For Those A Bit Down On The Process

June 8, 2012 13:00 pm

by Charlie · 74 comments

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

I’ve got more than a few friends who have grown tired of politics.  Truthfully, we all are.  At least, those of us who are paying attention are.  There are many reasons to be cynical about this system we use to create and maintain a government.

Social media has brought us together in ways thought unimaginable just a decade or two ago.  As such, there is more potential for participation in the process.  This also spotlights the inherent problems within representative government.  We are a government by the people and for the people.  Social media connects us with more and more of those people.  It reminds us what people are really like.

Those of us with an active interest in politics have constant reminders that many more of us do not.  News stories are much more likely to be on a “most emailed” list if they contain the name Kardashian or Bieber than if they are about tax policy or feature key legislation nearing a crucial vote.

The frustration will only continue to grow as most political coverage approaching the November elections will focus on undecided voters.  The 80% of us who have already decided how we are voting will continue to be amazed at those who don’t seem to understand the differences in candidates or positions just days or hours away from the votes.  Yet it is these voters and not the active and informed that will ultimately decide the election.  This is what democracy looks like.

This frustration with the uninformed is not terribly new among the politically aware.  Where I do detect a bit of a shift is from those who are active and aware but consider the system flawed to a point that their participation is no longer warranted.  For the sake of continued viability in representative government, this is a much bigger problem.

These problems stem from two main areas.  Money and patronage have overtaken a system that the efforts of us common folk seem futile against a system that is designed to protect incumbents.  As we deal with more corruption and more inside deals, there are more questions not of how to stop the problem, but if we can stop it.  And the questions are now rhetorical.  Many are giving up.

The additional problem is one of the interested and pragmatic versus the single issue zealots.  Competitive partisan races are few and far between courtesy of Section V of the Voting Rights Act and a unbridled dedication to gerrymandering.  The result is that most races are decided in primaries, and the partisans of both parties are in no mood to coddle independents or their independent thoughts.

As such “moderates” – now defined as those not solely dedicated to partisan talking points – have found themselves outside the system and feel there are few opportunities to actually influence the message of their respective parties.  Many have or are considering giving up, based on anecdotal conversations I’ve had with a few friends this week as well as comments I continue to observe on blogs.

For those who value this country, giving up is not an option.

This week we marked the anniversary of D-Day, when members of the greatest generation put fear aside and stormed the beaches of Normandy.  Their task ahead was much more daunting, and the consequences for them were much more dire.  They risked everything to preserve representative democracy as the guiding force for western civilization.  Many were buried nearby.  All were and are heroes.

What is asked and required of us is not nearly as daunting nor are the personal consequences as dire.  All we must do is continue to influence the process as best we can.  That does mean continued causal engagement in the process.  It means continuing to attempt to educate those around us who are not participative.  It means standing up to zealots when necessary.  It means calling out the corrupt insiders who put self interest above public interest.

Not all above is easy or convenient.  But it certainly isn’t storming the beaches of Normandy.

Self_Made June 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

“The additional problem is one of the interested and pragmatic versus the single issue zealots.” ~ Charlie

Amen to that, Charlie. This type of politicking makes “my way or the highway” governance not only possible, but essential for politicians trying to get re-elected. Cooperation and compromise are nearly impossible in this toxic political climate.

Lawton Sack June 8, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I am not exactly sure where the rallying cry of “We should never compromise” came from. The Constitution itself was formed from a series of compromises, which have appeared to work pretty well so far. For example, the Connecticut Compromise gave us an equally apportioned Senate and a population-based proportioned House.

Our financial problems have grown too large to not works towards a compromise between the Parties. We are literally in a stalemate between a Republican House and a Democrat Senate. While I am usually for Washington not doing anything, our financial disarray cannot be ignored. I am not saying that you ignore your core values and sell your soul, but you can still sit down with someone and get things worked out.

Calypso June 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm

“I am not exactly sure where the rallying cry of “We should never compromise” came from.”

Good question. My thought on that is if someone (or some group’s someone) can get elected without the need to compromise then they feel they have carte blanche to thwart any sort of negotiation with the ‘enemy’.

Consequently, we all suffer.

Lawton Sack June 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm

They may can get elected by not compromising, but when you become 1 of 435 in the U.S. House or 1 of 100 in the U.S. Senate, you should quickly realize that it will take some compromising to get things done.

ricstewart June 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Well said, Lawton. Unfortunately, many people can’t make the distinction between compromising on policies and compromising principles.
Compromise is a wonderful thing.

Lawton Sack June 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I am married. Compromise is indeed a wonderful thing.

Calypso June 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I am married. Compromise is indeed a necessary thing.

Lawton Sack June 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Indeed.

John Konop June 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I am in the over 20 years club and I agree!

Three Jack June 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I’m in the divorced twice club…thus my aversion to compromise is verified.

John Konop June 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm

You can always keep swinging for the skies.

Three Jack June 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm

practice, practice, practice is my motto

Noway June 9, 2012 at 7:16 am

Thanks for the levity, TJ. Everyone knows if “Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Some of us realize that later than others!

