The Harvest of Gerrymandering

This article in the L.A. Times, “Republican rifts mean more gridlock, obstacles for Obama” reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to post about.

After the 2010 census many congressional districts were ruthlessly gerrymandered (News With Numbers), for all practical purposes locking in one party or another’s ownership of that house seat for the foreseeable future. One effect of the gerrymandering is that a candidate can concentrate his efforts to hold the seat on his own party, knowing that whoever wins the primary will win a locked-in general election.

Republican members of Congress, then, risk their re-election if they try to govern for the nation as a whole through compromise and statesmanship because if they do they’ll face an opponent in the next primary foaming at the mouth, claiming the incumbent has abandoned core party principles.  They have, that is to say, no incentive to govern, except what little incentive is provided by the thin moral sense of a typical politician.

Besides causing one branch of the government to refuse to govern, another effect is that parties, rather than people, are represented in Congress, and except for bringing-home-the-bacon efforts and local issues, most of us can have little influence.

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