Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Vote for Bill

I live in a safe Dem district. Our guy won over 76 percent of the vote in 2004. 76 percent! That's not because he is so good that he is that much loved. It's because they drew this district just for him.

It pisses me off. The gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts is quite simply a threat to democracy. Districts are too white or too black, too Dem or too GOP--they're simply too safe. They're not drawn to be representative, but to protect incumbents. I find that to be particularly undemocratic.

Our representatives have no incentive to get anything done, no incentive to cooperate with comrades on the other side of the aisle. These districts drive representatives to the extremes of the political landscape. Think about it: if you represent a district that votes 76 percent Dem, what incentive do you have to make decisions based on what's right for the country? None. Instead, you make legislative decisions based on what it is that Dems think is right. Thus the Dems raise money, the GOPs raise money, challengers haven't a prayer, everyone gets re-elected, and nothing gets done. And the folks get frustrated and give Congress a 22 percent approval rating.

If a congressional district is gerrymandered to create a black majority district, what does that do to the surrounding districts? It makes them even more white. Those surrounding districts then are represented by Congressmen who no longer have any incentive to address concerns of the black community because the lines have been drawn to move black constituents out of their districts into the black majority district. Sure, you end up with a black congressman, but you also end up with congressmen in surrounding districts who have no interest in addressing the black agenda. In fact, they probably can raise more money and get more votes by standing against the black agenda.

Worse than any of that is the feeling of frustration and alienation that leads people to do silly things. Like what I did on Tuesday. I doesn't matter what I do in this safe Dem district--it's Democrat. So I switched my voter registration to Dem so I could vote in the Democratic primary. My hope was that I could make a difference and land a blow against the Billary Machine.

Funny thing happened on the way to the polls, tho. People decided (according to the polls, anyway) that they really don't like Billary any more. So my original plan--to vote Obama in order to throw a wrench in the Billary Machine--wasn't working. I couldn't vote for Obama if he had a chance of winning: he's a fluffernutter. I was really, really worried walking up to the polls. Had I been too clever in changing my registration from GOP to Dem? Was I really going to have to vote either for Billary or Obama? What was I going to do?

Imagine my surprise and delight when I got to the computerized voting machine (backed up by a paper ballot, of course) and found out that the other Dem candidates were still on the ballot. Yeeha! One of my fantasies has always been to vote for a dead guy. Here was my shot! I voted for Bill Richardson.

I do think I'll go ahead and switch back to GOP for the general. . . .


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