John Konop June 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Lawton for Congress!!!!!!!

Blake June 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm

It seems fairly clear to me that the rallying cry of “no compromise” came from a Republican base, a.k.a. “the Tea Party,” that was tired of electing congresscritters who would talk of reducing government and instead become readily co-opted by the bloat once they got to DC. I mean, it isn’t the Democrats who have been successfully enforcing “ideological purity” in their primaries for the past three years.

Lawton Sack June 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Um, have you looked at Harry Reid in the Senate? He has the Senate backed up worse than a sewer line at Taco Bell. This is not a Republican only issue.

Blake June 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Uh, yeah. Seems clear to me as though it’s the Republicans’ insistence on 60 votes for anything instead of a simple majority. At least, that’s all the news I’m reading, not that Harry Reid has personally placed a hold on every agenda item.

Lawton Sack June 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Just a few headlines:

Harry Reid Blocks Defense Bill:

Reid blocks Obama jobs bill

Harry Reid Blocks Conscience Amendment

jbgotcha June 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

Oh, Lawton! Those headlines were most likely preceded by McConnell and Co. adding a bunch of ridiculous amendments to the legislation in question.

SallyForth June 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Good post, Charlie – I am definitely one of the people you are talking to. I quote from your post:
(1) “Yet it is these voters and not the active and informed that will ultimately decide the election.” (referring to the uninformed 20%)
(2) “Money and patronage have overtaken a system that the efforts of us common folk seem futile against a system that is designed to protect incumbents.”
(3) “Competitive partisan races are few and far between courtesy of Section V of the Voting Rights Act and a unbridled dedication to gerrymandering. The result is that most races are decided in primaries, and the partisans of both parties are in no mood to coddle independents or their independent thoughts.”
(4) “As such “moderates” – now defined as those not solely dedicated to partisan talking points – have found themselves outside the system and feel there are few opportunities to actually influence the message of their respective parties. ”

Of these four problems, the death knell of our democratic process has been and is the punitive effect of VRA Section V being extended from its original five-year application that should have expired in 1970 to a never ending blank check for “unbridled gerrymandering.” The last 42 years of such gerrymandering have brought us to our current sad situation where elected officials know they do not have to be answerable to we the people, but instead carve out their personal hand-picked constituency and ensured percentage for re-election. Fat-cat lobbying groups know this, so they pour in money that not only funds the status quo campaigns but also ensures the continued advancement of their special interests over that of the public as a whole.

Nothing in our nation is the same as it was in 1965, yet this archaic provision for incumbent protection and party-in-power control of our democracy remains, being applied anachronistically to only certain states and counties. When Bush signed the law in 2006 renewing Section V for 25 more years, it effectively destroyed any hope for change in institutional gerrymandering before 2031. We the people have no means of changing anything via our voting process – our only hope rests in the hands of the US Supreme Court, who has the power to strike down this un-Constitutional provision of the VRA and its government-sanctioned gerrymandering of our state and federal Legislative branches in a hand-picked group of states. If Section V’s pre-clearance (Mother, may I?) by the federal government of everything in a state’s voting process including redistricting, with no state self-determination, is deemed good for nine states (including ours) and some hand-picked counties in a few others, then it is good for everyone and should be applied nationwide. If it is not good for the rest , it is not good for any in the 21st century and should be discontinued.

Interestingly, and of little or no note in the public news media, the city of Sandy Springs used the opt-out provision of Section V a few years ago and got themselves removed from its requirements on all the voting process in their jurisdiction. They said they didn’t exist in 1965, but of course they did, just not incorporated; likewise, the whole state of Georgia is not as it was in 1965. So if we have any true statesmen and women at our Capitol these days, why hasn’t the State of Georgia submitted an opt-out request to the Department of Justice, based on half a century of change in our state? We deserve the same freedom of self-determination as residents of 41 other states, plus it would save millions of dollars in administrative costs at the state and local levels for having to submit everything from change of stationery and updating voting forms to redistricting to the “Mother, may I?” process with the Dept. of Justice in Washington. We need the Georgia Republican Party now controlling Georgia to prove they are the party of less government intrusion and more fiscal conservatism. Besides, it’s just the right thing to do.

Calypso June 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

“We need the Georgia Republican Party now controlling Georgia to prove they are the party of less government intrusion and more fiscal conservatism. Besides, it’s just the right thing to do.”

I trust you are not holding your breath.

SallyForth June 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Do I look blue in the face?

ZazaPachulia June 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Great article, Charlie. The one tidbit I would add is the negative effect social media, gerrymandering, partisanship and money has had on our candidate pool.

The top talent wants nothing to do with politics. The best people are staying out of the game.

I recently heard an Oxford professor make the distinction clear: China is growing at 8 percent a year and has been doing so for nearly 30 years without pause. No Western democracy has ever come close to that. In China, the best minds at the best universities strive for careers in politics. In the U.S. and Europe it has not been like that for many decades, if ever.

Dave Bearse June 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm

The disparity in growth in a signficant measure is due to the nature of the relative sizes of the economies and personal incomes. Consider the magnitude of sustained growth available as a practical matter to Goggle relative to a startup.

