Even if Hillary Clinton wins the White House on November 8 and millions more votes are cast for Democrats than Republicans, it is highly unlikely that the GOP will lose control of the House of Representatives.

The reason is gerrymandering, the practice of drawing congressional district boundaries for the sole purpose of keeping one party in power. Throughout US history, Republicans and Democrats have been guilty of using this highly undemocratic practice, which is at the root of many of the problems that plague American politics today.

Gerrymandering tailors congressional districts to virtually ensure one party will always win in a general election. Since winning the party primary all but guarantees victory at the next stage, the focus of competition shifts to the primary itself. Because diehard supporters are more likely to vote in a primary, both parties tend to nominate candidates that represent their narrow “base” rather than those with a more centrist bent. This, in turn, leads to the election of ideological hardliners who have little interest in compromise.

And since the whole point of gerrymandering is to keep one party in power, reining in the practice is very difficult because the party in control would have to willingly give up that power and return it to the people.

The following video describes the underlying concept of gerrymandering and explains how this tactic can be used to legally rig an election for one party.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Jackalope (Pdiddyraider / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)

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4 years ago

Fix Congress. This changes EVERYTHING. Up for Pulitzer. 

4 years ago

OPINION: Fred LaVergne is the Only Choice for Progressives and Environmental Voters in CD3.

David S
David S
4 years ago

Indeed, Gerrymandering is a crime against representation of the citizenry, but as with most political questions, let’s start a few steps back.

When this nation was formed, there was 1 House representative for every 25,000 or so “citizens.” Yes, there was the 3/5ths rule, women and blacks couldn’t vote, etc. When you look at those left as voters, it was around 1 rep for every 5000 to 7500 citizens. Compare that to today, where there is around 1 rep for every 750,000 citizens and in some states even more. And did all this destruction in representation happen because of a Constitutional Amendment? Of course not. There was simply a law (The Apportionment Act of 1911) that FIXED the number of representatives at 435. Since its passage in 1913, the level of representation has been falling, and falling, and falling. Of course this is the same Progressive Congress that gave us the Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, the direct election of US Senators, alcohol Prohibition, and other horrors that we still suffer under today.

Based on the original level of representation and the US Census estimates for 2016 population (322,762,018), we should have around 12,900 or so members of the House of Representatives. Indeed, this would be an unwieldy number, but considering that the Federal government is now involved in EVERY aspect of our lives (versus the state of affairs in 1789), don’t we deserve this level of representation? And if such a number is truly unmanageable, isn’t it fair to say that the US is FAR TOO BIG to govern as a single entity and isn’t it time to finally end this fiasco of taxation and rule without representation?

Talk about Gerrymandering all you want (and there is good reason to show its criminal truths), but focus on the fact that regardless of how the lines are drawn, ONE person cannot adequately represent the interests of 750,000 people. How have we simply allowed the Democrats and the Republicans (and their Progressive inclinations), to so destroy this once-great nation? DEMAND REPRESENTATION.


[…] Gerrymandering: A Source of What Is Wrong with US Politics […]

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