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“The American people chose divided government.”  Well, that’s yet another ‘half truth’ from failed Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.  The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has made similar misleading claims in his never-ending search for bargaining power during the ongoing federal budget negotiations.

After the November 2012 elections, we once again have a Democratic President, a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.  Yep, that does sound like a divided government, and they sure have shown how divided they really are.  But, no, the American people did not vote for that division.

Our high school civics class first taught many of us that the U.S. government is a representative democracy.  In a representative democracy, a small group of officials are elected by a larger group of people to advocate the interests of that larger group.  We’ve also been led to believe that the composition of those elected officials within a legislative body represents the will of that larger represented group and the votes they cast.    

Our civics class also taught us that one half of the U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives, is comprised of Congressmen who need to seek re-election every two years.  The 435 ‘seats’ for Congressmen are apportioned among the U.S. states based on their populations.  They are reapportioned every ten years after the completion of a new U.S. Census population report.  

After each new reapportionment, each state redraws its congressional district lines to accommodate its new allotment of seats.  They tend to get pretty creative in their drawing.  

The word for that creative drawing illustrates just how strange the resulting districts can appear.  The term gerrymander first appeared in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812 and it referred to a redrawing of Massachusetts districts by the cronies of Governor Elbridge Gerry.  The author of the word believed that one of Gerry’s creative districts resembled a salamander, although the 1812 cartoon probably more closely resembles a dragon.

Clearly, the art of gerrymandering election districts has a long and sordid history within our country.  Yet, its impact on our national elections appears greater than ever.  The increased capability of computer-modeling that has helped the new reshaping efforts is given some of the credit, or blame, for the increasing impact.

After the 2010 U.S. Census, a majority of states had Republicans governors, Republican-controlled legislatures, or both.  Those state Republicans didn’t waste their opportunity to draw their own bizarrely shaped congressional districts that promised to maximize the election of their party’s candidates.  Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district has a new creative shape after it was redrawn by that state’s Republican officials following the Census.

The shape involved a merger of the old 12th district with the state’s old 4th congressional district.  Democratic Congressmen occupied both districts’ seats and they were forced to face each other in a primary election for the newly shaped district.  That primary eliminated the job of Democratic Congressman Jason Altmire from the old 4th district.  

The 12th district seat had been held by a Democratic Congressmen for nearly 40 years (John Murtha until his death in 2010), until the Republican candidate, Keith Rothfus, defeated the Democrat, Mark Critz, in the recent November elections.  With that election result, the Republicans’ merger of the districts and the newly drawn lines had accomplished the elimination of two Democratic congressional seats.  The policy think tank FairVote had previously conducted a 2012 redistricting study that determined, not surprisingly, that the reshaped 12th district had an increased proportion of Republicans.

Of course, it’s true that congressional districts in several states, including California, Illinois and Maryland, were redrawn by Democrats in ways that favored that party.  Yet, overall, the gerrymandering that followed the 2010 Census, and the results of the 2012 elections, overwhelmingly benefited the election chances of Republicans.  According to Emily Bazelon in a November 9, 2012 article at Slate.com, “Democrats control the line drawing for 44 congressional seats and 885 state legislative seats, while Republicans control the line drawing for 210 congressional seats and 2,498 state legislative seats.”  For some other seats, the ability to redraw the district lines is not clearly controlled by either party.  

After the November elections, Republicans hold a commanding 234 congressional seats compared to the 201 seats controlled by Democratic Congressmen.  According to Ian Millhiser in a January 2, 2013 article at Thinkprogress.org, “every single state except Hawai’i has finalized its vote totals for the 2012 House elections, and Democrats currently lead Republicans by 1,362,351 votes in the overall popular vote total.  Democratic House candidates earned 49.15 percent of the popular vote, while Republicans earned only 48.03 percent.”  The Democratic vote advantage will widen when the official results are received for Hawaii.

While President Obama won the Pennsylvania popular vote by greater than 5 percentage points, the state's Democratic Senator Bob Casey defeated his Republican rival by roughly 8 percentage points, and Democratic congressional candidates received roughly half of the state’s congressional votes, those candidates won only about a quarter of the state’s seats.  Many other states had similar unbalanced outcomes.

