The great promise of America was that on this unspoiled continent a new nation would emerge led by it's citizens, not merely an elite minority. I'll forgive the fact that it took over a century to actually extend voting rights to the landless, blacks, women, and others, and I'll even ignore the fact that this was only made possible by one of the most successful programs of genocide and assimilation ever undertaken. Leaving all that aside, what's wrong with our political process? Why don't American's vote? Why do even those citizens who do vote get legislators that don't really represent them?
Simply put, the combination of gerrymandering and party primary elections has killed the process. Thanks to the creation of the "safe seat" only about 20 seats out of 436 in the House of Representatives are actually competitive between parties. Thus, in all but those 20 seats the congressman is usually determined in the primary election. Most Americans can identify with one party or another, but most are not represented effectively by either, and very few identify strongly enough to go to the polls for primaries. As such, only the outliers on the ideological bell curve actually vote in elections likely to determine the next congressman for a given district. As such one full chamber of Congress is largely comprised of ideological extremists or politicans willing to pander to extremists. Filling a room with 416 of those and 20 moderates does not tend to produce a viable forum for debate.
Because most Senators begin their federal legislative career in the House the Senate tends to be comprised of those members of the house who can play to their ideological base enough to get through a gerrymandered primary, but who have the ethical and ideological flexibility required to become instant moderates once in office. In other words, the Senate is largely composed of those who either lack core values or can sideline them for the sake of getting elected. Not exactly my idea of a forum for meaningful debate either.
Any idea how to get politicans to vote against gerrymandering that benefits the power bases of both parties?
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Last night at the University of Mempis Law School Alumni Dinner I sat, mouth agape, as the governor of Tennessee, Hon. Phil Bredesen, opened his speech with "One of the greatest things about holding public office is that you get to spend other people's money and take all the credit." He went on to comment on his removal of thousands of people from the Tenncare (Tennessee's failed public HMO service) rolls saying "that thing was just a leech on the budget" (hope I quoted that right) and patting himself on the back for using millions of dollars in savings to build a new building for the law school. A new building was definitely necessary (The ABA threatened to take away the school's accredation.), but perhaps we could have left a few hundred or thousand people with health insurance and put the building somewhere besides the most expensive real estate in town. Just a thought. So, Phil, in your honor I'm listening to the Dead Kennedys "Let's Kill the Poor."
Posted by B at 3:45 PM