Gerrymandering is all about not trusting people
Our increasingly power-centric, incumbent-centric civic systems are confirming that our leaders no longer trust us or their own leadership -- if they ever did.
The New York State Democrats abused the redistricting process so badly that their new Congressional and Legislative maps have just been thrown out by a Steuben County judge. You can read more here on the back-and-forth with the decision stayed pending an appeal that Democrats are confident with be successful.
Regardless of the outcome, this case feels like a pretty straight-forward example of setting aside principled support for ending gerrymandering in favor of fighting fire with fire. Hyperpartisan gerrymandering is one of the main solvents eroding people’s trust in our democratic infrastructure. Essentially allowing elected officials to select their own voters dramatically reduces competition, undermines voter’s power to choose, and eats away at people’s belief that their representatives represent them at all. Yet again we see a party choosing the slow-motion undermining of our democratic systems in favor of short-sighted, short-term political victory.
Principled and self-righteous in opposition; callous, cravenly political, and hyperpartisan in power. Both parties. Neither sufficiently committed to healthy small-d democratic culture.
All of these power-centric, incumbent-centric practices — gerrymandering, partisan primaries, corporate and toothless campaign finance regulation, voter id laws, blatant voter suppression — are confirmation that too many of our leaders don’t trust people, don’t trust the quality of their own ideas, and lack confidence in their own leadership. Creating systems that make it easier to impose minority, partisan political will isn’t new but is deeply anti-democratic. Watching Democrats comfortably and confidently reach for one of the tools we so often decry is deeply disheartening. No wonder that last year 62% of Americans express support for a major third-party and more people identify as independent (42%) than either Republican (27%) or Democrat (29%) by a huge margin. Given the complexity and how poorly understood the systematic impediments are in our democratic duopoly, the lesson here may or may not be to run out to launch a third party. Undeniably, it does reflect a deeply and widely held frustration that Democrats must embrace and speak to with our behavior when in power, not just leverage when in opposition.