60 years of Political Gerrymandering

2014-05-23_08-34-04  2014-05-23_08-34-36 What’s at stake, after all, is citizens’ representation in Congress. Partisan gerrymandering undermines the whole notion of a representative government. For proof, just look toward the lopsided seat distribution in the current Congress. SOURCE:  What 60 years of political gerrymandering looks like – The Washington Post.

I don’t know if gerrymandering was a foregone conclusion when our democracy was formed. Everyone wants to take advantage of all possible means in order to win. I can imagine that in the 1950s someone with a pile of voting records and a map tried to figure out how to gain an advantage. Because the chore was almost overwhelming using the existing tools not much was able to be accomplished.

Fast forward to the computer age and gerrymandering has become an art form. Computer models are able to track almost every vote by location and draw thousands of different maps to take advantage of every single vote. Thus we see voting districts morph into what is shown above.  One of the secrets to being able to accomplish this jigsaw task is that one political party must have the power to accomplish this re-districting after it is configured and to maintain that status over a number of years.

The American obsession of winning at all costs almost dictates that these sort of things happen. To the winner goes the spoils and the spoils in our political processes amount to trillions of dollars. I have a dream that some year, probably in the very distant future, saner minds will finally prevail in this and so many other areas. When we can finally concentrate the common good and get away from the extreme partisanship of today then we might be able to accomplish things that benefit us all instead of a small segment of our society. I have a dream but unfortunately that is probably all it will ever be.

Secession…..

Map Red BlueTake an essay in The Daily Beast last week, in which Bronx-born culture critic Lee Siegel used the gun rights fight as one reason for the South to “Go ahead, secede already!”

With secession, a “red-state nation, giddy with new mobility, could make the 1958 Chevy its official car … [and] it could arm all of its citizens, and thus relieve itself of the financial burden of maintaining law enforcement for its citizens,” he wrote. The North, he added, could be unshackled from its Bible-crazed, knuckle-dragger anchors, to venture forth to establish the America envisioned by the enlightened: “Universal health care. No guns. Strong unions … high revenues from a fair tax structure.… In short, a society on a par with most of the rest of the industrialized world.”

Source: As NRA meets, Great Gun Debate intensifies America’s culture war (+video) – CSMonitor.com.

Sometimes I think that maybe secession is about the only way to get over our constant squabbling between the red States and the blue. We seem to just fundamentally disagree on so many topics I’m not sure that we don’t have irreconcilable differences.  The major problem with this idea is that there are very significant numbers of blues in the red States and visa versa. How do we handle that?

So many in the red States don’t seem to want any form of government. They prefer a survival of the fittest world where individual fire power is the dominant factor. Everyone for themselves is their motto. It boggles my mind to realize that less than 10% of our citizens are able to basically shut down all our democratic processes with constant filibustering.

Maybe the only way we can finally join the rest of the world in several practices is to split.  Universal healthcare, despite the meager advances from Obamacare,  is pretty much doomed. Any common sense gun regulations seem unaccomplishable.  There is very little sense of “the common good” amongst many of us. Paying for a healthy infrastructure is doomed due to the no-tax pledge chanted by many. Maybe it is time to go our separate ways?

Maybe it is time to start thinking about three countries in North America or maybe even fifty-one?  I know that Lincoln is perhaps President Obama’s favorite past president. I wonder how he would handle a red State secession?

By the way, the map above is what it would look like if the red/blue States were sized by population instead of geographical space.

The Common Good….

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Jim Wallis Today, on the National Mall, I stood with fellow faith leaders, including clergy from Newtown, to remember lives lost at Sandy Hook elementary school and the 3,364 gun deaths that have happened since.

We stood in front of a field of crosses, Stars of David, and other grave markers, and it broke my heart to think that each one stood for a life ended too soon. It doesn’t have to be this way. Commonsense steps to reduce gun violence are within our reach. Just today the Senate voted to begin the debate. But there is much work to do. Lawmakers need to hear from you. 

This is one of the clearest examples of a stark democratic choice: the old politics of guns or the morality of the common good. The clergy are here today for the common good.

The words above are from my weekly email from Jim Wallis of Sojourners.  More people are killed on our streets and homes annually than were killed in Vietnam of my generation or of any war since then.  I certainly pray that there will be enough of  us willing to stand up for the common good in this and many other areas…

Who Can I Trust?????????????

Here we are on the eve of election day and I am strangely somewhat calm. I have confidence that the people of this country will put the good of the country above partisan gain. To me it comes down equally between “who can I trust” and “who will promote the common good“. I, like many of us, have been watching Mr. Romney for months now and the thing that bothers me the most is how he has flipped on issue after issue.