Combine that with the fact that the best minds in the best universities striving for a career politics may be because that prior to a decade ago, politics and business in China were one and the same. Perhaps focus will shift, perhaps not. You’re observation that they’re currently eating our lunch is certainly of great concern.

John Konop June 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm

GREAT JOB!!!!!!!! Do we have anyone who does not see this?

…These problems stem from two main areas. Money and patronage have overtaken a system that the efforts of us common folk seem futile against a system that is designed to protect incumbents. As we deal with more corruption and more inside deals, there are more questions not of how to stop the problem, but if we can stop it. And the questions are now rhetorical. Many are giving up.

The additional problem is one of the interested and pragmatic versus the single issue zealots. Competitive partisan races are few and far between courtesy of Section V of the Voting Rights Act and a unbridled dedication to gerrymandering. The result is that most races are decided in primaries, and the partisans of both parties are in no mood to coddle independents or their independent thoughts.

As such “moderates” – now defined as those not solely dedicated to partisan talking points – have found themselves outside the system and feel there are few opportunities to actually influence the message of their respective parties. Many have or are considering giving up, based on anecdotal conversations I’ve had with a few friends this week as well as comments I continue to observe on blogs…..

greencracker June 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Re gerrymandering,

California tapped civilians to do their redraw, kinda balancing between both partisans and non-partisans. I’m interested to see what the election returns turn out.

http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/

SallyForth June 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Yeah, but it’s unlikely whatever happens in California will have any applicability east of the Mississippi. Plus we have to remember that the state of California is not covered by Section V, so they are free to draw their own lines however the citizens of that state deem best. What a refreshing thought.

David Staples June 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm

“Money and patronage have overtaken a system that the efforts of us common folk seem futile against a system that is designed to protect incumbents. As we deal with more corruption and more inside deals, there are more questions not of how to stop the problem, but if we can stop it. And the questions are now rhetorical. Many are giving up.”

Well said, Charlie. This is one of the key factors that made me almost decide not to run for the PSC. Is it even worth my time when I know the opponent (assuming the incumbent wins the primary) receives over 90% of their campaign contributions from “individuals and attorneys who work for or represent the interests of utilities”?

http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2012/jun/05/pam-davidson/ga-candidate-questions-incumbents-donor-list/

I understand that the utilities are the main stakeholders in the election for Public Service Commissioners. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with receiving any contributions from them at all. But when a large part of your campaign is financed by those you’re supposed to be regulating, it certainly draws suspicion.

Calypso June 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm

“I understand that the utilities are the main stakeholders in the election for Public Service Commissioners.”

David, since you are running for this position I subscribe you change your way of thinking as to who the main stakeholders are in the PSC. The main stakeholder is the Public, as indicated by the first word in the title of the organization. It’s not the Utilities Service Commission.

Put the Public foremost in your communiques and you’ll go far. Best luck on your endeavor.

David Staples June 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

You are correct. The main stakeholder is the public at large. Perhaps I should have said the most interested stakeholder instead as most voters in Georgia don’t show much interest in the PSC race, focusing on the Presidential and Gubernatorial races instead. :-) (In fact, the mission of the PSC even focuses around the Consumer.)

Three Jack June 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm

At least on D-Day we had a side to root for.

Nice timing on the column Charlie. As one who spent years deeply involved in GOP circles, I fit the description as you lay it out…cynical to the point of giving up. Both parties have one goal, achieve and keep power so that they can divvy out favors to big donors who assist them in accomplishing the goal (see vicious circle).

SallyForth June 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm

T/J, also on D-Day you got your misery over with in a hurry, and individuals definitely mattered. In today’s Section V gerrymandered political world, the misery just goes on and on, no matter how hard we try as individuals to make a difference.

seenbetrdayz June 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I’d be cautious about motivating the moderates. They might just up and do away with both sides, which would be . . . well, actually, it would be a great day for America. I take it back; let’s motivate them to get involved again.

swga resident June 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I am now in the group that “considers the system flawed to a point that their participation is no longer warranted.” I’ve given up. And though I generally vote republican, this is as much a republican party problem as it is a democratic party problem. Term limits are so needed. Both parties are full of corruption with the single goal of staying in office at any cost.

I Miss the 90s June 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I commend your giving up. It is your right and it is a brave thing to own up to. I stopped voting twenty years ago (though I still donate and fund-raise because, lets face it, that is the most meaningful method of participation).

Term limits are not needed though. It is an occasional hot topic amongst activists, but the projections about it making a more responsive government, a cleaner government, etc are all incorrect. So far all we can tell from term limits is that they encourage politicians to ignore their current constituency to pander to their next constituency. They also tend to give the executive more power relative to the legislature. Take a look at California and Brazil for examples.

Dave Bearse June 9, 2012 at 7:04 pm

“though I still donate and fund-raise because, lets face it, that is the most meaningful method of participation”.

And now the influence of your (presumably) little money, like your one vote, is being undermined by big corproation money and the some of the rich using Citizen United to empanel themselves as a new oligarchy.