With mixed results, some states are exploring methods to prevent or eliminate such extreme partisan gerrymandering.  In an approach similar to one followed in nations such as England and Australia, California voters assigned the redistricting process to an independent non-partisan commission.  Florida voters amended their state constitution to ban partisan redistricting.  

What effect those efforts will have is still not clear.  It is also unclear whether similar measures will be widely adopted across the country.  Not surprisingly, the party in control of a state government typically exhibits great reluctance to change the rules and limit the redistricting power while the power is theirs.  

Because the power to redistrict exists only after the Census conducted once every ten years, the Republican gerrymandering may have assured their party’s control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade. The best option to stop the Republican power grab might involve the U.S. Supreme Court.  Afterall, it is the purpose of the ‘checks and balances’ system which exists within our three branches of government and was created by our country’s founding fathers.  Of course, the conservative Republican-appointed majority of that court might continue its reluctance to address the issue of partisan gerrymandering.  

It has been convincingly argued that partisan gerrymandering is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The U.S. Supreme Court long ago announced that the First Amendment prohibits discrimination against the expression of a particular viewpoint.  With partisan gerrymandering, the party in control seeks to restrict the ability of those with opposing viewpoints to influence future elections.  The court has gone further and stated that core political speech is the most highly guarded form of speech because of its purely expressive nature and its importance for a functional government.  

Other legal challenges to partisan redistricting involve claimed violation of the federal Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on most actions that might dilute the voting power of racial minorities.  Some commentators believe that restriction was a key limiting force that prevented even larger Republican congressional gains through the redistricting that followed the 2010 Census.

In a 2004 case, Vieth v. Jubelirer, the five most conservative Supreme Court justices overruled the other four and declined to address a challenge to Republican redistricting of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts.  Yet, one of the Republican-appointee justices that joined that majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy, left open the possibility that partisan gerrymandering might be deemed unconstitutional if manageable standards are developed to differentiate between acceptable redistricting and an unconstitutional approach.

Regardless of whether the Supreme Court, or the individual states, take any future steps to restrict the abuse of partisan gerrymandering, the Republican-dominated composition of the 113th House of Representatives that took their seats on January 3, 2013 did not reflect the will of the American electorate.  The United States of America was the world’s first modern democracy and it has remained the world’s model democracy ever since.  

In recent policy debate, it has become very popular to insist upon the preservation of things for future American generations.  While preserving our economy with manageable debt, and our environment with manageable warming, we must also preserve our model democracy with model representation of the will of its people.

Originally posted to Rob Elders on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:30 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (154+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anastasia p, Onomastic, marina, Lily O Lady, limpidglass, Azazello, Regina in a Sears Kit House, slothlax, walkshills, RUNDOWN, tekno2600, RageKage, outragedinSF, La Gitane, Nate Roberts, RandomGuyFromGermany, Hirodog, riverlover, tomephil, radarlady, kharma, DRo, Pluto, IreGyre, JayDean, Mike08, rivamer, Matt Z, hestal, renzo capetti, DvCM, Rogneid, RandomNonviolence, eeff, skod, Navy Vet Terp, a2nite, Notreadytobenice, sidnora, Oh Mary Oh, sfinx, Tinfoil Hat, glitterscale, Loose Fur, bronte17, Joieau, zerelda, yella dawg, Noddy, psnyder, Ohkwai, wide eyed lib, Leftcandid, Windtalker, ZedMont, Captain Pants, zenox, Leo Flinnwood, cybersaur, sawgrass727, LynChi, leonard145b, jrooth, triv33, MKinTN, Mac in Maine, dotsright, blueoasis, GRLionsFan, anodnhajo, Steven D, RF, Glacial Erratic, indie17, GeorgeXVIII, glorificus, gloriana, livjack, jediwashuu, sk4p, prettygirlxoxoxo, CalGal47, wader, poleshifter, RebeccaG, political junquie, wdrath, thomask, GoGoGoEverton, roseeriter, beetlebum, WinSmith, Tool, Shockwave, renbear, Nica24, Dobber, Robynhood too, Jim P, Ed in Montana, Mislead, sostos, appledown, profundo, TomP, NBBooks, roses, lcrp, shaharazade, Andrew C White, Kiterea, Brian82, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, DianeNYS, MBNYC, AllanTBG, hayden, ploopie, redlum jak, greycat, fuzzyguy, tommyfocus2003, WheninRome, splashy, shypuffadder, Christopher H, ozarkspark, Wood Dragon, Chaddiwicker, shadydan, Sun Tzu, solesse413, Lujane, Aaa T Tudeattack, D minor, dagnome, MPociask, nominalize, arizonablue, Skennet Boch, mindara, stormicats, magicsister, bunsk, MarciaJ720, papercut, gulfgal98, Cliff Arnebeck, Alexandra Lynch, Lawrence, LillithMc, happy camper, sarvanan17, Laconic Lib
  •  Thank you (27+ / 0-)

