Contributed by Shell Suber
Our skyrocking national debt is America’s greatest threat. According to Pew, 7 of 10 surveyed would support a deficit reduction compromise that includes a combination of tax increases and spending reductions on major programs. Were Congress a true reflection of America, wouldn’t roughly 70% – or around 375 members – feel similarly?
I bet there aren’t a dozen members of Congress who would dare to hint at such a proposal and I know why. Ronald Reagan was right: Gerrymandering has ruined our Legislative branch.
Congress, the House of Representatives in particular, should be, for good or ill, a perfect reflection of the political will of our nation… but it isn’t. It’s like looking into a broken mirror. Where our face should be, there is instead a horribly distorted image. How can that be? Every 600,000 of us selects one representative so why is the mosaic so distorted? We create Congress in our own image and most of us are happy with our delegate so why aren’t we properly reflected?
Rather than creating Congressional districts by drawing lines around natural clusters of counties and voting accordingly, we have dissected districts into surgically sculpted demographic and economic micro-sets chosen not for their geographic proximity but for their political predictability. We cleave apart counties, cities, neighborhoods, even the precincts themselves. Every time you fool with Mother Nature, there are unforeseen and often horrific consequences. Every single time. So it is with Congress.
Gerrymandering has created, wherever possible, outrageously one-sided constituencies of intensely Republican and intensely Democrat voters, the Representatives from which are virtually assured of easy re-election so long as they keep these super-majorities satisfied. Should a member stray even slightly from his/her district’s predominant ideology, that member can be assured of an attack from the only political flank Gerrymandering left unprotected – their own party. So they almost never do. The damage to “the people’s house” has been devastating. Today our nation suffers a deadly infection spreading out of this self-inflicted wound while the only people who can reverse this grievous error are the same 435 who profit (sort of) from it. Although I sometimes wonder how many Congressmen secretly wish they had never done it.
Requiring Congressional districts adhere to existing county lines would be a transcendent and elegant solution to so many of our nation’s problems they can scarcely be numbered.