I thought Obama was out of order when he mentioned Citiznes United in his State of the Union a few years ago. I may have been wrong—we’ll have to see.

seenbetrdayz June 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I keep getting fundraising letters from Romney, like the guy needs money or something. I just have to laugh. Romney will get all the financial support he needs, as will Obama. Corporations hedge their bets by supporting both sides, just so that no one forgets who butters the bread, and yet the people freak out and reach for their wallets with outpouring support, I guess because they feel like their money will go towards funding the good fight.

I Miss the 90s June 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm

First, Charlie, sure…Voting Rights Act Section is to blame for the lack of competitive races. If you haven’t noticed, it only covers the South and the southern delegations are almost unanimously republican. So, you are wrong about that little (I thought you were in grad school at one point…don’t you study?)

Don’t kid yourself about the information held by decided and undecided voters. 20% of the GOP still thinks President Obama was born abroad and a majority of GOPers will not vote for a pro-choice candidate (even though they do not call themselves single-issue voters).

Why do I bring these things up? Because you called undecided voters uninformed (look at your column. It is clear as day). Being undecided does not mean that one is uninformed. In fact, it would appear that at least 20% of the GOP is misinformed on the Obama citizenship issue. It is a bigger problem for democracy when the misinformed engage the process than the uninformed.

Undecided voters have simply not made up their mind yet. They know what is going on…they pay for gas, they buy groceries, they watch television and pick up on news items pertaining to politics, etc. They may not understand what is going on…but you really do not get it either. You and your buddies blame the President for unemployment, gas prices, and the deficit. The President can not tell governors and mayors to stop laying off their employees, the President can not dictate gas prices, the President does not pass the budget and is not authorized to stop most ongoing programs from previous administrations.

Nobody cares about the public interest unless it aligns with their self-interest. That is how markets work, and guess what…there is a political market to be gamed and we would all be socialists if we did not game it to our advantage. But therein lies the conundrum…rhetoric. Did you like how I threw that word socialist in the last sentence? I did. Because it is the kind of misinformation shelled out all day by right-wing media. As soon as some in Congress actually does something for the public, they are harangued by the right-wing…unless the Representative is a Republican. This is the problem with the politically active: they distort reality, they are typically misinformed, and they are usually wrong (and most likely to run for office).

Perhaps we all have something to learn from the undecided voter. They postpone their judgement until election day rather than making their mind up based on a party label (which every single person on this blog does) and then mindlessly defending their standard-bearer and attacking the opposition.

seenbetrdayz June 9, 2012 at 8:52 am

Perhaps we all have something to learn from the undecided voter. They postpone their judgement until election day rather than making their mind up based on a party label (which every single person on this blog does) and then mindlessly defending their standard-bearer and attacking the opposition.

I can agree with that part, at least. A lot of people don’t particularly care for either of their choices in November (some of them I know; one of them I am). I guess for those on the inside of the parties (the party faithful), the differences between candidates are like night and day, but for those who are standing back far enough to see the whole picture . . . yeah, it’s actually a tough decision. The ‘easiest’ decision to make is to not make one, in that case.

Do I want warfare or welfare? Or should I go with welfare or warfare? What if I want to see neither coming from my government? Where does someone like me go?

I Miss the 90s June 9, 2012 at 10:38 am

“Do I want warfare or welfare? Or should I go with welfare or warfare? What if I want to see neither coming from my government? Where does someone like me go?”

Truth be told, both parties want a little of both (warfare and welfare)…but they want different kinds, in different ways, for different reasons. This makes the process even more difficult. You are right that the easiest decision is to not make one.

seenbetrdayz June 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Yeah, lol, the irony sucks.

I wanted to see less of both, they compromised and got more of both, and they tell me that compromise is a good thing and that I’m fringe for refusing to compromise.

Oh man, It”s a lonely world for people who hate politics.

I Miss the 90s June 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Compromise is a good thing, but they way Congress has been “compromising” is not really all that good. Negotiating a bill toward the center is not necessarily the same as adding amendments until a majority is secured.

I am sure there are politics you like. I generally love politics, I just dislike many of the participants.

seenbetrdayz June 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I stand by my comments from archived posts, now more than ever, that all I ever wanted to get out of this was a chance to go play fetch with my dog without ever having to look over my shoulder for those seeking to run my life. If I could just get that much out of the deal, I’d drop politics like a bad habit. The problem is, ignoring this screwed up system doesn’t actually make it go away. It sends some sort of odd message that political silence = political approval. I suppose that is the ‘default setting’ for those seeking power.

