You might think November’s Democratic victories undid the havoc resulting from the disastrous 2010 elections, when Republicans were swept into power on the coattails of the Tea Party phenomenon. Think again.
Rachel Maddow opened my eyes last night. She explained on her MSNBC show how Republicans reshaped congressional districts to ensure their party would have a huge advantage in future elections. The new boundaries isolate Democrat-dominated urban areas so that those heavily populated districts now have just one member each in Congress – the same as some sparsely populated district in the boondocks.
According to Rachel’s calculations, it now takes two or more Democratic votes to equal one Republican vote in such ostensibly “blue” states as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Electoral districts are redrawn every 10 years – after each census – and the 2010 census coincided with mid-term elections in which Republicans swept the state legislatures. That gave them the power to redraw the 435 House seats. And they redrew the boundaries to give themselves an overwhelming advantage.
It’s called gerrymandering. The label was coined by the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812, when Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his party. One of the contorted districts (illustration above) resembled a salamander, hence the term “Gerry-mander.”
America is stuck with the Republicans’ 2010 gerrymandering for at least the next 10 years. That’s a really bleak prospect for democracy.
And there’s an even darker threat. Rachel pointed out that the Republican legislatures are trying to change the way the electoral college works. They want the presidential elections to be based on congrssional districts instead of on the popular vote. If November’s presidential race had been determined in that way, Mitt Romney would now be president.
Does that send chills down your spine?
My spine is certainly tingling. And try as I might, I cannot figure out how Americans can avert this threat. It seems to me that the only hope is that Republican over-reach might create a backlash. I can’t believe even the most rustic voters will continue to submit to the abuses Republican legislatures are committing.
History shows that even the most docile populations eventually refuse to tolerate egregious intrusions into their private lives and oppressive denials of their basic civil liberties.
And the American population is far from docile.