Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 11.19

Last week I started a post about our broken political system, which turned into a vent about Obamacare, and I wanted to get back to that. Yes the system is broken, it's not really a question open to debate, but what is startling is how much of it has nothing to do with the times or the economy but is by pure Republican design. There is a very good article in the latest issue of Rolling Stone that explains it all very clearly and is worth reading. Rather than get into it I'm posting some highlights of "How Republicans Rig the Game" and hoping that's enough to get you to read the entire article.

Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone
Something to keep in mind, yes gerrymandering  has gone on forever but not in the nationally planned, calculated, well funded, and computerized way it was after the last census.

"National Republicans have waged an unrelenting campaign to exploit every weakness and anachronism in our electoral system. Through a combination of hyperpartisan redistricting of the House, unprecedented obstructionism in the Senate and racist voter suppression in the states, today's GOP has locked in political power that it could never have secured on a level playing field.

"Explicit racial gerrymandering is illegal under the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. So Hofeller used a proxy for race, redrawing boundaries by identifying the wards where President Obama received the highest returns in 2008. According to court documents, this approach 'allowed black voters to be carved apart from their white neighbors and friends, on a block-by-block basis.'

"Pennsylvanians cast 83,000 more votes for Democratic U.S. House candidates but elected a 13-5 Republican majority to represent them in Washington; Michiganders cast over 240,000 more votes for Democratic congressional candidates than Republicans, but still elected a 9-5 Republican delegation to Congress. In Wisconsin Republicans prevailed by a five-to-three margin in House seats despite losing the popular vote by more than 43,000. In Ohio, only 52 percent of voters cast ballots for Republicans, but thanks to maps drawn in a Columbus-area Doubletree Hotel, referred to by GOP operatives in court documents as "the bunker," John Boehner's home-state delegation swings 12-4 for the GOP.

But gerrymandering only effects the House, the problems of the Senate are Republican made with the aid of the founding fathers. When the Constitution was written the largest state, Virginia, had 10 times the population of the smallest, Delaware, while today California has 65 times the population of Wyoming.

"Half of the U.S. population now resides in just nine states. Which is to say that the other 50 percent of Americans control 82 votes in the U.S. Senate.

"In today's Senate, 41 small-state Republicans can mount a filibuster on behalf of 28 percent of the country. And the departure from historical practice is shocking: LBJ faced one filibuster as Senate majority leader. Harry Reid, the current majority leader, has faced more than 430. Nearly half the filibusters of executive-branch nominations in the nation's history – 16 of 36 – have occurred under Obama."

The scariest idea of all may be the Republican one that would restructure the electoral system which decides presidential elections. Personally I think the entire system is outdated in the extreme and should just go but the Republicans have an idea of their own. Electoral votes would be divided among a state's congressional districts instead of on a state by state winner take all basis. Due to the above mentioned extreme gerrymandering under that system we would have a President Romney today.

But, frustrating as this rigged political system has become, there is always hope as the final lines of the article show.

"The GOP may have postponed its day of reckoning at the hands of a younger, browner, queerer electorate, 'They're holding back the tides,' says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, but sooner or later, they're going to get swamped."

Read the article than vote whenever you can.

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