“Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints. As heads is tails just call me Lucifer cause I’m in need of some restraint.”– Mick Jagger
Yesterday, it occurred to me that while I shot down (see what I did there) the notion of arming ourselves to the teeth, I never really offered an alternative to fighting in the world we’ve found ourselves in. This world didn’t arrive just yesterday and it didn’t arrive because of one or two bad acts. It’s been a series of bad acts and most happened while we weren’t paying attention.
We’ve talked about this before. I think everyone here is familiar enough with the concept of gerrymandering. Yet, I don’t think even the original conservatives that developed the concept could quite concieve how it all turned out. I say conservatives and not Republicans because we must acknowledge the truth in history. In the South that used to describe the Democrats. So, it isn’t so much a party thing as a thing designed to lock out those that would create more diversity in the system.
With diversity comes more ideas. More ideas tend to reflect what the public wants. When you whet the appetite of a willing public they tend to want more. Programs like social security, Medicare, and now the Affordable Care Act were controversial at the time, but immensely popular once people got used to them.
The gerrymandering of districts was originally designed to keep stuff like this from happening, but it has done so much more and probably more than the architects of it originally intended. Those that study the competitiveness of House races have noticed something over time. Well under half are decided by ten points or less either way. Since the Supreme Court neutered the Voting Rights Act, the gap has been widening.
Of course, the Supreme Court is just one example of how gerrymandering has reared its ugly head. The Republicans have won exactly won election by majority since 1988. Yet, there is a 6-3 court on the conservative side and prominent Republicans are trying to convince us the country is center-right. What exactly is the evidence of that?
The damage is two-fold. Sure, we could look at this narrowly and say there are more Republicans in government than the demographics suggest their should be. Yet, that’s a small way to look at it. The secret lies in the non-competitive nature of those districts. Well over 300 of the 435 districts are currently non-competitive. If I don’t have to convince a majority to vote for me then I don’t have to be reasonable. I don’t have to compromise. In fact, the more extreme I can be the better.
If you want to fix what ails us you fix our democracy. Simply put, Congress needs to reflect the values of the people. If you look at individual planks of the legislation that passes the House (but not the Senate) then you’ll see that even a majority of people that consider themselves Republican consider them to be good ideas. So, it isn’t about Republicans vs. Democrats or any kind of a shift in the values that people actually have. Most people believe in fairness. Most people believe in compassion. Most people believe in human decency. We just have a system that rewards people that don’t believe in those things.
Those people then get to appoint our judges. Those judges then become the arbiters of justice. Sure, we notice huge trials like the Rittenhouse trial, but the key are the smaller ones no one pays attention to on a daily basis. They are the ones that incarcerate hundreds of thousands of people on drug charges or fail to protect women from would be predators. When heads repeatedly becomes tails it can catch up with you. When up is repeatedly force fed to us as down it takes its toll. People of a lesser mind come to believe justice is actually being served. People of a greater mind see the injustice and become either angry or apathetic. Neither serves us well.
We know how to fix it, but the question is whether we have the will to do it. We simply take the drawing of districts out of human hands. Studies have shown that computers can draw districts that can flip the switch. Instead of over 300 non-competitive districts we would have over 300 competitive ones. Suddenly the Lauren Boeberts and Majorie Taylor Greenes go away. You might lose the occasional AOC or Sheila Jackson Lee too. Either that or those politicians learn to speak to a larger demographic. I imagine some would adapt and some wouldn’t. What would remain would be a body politic that would reflect the real values of those that vote for them. Then come the judges and everyone else on down. It won’t happen overnight, but we didn’t get here overnight either. It just seems like we did.