The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Is it too soon to be a Gloomy Gus again?

With Burns and Allen-- hey, I didn't even notice that until now!-- conceding their respective races, it's official. The Democrats have gone all bicameral on the GOP and taken control of Congress. To the degree that they could, anyway. And that's the problem. It's an issue that's been on my mind of late, and it just so happens that TNR has an editorial about it. Incumbency. 90% re-election rates. And the redistricting and incredible cost of running for office

In the olden days of politics, electoral wipeouts were great spectacles to behold. When Democrats or Republicans slipped on the political banana peel, they would tumble, arms flailing like Chevy Chase, into congressional defeat. In the 1894 election, Democrats squandered 125 seats; in 1922, Republicans endured a loss of 77 seats. This year, for the first time in over a decade, there's talk of a wipeout. But this wipeout, should it occur, would entail Republicans losing a mere 30 seats. . .

When we wax nostalgic for the bygone era of true electoral catastrophes, it's not just out of a hunger for more enjoyable political theater. We're pining for elections that reflect public will. . . .

All this is the legacy of our least favorite Founding Father, Elbridge Gerry, and the formula for rigging congressional elections that bears his name. Not that it's all Gerry's fault. The redistricting plan he signed in 1812--and the hundreds that have followed--merely exploited a massive flaw in our electoral system. When you have congressional districts, those districts will have boundaries, and those boundaries will inevitably rebound to one party's favor. Unless we remake our system of government in the image of Germany or New Zealand, most American voters are going to be stuck with the annoying fact that their congressional vote doesn't much matter; their incumbent will win, no matter which lever they pull.

I'd call this required reading.