Quantcast
Home » News
Home » News

Gerrymandering threatens U.S. system

Published January 5, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The biggest threat to the democratic republic the founders created 225 years ago is not gun control. It's not feminism, same-sex marriage, gay rights, Sharia law or humanism.

It's not terrorists, North Korean dictators or Ahmadinejad.

It's not inflation, the debt ceiling or government spending.

It's gerrymandering.

We saw the potential disaster when Congress nearly let the country go into economic chaos rather than compromise over a debt ceiling deal. And we've been warned that we'll go through the fire again when the debt ceiling crisis gets closer. Democrats and Republicans can't seem to compromise and the country suffers.

That's because members of Congress don't worry about offending the majority of Americans or even the constituents in their respective states because those aren't the people who have the power to end their political careers.

They are worried about the most narrow group of extremists within their party, who are ideologically glued to one set of principles and will never move off them. And that's because for decades we have allowed our elected representatives to choose their voters rather than having the voters choose their elected representatives.

The U.S. House is so reluctant to do anything that resembles an agreement with President Obama, even though the majority of the country elected Obama, because they fear a challenge from the extreme wing of their own party more than a threat from the political opposition.

Nate Silver, the guru who accurately predicted the results of the 2012 election, has estimated that only 31 of the 435 congressional districts were competitive between Republicans and Democats. That means most incumbents don't worry at all about bipartisanship. They worry about appearing to be more partisan than anyone else who might challenge them in their own party's primary or convention.

No matter how offensive Congress is to the sensibilities of the average American — and an 11 percent approval rating indicates it's pretty offensive — the incumbents will be elected, again and again, because the party interests have rigged it that way.

There are rancid examples of blatant manipulations of congressional and legislative redisctricting all over the place. Remember a few years ago when the Texas Legislature decided to redo their 2001 redistricting maps in the middle of the decade, rather than wait for the next Census, because Congressman Tom Delay wanted a few more Republicans from Texas in Congress to advance his leadership ambitions?

Here in Utah, just last year, an argument ensued between Congressman Rob Bishop and other Republicans because Bishop was unwilling to let his overwhelmingly Republican district be drawn to include some Democratic areas in an attempt to make all the other districts Republican shoo-ins as well.

It's all about self interest, not good governance.

The first presidential veto in U.S. history was George Washington's veto in 1792 of a congressional reapportionment bill that was intended to give more power to the larger states.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan, as a California citizen, publicly signed an initiative petition to create a citizen redistricting commission. Even though it was a state petition, he signed it in the White House Rose Garden to show his disgust with the Democratic Legislature's "abuse" of its redistricting power.

The time had come. But that was more than 30 years ago, and those who revere Reagan as the great conservative trailblazer keep doing precisely what he demonized, for their own preservation. —