USA Today, along with dozens of other mainstream media outlets, has condemned the recent SCOTUS decision on two gerrymandering cases. USA Today, in particular, screamed that this negates “one man, one vote” and “overshadows even Bush v Gore (2000) and Citizens United (2010) in its potential erosion of modern democracy.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. Gerrymandering is a nasty, dirty, low-life sort of political maneuver. It is intended to (and does) perpetuate the power of one political faction. It has been a serious problem. It distorts political power by benefiting some people (like incumbents of the party in power) while penalizing their opponents.
In other words, it is politics as usual. And politicians behaving as “normal” for them – a normal that lets them treat everyone but themselves and those who control them as sub-humans, or at best as stupid children.
That said, though, I think they protest too much.
I personally can see nothing in the case or the rulings that touches one-man, one-vote in any way. Gerrymandering does not negate this principle, and indeed takes advantage of it. But what I do see is a critical element of what is supposed to be the foundation of our supposed federal republic. Certain matters are reserved for the State governments, and the SCOTUS is NOT supposed to meddle in them.
This decision does NOT get rid of judicial review of drawing districts for state legislatures, or even for congressional districts. It states that it is not a matter for Federal judiciary to review, but for the State legal system to decide. Every voter, and every political party, has the right to go to court to contest the decision of the party in power to exploit their current power and seek to perpetuate it.
It may have been a “good thing” that the federal judiciary was able to act to prevent or overturn gerrymandering. Because gerrymandering is bad. But it is like the prohibition of alcohol back in the 1920s. It is a good think to get people to drink less, to get drunk less often, and to be sober. But the way in which the fedgov did it was horrible: the “cure” was worse than the disease. Ditto for the prohibition of drugs, especially tobacco.
Bad as gerrymandering is, giving the fedgov and its judiciary more power over the States is worse. And case after case has demonstrated that fact, in the last century and more. The more power the feds get vis-a-vis the States and the people, the worse things get. Even when there are a few benefits for some particular circumstance.
Actually, I think it is pretty neat. For once, the nazgul have actually given UP some of the power they’ve gathered to themselves for more than two centuries.
Not that they are exactly rendering themselves powerless, of course. But it would be nice if this were the start of a trend. Whatever their motives in doing so.
One more thing to consider. Is it really important to get rid of gerrymandering? And for that matter, is “one-man, one-vote” really such an essential principle of the American republics? (Subject for a separate commentary, no doubt. But many of us lovers of liberty have expressed doubts about the concept.)
If these things ARE important, there are quite ways to solve the problems. Here are just a few that have come to mind (mine and others) over the years.
- At large elections of US representatives in a state, just as is done to elect senators. Those of us from small states like Wyoming and South Dakota are used to that. There are two ways to do it: everyone votes for one person and the top however many vote-getters are elected. Or everyone casts a vote for however many seats there are open: three votes if there are three seats, and so on.
- Election by petition or proxy – direct nomination and selection of a person you want to represent you, not choosing one of two (or even a dozen) based on your geographical location. This is an idea that L Neil Smith may not have invented but which he popularized in several of his novels. Again, there are two ways to do this. The representative has as many votes in the legislature as the people who gave him their proxy or signed his petition. Or (to limit the sheer number of people in the legislature), only those running for office who get at least X number of votes are elected.
- Election by other than geographical districts. Maybe do it by alphabet of your last name – or first name. Or maybe by occupation. Or by interests. Or maybe by age cohorts. Again, on a statewide basis. “Mr. Smith is the representative for small family farmers. Ms. Jones is the representative for public school teachers.
There are no doubt lots of other ways to do it. We are stuck in the ancient past, and “enjoy” the severe disadvantages of a system that is based on antique technology and traditions.
IF we were really serious about taking power from politicians, we’d challenge things like this.