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Right Intention: Gerrymandering

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Gerrymandering

Real Clear Politics found a column on an issue that's a pet peeve of mine: Gerrymandering

In most of the country, naked partisan gerrymandering is as American as three-card monte. In recent years, the average congressional election has been completely devoid of suspense. In the 2004 elections for the U.S. House of Representatives, only seven incumbent members lost their re-election bids. That was down from eight in 2002.

Patrick Basham of the Cato Institute in Washington says this is the fourth consecutive election in which the incumbent success rate was at least 98 percent. In 2004, of the 435 seats in the House, only 13 shifted from one party to the other--which works out to 3 percent.

Even close elections are rare. In 2004, 95 percent of all victors won by more than 10 percentage points, and 83 percent won by more than 20 points. Heck, even contested elections are getting harder to find. In 2002, 81 House incumbents lacked an opponent in the general election.


I believe gerrymandering is the root cause of the breakdown in national discourse because it produces more extremist politicians. If districts are carved into liberal and conservative enclaves, the most "liberal" or "conservative" candidate normally wins. Since there is little incentive to appeal to the other side, few try. In this situation, centrists usually lose. With a high percentage of elected politicians residing on the outer reaches of the political spectrum, you have what we see now, which are politicians that can barely stand to be in the room with each other, never mind actually work together. And regardless of which side of the aisle you reside, I think most Americans are sick of how our politicians are incapable of civil discourse and compromise. If we reject gerrymandering, I bet we'll see a huge improvement in how government works on a state and federal level.

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