  • He was against the UN and then he was for the UN.
  • As a governor he was for universal healthcare and now he was against universal healthcare.
  • As a governor he believed in global warming and now he no longer believes in global warming.
  • He was against a timeline pullout in Afghanistan and then he was for a timeline.
  • He was against the bailout of the auto industry and then he was in favor of it.
  • He wanted to shut down FEMA and now he wants to keep it.
  • He said 47% of us are freeloader and then he decided they we weren’t

This list could go on almost endlessly.  I would really like to hear from my Republican friends who plan to vote for him which version of his flip/flops do they believe is the real Mr. Romney? To them he must seem like a “cafeteria” president; pick and choose what you want him to be. Consistency is one of the most important characteristics needed in any job and especially in the most powerful job in the world. Consistency is just not Mr. Romney’s strong suit. He is all over the map on so many things.

The second issue is will he promote the common good? A big part of that is the safety net or taking care of the “least of these”.  I am a follower of Jesus Christ so that is very important to me as it was to Him.  Maybe the most important thing.

Mr. Romney was very fortunate to be born into a very affluent family. As a result I just don’t believe that he has any concept of what it means to struggle in life as many in his so-called 47% do. To him struggling means as he said “going off on his own” which translated to getting a fully paid Harvard education and then some  big startup dollars to begin his independent life.  He just has no concept of what it means to struggle day-to-day.

But in the end it all comes down to one basic question. Who can I trust??  Mr. Romney’s knee-jerk reaction to almost every significant event and his constant flip-flopping tells me I can’t possibly know who he really is and therefore just can’t trust him as my president. I have confidence that the voters in this country have seen that the Mr. Romney that we know from this political season is not prepared to take over the oval office.  I pray that the Republicans can put aside their obstructionist attitudes after tomorrow. The bible tells us prayers can move mountains so maybe they can even move political factions.

For all those who are not moved by anything I said above don’t forget the well proven fact that

“If you want to live like a Republican then vote like a Democrat!!!

"Plays Well With Others"….. maybe??

Source:  Leaders of deficit panel say public’s confidence at stake – USATODAY.com.

Since this is an optimistic post and I am short of optimism lately it will be a short one.

In these times of total political gridlock it is nice to see at least some conciliatory words from the members of the “super committee”. These are the members of congress who have been assigned to come up with a plan for deficit reduction by sometime in November. Maybe, just maybe some in Washington are beginning to “get it”. With less than one in five citizens thinking they are doing a good job they certainly need to get it soon.

I know that every parent wants to see his kindergarten kid get an evaluation of “plays well with others..” so using those words when talking about cooperation in congress seems somehow appropriate.

But what do I know.

The Road Ahead….

This picture has meaning beyond its reality. I have been pondering the road ahead probably too much lately. In today’s environment that can indeed be very depressing. When I came across this picture of the beautiful sky at the end of the road it made me think of a possible silver lining in the days ahead. If all of us would just stop and think beyond ourselves to our creator maybe we could put aside some of our bitterness and political divide and come together for the common good of our nation, our world, and the human race. I can only pray that this is possible.

For the Common Good……

Since I am now pretty much boycotting things political, except to poke fun at them, I did not see the recent Republican presidential debates but I did read a few on-line articles about it. There are a couple of things that got my attention.

The first thing is how so many of the candidates proudly boasted that they created jobs in their States.  This goes back to some of the Will Rogers quotes I have put up the last few weeks. Yeah, governors and others like them can create jobs by increasing the rolls of the public sector but that is about it.  It seems like these guys and gal want to take credit for every job that might have come into existence while they held a political office. The vastly increasing oil prices created jobs in Texas; there was very little Mr. Perry did to affect that. Maybe he claims he put the oil there in the same what that Al Gore invented the internet 🙂 The same is true for the rest of those yahoos wanting to take credit for something they had nothing to do with. Of course, this is not unique to the Republicans. Mr. Obama seems to think that he can spend his way into prosperity. Our economy is just too big for that to make much of a difference.

The second and most significant thing that tweaked me about these debates is how much they show that any of them are totally unwilling to work with the other party to accomplish something for the common good of this nation.  It sounds like their constant dissing of the president got big applause secondary to only when Mr. Perry proclaimed that he was proud of all the people he has executed, far more people than any other governor and more than almost the rest combined, while he has been in office. I guess my Quaker feelings are coming to play here but I would never boast about taking human life. That is the darkest side of our nature and should be mourned, not celebrated as he evidently likes doing. Shame on him but even more shame to those who applauded so loudly!

My second point on this topic is that the Republican strategy from the very beginning of the Obama presidency is to do absolutely nothing that might help the opposing party in any way.  As a result this seems to be  the end of any compromise for the common good? Will compromise ever come back to our political process? I am beginning to doubt it.  With that in mind I am hoping that Thoreau, who I talked about a few posts ago, is right when he said

Government is best that governs the least

Let’s hope so anyway. You gotta love all these politicians. Someone has got to hire them. They are no good for much of anything else.  But maybe the front counter of McDonald’s is a better place for many of them. Just not at my McDonald’s as I want my hamburger without all the rhetoric..

But what do I know….