran across someone online that was convinced Christians were being persecuted because a couple of statues/artifacts that had been defaced by vandals. Those couple turned into dozens of statues and then hundreds. Those vandals turned into an organized group designed to overthrow religion.
Others are convinced that the president won’t peacefully transfer power in case of defeat. There are a number of fears here. First, those that fear this fear that the election will be compromised somehow. Interesting that people on both sides feel this. Secondly, they fear he will do something to invalidate the results. Are any of these fears founded? Are there boogeymen coming to overthrow religion? Will the election be rigged?
A large part of the despair comes from the fact that even if the election works out there will be too much damage to repair. You spend so much time and political capital repairing damage that you hardly have time to advance the cause. This happened in 2009 as well. We had to overcome the financial crisis. We had to repair alliances around the world. So, we got really one piece of landmark legislation through.
If that is the case again I have a nominee. I want to shore up our political institutions and strengthen our elections. The first step is getting rid of the electoral college. I understand the arguments for it. We’ve all seen the maps about how certain states dominate in terms of population. How would a popular vote be fair to those small states? It’s simple really. It’s one person and one vote. Everyone’s vote counts equally whether they live in Los Angeles or Billings. States cease to matter.
Then, I would end gerrymandering forever. An independent commission would use computers to draw the 435 congressional districts. Studies have shown that fewer than 200 current districts are even competitive. They are separated by ten points or more in most cases. Gerrymandering is simply when political parties get to choose their voters instead of the other way around. Experts have determined that if districts are drawn independently then over 300 districts would become competitive. Think about what that would mean. In order to win you would have to appeal to the majority. Representatives would have to be sane and rational to win.
The final leg of this plan would be to create one set of rules for all elections involving national office (meaning president, representative, or senator). That means polls open at the same time and close at the same time. That’s also true of early voting and absentee voting. This would also make voter ID universal or not. Whatever the rule is in one state, it’s the same in the other 49 states. That would affect IDs, voter rolls, and everything else.
Studies show that Congress’ makeup does not match the wishes of the American people. The president won a minority of votes. The Senate is majority Republican even though more Democrats got votes in the last several elections. State legislatures are predominantly Republican even though there are more Democrats in the country. They blocked justices under Obama and packed them under Trump. They keep thousands if not millions from voting nationwide with onerous ID laws designed to affect poorer and darker Americans in addition to other voter suppression methods. It’s easy to see where the despair comes from. We clearly see that those that represent us really don’t represent us. Most of us didn’t even vote for them. If you want to change the despair you have to change that first.
I think the other problems will somehow become more manageable if those in Congress and the White House simply reflect the majority of people that voted. It will also become manageable if people have to be sane and reasonable to win office. When you have sane, rational, and reasonable people in government then the problems suddenly look so impossible.