There’s nothing worse than watching either side get carried away with a ‘majority’ because they feel that roughly only 30% of support from the American people gives them free reign to do whatever they please. ‘If you don’t like it, you should vote,’ they say. ‘You have no right to complain if you don’t vote.’ Well, unfortunately, there’s currently no way to oppose one side without inadvertently endorsing the other, and if you go third party, well, you’re just ‘weird.’

oldman45 June 9, 2012 at 9:40 am

It’s politics and politicians that are killing our country! We have very few real statesman anymore and if they are true to their conscience and constituency, they are marginalized and set off to the side with very little influence. We have a lot of elected officials who talk the good talk but are easily swayed to toe the party line and ensure their reelection. “It’s about the people” quickly becomes “It’s all about me.” The system is broke, unfixable at this point. The Republicans (I am one)…when they get in power really don’t want the system to change, they only want to be in charge. If you keep looking for the political messiah to save this country, it ain’t going to happen. The only thing that is going to get this country back on track is a true spiritual revival that sweeps from coast to coast.

seenbetrdayz June 9, 2012 at 9:52 am

I think we should start picking random people from crowds at Walmart and asking ‘who hates politics the most?’ and vote the winners into seats. We have 300+ million people in this country. There has to be someone among us who hates politics enough to not want to even be in Washington, and therefore, won’t abuse their power once they get there. Maybe it’s the single mom with better things to do than keep up with the wishes of lobbyists. Maybe it’s the old veteran who, as they say, ‘would go halfway around the world to fight for freedom but wouldn’t walk across the street to vote.’ Maybe it’s the garbage man who just wants to make ends meet.

The best hope for America may lie with the people who would never in a million years want to become a lowly politician. They have my vote.

saltycracker June 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Well we could pick our legislators like we do juries. But that would have unintended consequences.

I Miss the 90s June 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm

oldman,

Statesmen are just dead politicians. We have never really had statesmen (maybe a dozen or two in American history), so it is not as if there are fewer now…life expectancies are longer so it just takes more time for statesmen to come about.

The system is not broken. It works great for the fanatical or the rich. If anything is “broken” it is the use of primary elections to nominate candidates for the parties.

Spiritual revival? What does that even mean?

Getting away from ideology will help a lot with calming down the political process and attracting more people to political participation.

Calypso June 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Not that I disagree with everything you say here but, “Getting away from ideology will help a lot with calming down the political process and attracting more people to political participation.”

Isn’t ideology the crux of all things politic and always has been?

I Miss the 90s June 10, 2012 at 11:36 am

No. Ideology has only really become important in electoral and congressional politics since the 1980s. Before that the parties were basically coalitions of social groups and geography.

If you ask the older crowd here on PP you will even find this to be true. From the 30s through the 70s Democrats were the South (which was conservative, but this was not an ideological decision) and groupings of Catholics, Jews, African-Americans (post-1960), Union members, and the poor. Republicans were primarily from business (management) and the North and were typically from the upper-middle class and higher. Most republicans were “liberal,” but they were not republicans because of their ideology just as Democrats were not Democrats because of their ideology. This is different now: conservatives are unanimously republican (even if you pretend otherwise) and democrats are centrist and progressive (in Congress they are almost unanimously progressive).

After the Nixon Southern Strategy and Goldwater’s racist presidential campaign,…things changed.

Ideology has existed, but it has never been as important as it is now.

saltycracker June 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm

The psychology of the elected official makes for interesting study, particularly how it changes the person. It is an intoxicating process. We can ramble on all we want on our duties in the quest to find the ideal politician or the rarest of birds but absent a few solid rules it is a waste of productive people’s time.

Rules like:
Term limits
Your taxes must be paid with no liens/judgements outstanding
You must be 21 and completed high school
You must live amongst those you serve
The citizens you serve will be in concentric zip codes, cities, counties, geographic relationship…..not by party, race, gerrymandering…..
Legal issues may exclude you from office or committees (determined by an ethics committee)

I’m sure some smart folks can come up with a clean clear list but then they’ll “compromise” even the unpaid tax bills away.

Put a short list on the ballot and let’s see how that works out.
Until then we are just kidding ourselves and perpetuating the rot while widening the class spread.

I Miss the 90s June 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm

well, smart people know that none of those items will do anything…many will probably make things worse.

With the exception of campaign finance regulations, the rules in place are fine as they are.

One comment on the high school diploma requirement: if we are going to have an education requirement (which is highly unconstitutional), then it should be having an advanced degree in an academic field (no MBAs or MDs). It would still be unconstitutional, but at least we would not have a bunch of businessmen writing and repealing the regulations that govern their bottom line (which is one of the reasons businessmen tend to make the worst politicians).

saltycracker June 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm

The educational requirement was a throwaway for compromise !
If you think the others will make matters worse than current, consider changing your choice of mushrooms.

SallyForth June 9, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Lots of good ideas here, fellow P/P’ers, but let’s face it – even if we had a magic wand and could immediately implement every single one of them, there would be no impact at all unless VRA Section V gets repealed, the Supremes declare it un-Constitutional, or the State of Georgia uses the opt-out provision. Only then could we have voting districts drawn in geographically sensible configurations of contiguous neighborhoods and the resultant shared community concerns, regardless of race, color or creed. Instead of packing us into weird shaped districts because of our skin color to divide and conquer, politicians would actually have to be accountable to us for our shared community concerns – our votes would actually matter.

