In America, most — but probably not all — citizens who seek public office do so with initial good intent. They wish to perform a public service.
That quaint, altruistic notion lasts, on the national level, perhaps 10 minutes after the swearing-in ceremony.
Lobbyists descend. Party leaders demand fund-raising success now. The novice lawmaker is partnered with veteran D.C. good ol’ boys (and girls). And before casting a single vote, the political novitiate begins the daily grind of hours spent dialing for dollars.
And the new titles — Congressman, Senator — and their apparent conferred respect edge into the psyche. I like this, think the freshmen. People stand up when I enter a room. People with money — lots of money – offer me not-so-subtle favors. I like this.
The discovery of power breeds the lust to retain it. An individual politician may be a decent human being. He (or she) may not end up in sexual disarray or keep $90,000 in his freezer. But as a species, politicians place preservation of power at the center of their communal altar.
National politicians cheat, steal, connive, and kiss babies to stay in office. That we can live with. But we should no longer stomach the mind-numbingly boring — so mind-numbing far too many journalists ignore it — and tainted process of redistricting. We must demand its reform.
That’s because Machiavellian maneuvers in redistricting — manipulating lines on a map — is how these charlatans keep the power they use so ineptly and unwisely.
It’s no secret that re-election rates to Congress are astonishingly high. But too many of us in the governed class, myself included, have focused our attention on the ungodly sums of money these indeliberate deliberators raise.
It’s not, so much, the money anymore: It’s who draws the lines of congressional districts, how they are drawn, and with what motive.
Redistricting is the legally required process of equalizing the numbers of people in districts following the decennial census. This is done to ensure that House seats are fairly distributed. But gerrymandering — the redrawing of district lines with the motive of ensuring a “safe” district for an incumbent — has corrupted the process. Consider these few bizarre, convoluted examples of gerrymandered districts scattered through this post.
It’s quite simple, really. Legislatures in 34 states control redistricting. In other states, “independent” and “bipartisan” commissions draw the lines. It’s always been a partisan process, but in this era of childish political tantrums, the process serves only to maximize the power of those who rule, not distribute fairly the power of those who are ruled. Districts are packed, using unimaginable boundaries, with voters of one party to the maximum extent possible.
Now do you see why the re-election rates of incumbents in Congress are so damn high?
Despite the few successes in ’08, ’10, and ’12, voters find it difficult to “throw the bums out.”
Imagine the United States, if political wrangling over redistricting and unfettered spending on campaigns by millionaires and billionaires remains unchecked. Will the day come when members of Congress simply cannot be removed through the ballot box?
If that happens, it will make the doomsday-prepping wingnuts seem absolutely prescient.
Cast your eye over history. What has been the fate of nations when citizens could not peacefully remove their government?
As boring as it is, demand transparency in redistricting efforts. And demand media organizations cover them as ardently as they do the tragic OJ-Lite™ drama under way in South Africa.