I, among hundreds of thousands of Georgians, have in the recent reapportionment been gerrymandered into irrelevance for both my State House and my US Congressional districts. The current incumbents are actually people I support, so that is not my concern. But my community has been geographically drawn onto a string of other communities with which we have nothing in common – thus on anything of specific interest to our area, as such a minority of both districts we will always come up short. My vote and that of all my neighbors simply do not count now. We might as well all get stoned and go fishing on election day, unless/until Section V is removed and voter parity becomes reality.

cheapseats June 10, 2012 at 8:19 am

Me, too. Gerrymandered out of the equation across the board.

Let me know if you really want to go fishing on election day. We’ll likely have the same amount of influence on the election either way.

Whoever gets to draw the lines, gets to hold the power. Most the elections are won or lost during the reapportionment process – campaigns and elections are just a festival held to celebrate the redistricting victories.

SallyForth June 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Yep, and for the 1970 census, the 1980, 1990, 2000 censuses, even though Democrats held the majority at the Georgia Capitol, there was a Republican in the White House and their appointed US Attorney General and Dept. of Justice who rejected what the GA legislature drew up and the Governor signed into law. The Repubs held ultimate power thanks to Section V, and their DOJ’s sent the maps back and demanded lines be drawn as they deemed acceptable, aka, increasingly favorable to Republicans every ten years, until they finally had control in 2002. The recent reapportionment of Georgia was the first time in fifty years that there was a Dem in the White House and DOJ – but they did not buck the Republicans at our State Capitol, did not have the chutzpah to force some changes favorable to Dems in GA. They accepted without comment the maps that have now ensured a Repub lock on our state for the next decade.

So yeah, cheapseats, we might as well plan on sallying forth to the lake on election day instead of wasting our time at the festival for redistricting victories.

I Miss the 90s June 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Didn’t have the chuztpah? You sound like someone more intent on defamation rather than information.

This is politics and it is a bargaining process. The Obama administration got something out of the deal, we just do not know what that is as of yet…and chances are that if the Obama admin did reject the maps and sent them to the courts then GA would file suit and put Section 5 under the court spotlight (and with a Republican leaning SCOTUS it would probably be overturned).

What are you complaining about anyways? You have your republican majority in the state delegation. Even if the courts did draw the map the best they could have done was to make Barrow a little safer or move republicans out of their home districts.

And trust me, GA will have a GOP majority in the congressional delegation and the state legislature for much longer than 10 years.

SallyForth June 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm

“This is politics and it is a bargaining process. The Obama administration got something out of the deal, we just do not know what that is as of yet…” REALLY??!! Does thinking that make you feel better about being scr**ed by the administration that was supposed to lean Democratic? Watch out for flying monkeys….

I Miss the 90s June 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm

My comment about a deal may be tautological, but I wasn’t screwed, I really do think that a DOJ challenge would have resulted in a law suit and I do not trust SCOTUS (where the suit would ultimately end up) to uphold the law. Furthermore, GA is so deeply red there are not many ways that new democratic seats can be drawn without raising a firestorm about gerrymandering. At worst, Obama and the DOJ saved face by not striking down the maps…and that is still a good deal.

Just because you do not believe in good public policy does not mean that nobody does. I am sure you hate the President because he will have a (D) next to his name on the ballot, but he has made a lot of non-partisan policy decisions leaving states to handle their own business. I think what you dislike most is that he is not conforming to the image you want. You want him to abuse his authority and he hasn’t…and you hate him more for that.

Also, none of this changes the fact that you fell for the VRA boogieman and are wrong about its impact on electoral competition. States have been characterized as single-party systems since the beginning of the union.

Dave Bearse June 10, 2012 at 3:38 am

While VRA Section V has certainly contributed to the problem of safe seats, giving it equal billing with gerrymandering as a cause displays partisanship that undermines the column’s ostensible objectivity, especially since VRA Section V applies to only 20% (my SWAG, not definitive) of the country.

Changes in the general political climate aided and abetted by the use of the slicing and dicing capabilities of computerized voting records are more important even in VRA jurisdictions. There would would probably be 12 GOP Congressmen, at least 7 in safe seats, instead of the current 9 (assuming Bishop is safe, which remains to be seen) sans VRA in Georgia. If changes in Georgia sans VRA would be typical of remaining the 17% of the county subject to VRA Section 5, the national level effect don’t amount to much.

Take a look at the maps of Fulton and DeKalb County General Assembly House Districts for an example of the importance of gerrymanding in marginalizing opposition (DeKalb) and separating representation from the represented [Fulton, where the number of districts with but a precinct or two within the County blatantly does so].

Good column anyway.

I Miss the 90s June 10, 2012 at 11:40 am

No, VRA section 5 has not contributed to safe seats. The law only applies to the South and a few counties outside of it, but safe seats are everywhere.

At best, 4 Republican justice departments helped the South become solid Republican…but the VRA does not explain safe seats outside of the South.

Why do we see safe seats? Mostly because state legislatures draw congressional district maps and their own districts. This effectively lends itself to one-party rule in state governments, and they draw congressional districts in such a way as to benefit the majority party (and because state legislators will eventually be running to fill congressional vacancies).

SallyForth June 10, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Dave, it doesn’t give it equal billing – it is much bigger than that. Section V is a guaranteed facilitator for legalized gerrymandering. Wronged citizens cannot even go to court for redress because of Section V. We were also focusing on the situation here in Georgia, not nationwide. But now that you mention it, using your estimate, if either party can control 20% of the vote in a national election, they only have to come up with 30.1% to win! Sweeeet deal – now we see why there’s been a Democrat in the White House for only four terms including the current unfinished one (16 out of 52 years) since 1970.

The slicing and dicing of computerized voting records just adds another layer of obfuscation to make VRA-sanctioned gerrymandering easier. Your description of Fulton and DeKalb now is a good example of why we desperately need to be freed to draw up sensible districts geographically – which is impossible under Section V.

I Miss the 90s June 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Sally,

Gerrymandering is technically legal in all 50 states, regardless of the Voting Rights Act, and it is easy to do while simultaneously following election law (just keep the districts mostly contiguous and the districts will hold up in court).

I will again write what I have written at least a dozen times: the VRA does not account for the lack of competition in non-southern states (this is very basic causal inference).

For two years the GOP tried to make it a bogeyman because they were not going to be the ones overseeing southern redistricting. Now they do not care and in another year not even you guys will be talking about it…you will be worrying about the next bogeyman the GOP leadership and radio pundits come up with.

The day the VRA is no more is the day that Atlanta is carved up into republican districts represented by white congresspeople living in the suburbs. Georgia was already free to do what they wanted…because the state GOP wanted a law suit if the Obama admin rejected the plans. He didn’t. The GOP draw “sensible districts” are law. End of story.

I can not wait for that day…when amateurs stop pretending they know election law and the VRA.

SallyForth June 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Right back at you, Imt90′s re amateurs pretending to know the subject. What’s really funny is that you have no idea who you’re bantering with here, nor the depth of knowledge. When it comes to politics, VRA, election law, etc., the word “amateurs” in no way applies, and be careful about labeling P/P’ers by party – our beauty is that we’re a mixed bag.

Do feel free to blather on, but try to keep it civil please.

I Miss the 90s June 11, 2012 at 9:07 am

PP is almost unanimously republican, and it is obvious that you are a republican Sally (even if you pretend to be an independent or some third-partier).

True, I am many things, but not an election lawyer. I do know a great deal about this subject though and your mindless rantings are clearly the result of either a blind prejudice or a shallow understanding of VRA.

I make no secret of who I am. My name is Elijah Tenenbaum M.D., Ph.D. (not just some anonymous screen name pretending to be an expert). I am a semi-retired epidemiologist/virologist and worked “government relations” before leaving my last employer (the only thing I will keep secret) and going out on my own. I learned a lot about VRA in the 2000 redistricting in California though (there are a few counties in CA with a long racist history similar to that of the South and some redistricting still requires federal approval). My company footed a lot of the bills sent to the state parties/legislators by Berman and D’Agnostio Campaigns and I wanted to supervise (and by the way, a safe legislative seat in CA costs about $20k. $60k for Congress. Make checks payable to Berman and D’Agnostio Campaigns). Redistricting in VRA covered districts is a bargaining process. Plain and simple. We were going to give the Democrats a larger majority (substantially. and because it would be good for business), and then the Bush admin threatened us. We backed down and agreed that there would be no aggregate partisan change. It was not a public announcement (so anonymous bloggers don’t know about it), but that was the deal and no district switched party hands until 2006 (and then only one did).

Other than what I learned myself from reading congressional reports, court documents, and law reviews on VRA, I really only learned one thing from the redistricting process: regardless of the free-market orientations of both parties, they hate electoral competition.

Is it wrong? Sure. I really would like to see districts drawn to have equal partisan voting indices. We would have fewer radicals like Paul Broun and Tom Price elected to Congress (because elections would not be decided by the primary election). Representation might improve, but we do not know that for sure. Campaigns would probably have to be based on real issues and ideas rather than pseudo-issues and ad homonym attacks. Re-election would not be very easy for those that ignore their constituents or do a bad job representing the district.

I like the idea of electoral competition, but based on your posts you are one of the many ideologues that hate it. Radicals usually do dislike the idea of electoral competition, because it necessarily means that moderate/centrist candidate are the advantaged group…which means you are less likely to catch the ear of your representative on extreme issue positions (there would be no Tea-Party caucus).

Dave Bearse June 11, 2012 at 1:10 am

VRA may be an obstacle, but it doesn’t necessarily preclude sensible districts. VRA inherently is not the cause of gerrymandered districts. Georgia gerrymandering was a 100% GOP-controlled process (just as in some other states it may well have been a 100% Dem controlled process).

The irregular shapes of many DeKalb districts had nothing to do with the race of voters because two-thirds of the county is more or less homogenously majority African-American. The redistricting objective was to lump Democratic incumbents together in the same districts while leaving other districts without incumbents, even though the County lost a district or two. (The GOP idea of term limits?) The only VRA consideration was limiting the number of African-American incumbents being lumped together in the same districts with each other relative to white incumbents.

Perhaps the most compact district in the county is GOP Dunwoody, notably also the only GOP city and only major DeKalb city that wasn’t carved into multiple districts, unlike Chamblee, Doraville and Decatur, all of which like Dunwoody could have easily fit in their own districts that would meet VRA requirements.

Dave Bearse June 11, 2012 at 1:11 am

Ouch, the forgoing was meant to reply to SallyForth.

SallyForth June 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Got it, Dave. Yes and yes, I agree with you on both points, and it seems pretty clear that the net result has been to totally disenfranchise white Democrats who live in those districts. And your pointing out how the GOP map-drawers treated Dunwoody but yet chopped up every other city in Dekalb is excellent.
Seems to me that no matter what party or political inclination one might be, any civic minded person would be upset to see that happen to fellow Georgians.

Dave Bearse June 12, 2012 at 12:07 am

Not every city, the small cities such as Pine Lake and Lithonia, and I think Stone Mountain, stayed intact. Indeed it would be too blantantly gerrymandered and perhaps difficult to place a half-square mile town of 5,000 in two House Districts.

The 2012 gerrymandering doesn’t disenfranchise white Democrats, based on the premise that two-thirds of DeKalb County is more or less the same white-black split, though majority black. White Democrats will still be represented by Democrats.

What the DeKalb gerrymandering does is weaken already very-much-in-the-minority General AssemblyDemocratic representation—newbies in a minority as small as the Dems in GA can’t do anything, nor will they learn much either. (Remember DeKalb lost a district or two, yet redrawn districts don’t have incumbents.)

What this gerrymandering also does is eviserate white Democratic representation. It will result in almost uniformly black Georgia Democratic General Assembly representation, even though whites make up a significant minority in the party (unlike the situation in the GOP where blacks are indeed a very small minority within the party).

It puts racial faces on the us-them mentality. Not only now are there only will there be but a very few black GOP representatives among about 150 GOP representatives in the General Assembly, a reflection of the party’s makeup, but now most all Dems representatives will be black, which is much less true among Democrats.

Anyone that doesn’t think the pros doing the redistricting didn’t know that their redistriciting is going to result in almost uniformly black Democratic General Assembly representation, whether the pros intended it or not, is kidding themselves. My first reaction is to laugh when I hear GaGOP “big tent” talk. Then I consider how damaging it is to the state.

People can say Dems or certain Dems want this or benefit from it etc. But the Georgia Dems are nearly powerless. The GAGOP owns the result, lock, stock and barrel, like they own transportation, education, water, ethics, and everything else.

saltycracker June 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Not many professions can show the promise and percentages than politics does where a person can multiply their net worth so much over time.

SallyForth June 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm

A big fat AMEN on that, S/C – and in a relatively short time.

I Miss the 90s June 11, 2012 at 9:07 am

Prove it.

Some certainly do. Like Larry Kissell…he was a social studies teacher making $40k a year…now he makes the Congressional salary. That is not what I infer from your implications.

It seems you are referring to the few that become lobbyists or have enough wealth before going to Congress that they can make money on insider information.

I am sure the relationship between being a member and net-worth is a wash…simply because so many representatives take a pay cut when they are elected and also because of how many congresspeople dip into their personal savings to fund campaigns.

saltycracker June 11, 2012 at 9:22 am

Knock yourself out – plenty of info available on the web from that liberal media out there:

“An analysis from the Washington Post shows that from 1984 to 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home equity. The average American family saw its wealth slightly decline in that same time frame.”

“From 2004 to 2010, the median net worth of members of Congress jumped 15 percent, the New York Times reports. In that same period, the net worth of the richest 10 percent of Americans held steady while Americans overall saw their median net worth fall 8 percent.”

Self_Made June 11, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I fail to understand the necessity of Section V of the Voting Rights Act in this day and age…at least in Georgia. I’ve seen “diverse” political representation fade into oblivion as African-Americans and other minorities (like white progressives) are concentrated into compact districts while the remaining districts are reserved for large swaths of suburban and rural conservative voters with nibblings of more densely populated areas included in order to meet the population requirements. Otherwise, how can a state which votes roughly 53%/47% in statewide and national elections sport a 9-4 Congressional delegation and have one party poised to capture super-majorities in both statehouses? THIS type of gerrymandering allows partisan demagoguery on both sides and robs moderates in almost all of these districts of fair representation.

I know next to nothing about “electoral law”, but I do know how to tell when something’s broken.

SallyForth June 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm

+10, Self Made! Although garden variety gerrymandering is not in and of itself illegal, gerrymandering for the purpose of reducing the political influence of a racial or ethnic minority group is illegal. Packing and cracking of minority voters into the minimum possible number of districts in order to ensure a permanent minority status on the whole (as has been done here in Georgia) is not legal, and some smart lawyer person should challenge the whole mess in court.

In 1982, the Voting Rights Act was amended to require many political jurisdictions to create “majority-minority” districts supposedly to allow more racial minorities to elect candidates of their choice. After the 1990 census, the Supreme Court struck this down and invalidated several such redistricting plans as unconstitutionally race-conscious. The goal is, let’s all say it together: color blind! Yet here we are in 2012 with packed majority-minority districts in Georgia, just as you describe. We REALLY need some smart lawyer person to step up to the plate on this one.

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