    This needs to be seen far and wide.

    Tip'd, Rec'd and Shared.

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

    by Onomastic on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:43:15 PM PST

    •  Representative government is a mere fantasy (10+ / 0-)

      I agree this needs to be widely shared. I'm not confident the Supreme Court will take action on gerrymandering, but there are other ways in which the current Congress's composition is unrepresentative as well.

      There are only 435 seats in the House, currently, a number established a century ago (1911). Meanwhile, the US population has more than tripled since then.  And when the Constitution was created, districts were set at a population of 30,000 people, of whom fewer than half (men) would ever be eligible to vote. Which means that they were extraordinarily representative of eligible voters by today's standards. (Slaves were counted differently based on the notorious 3/5ths clause, and Indians were not counted at all).

      The Senate is also highly unrepresentative, which hurts populous, and incidentally, more progressive, states.  For example, 40,000,000 California voters get the same representation in the Senate as 500,000 Wyoming voters, though it's got nearly 80 times the population.

      States could conceivably pass laws to divide themselves into smaller, more representative units, to gain federal representation, I suppose. Would states go for this? Even if they did, though, the House would have to approve, and this House is opposed to representative government, as we know only too well.

      The last change to the number of districts came during a very progressive political moment. Perhaps it's time to renew that discussion?

      •  Yes, I think it is time to renew that discussion. (3+ / 0-)

        Another reason for doing so is the lack of representation by gender, etc.

        As one of the millions of women who make up over half of this country's population, I find our lack of representation extremely telling.

        A conversation on all of the factors that create a lack of truly representative government and what can be done to correct it is needful.  

        "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

        by Onomastic on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:07:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  So, if we still had the 30,000 to 1 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        political junquie, Lujane

        ratio then the House of Representatives would have over 10,000 members. That would make a difference.

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:51:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Oh boy, here we go. (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Onomastic, Bon Temps, hmi, Lujane, nominalize, bunsk

        I've got to speak up for us small state folks (or in my case, empty state - Montana) here.  It's the Senate that allows us to have any voice at all.   I live in one of the few states that is represented by a single Congressperson.  If not for the Senate, nothing I cared about would ever see the light of day in Washington.

        Poor remote Montana is actually undrrepresented in the House.  If we say that roughly the US population is roughly 315 million, then each House member should represent roughly 724K people.  At just over 1 million citizens, Montana comes up short.  Now, our neighboring empty state, Wyoming, has a population of just under half a million, and also has a single representative, which makes them completely overrepresented.  In places like New York City and Los Angeles however, you can drive twenty mintues and cross four Congressional districts.  

        The Senate is a hot mess, to be sure, thanks to this ridiculous filibuster thing, but I digress.

        Take a careful look at who has won where in the last election, particularly statewide races (governorships, Senate) compared to local races (House, state legislatures).  Then take a look at which of those ultimately red states has any sort of population center at all.  In states (outside of the South of course) that have the bulk of their population centered in "liberal" communities such as college towns (Montana is one), Democrats have won statewide offices, while Republicans control the legislatures and House seats.  This is of course the larger communities combined havemuch  larger populations than all the small ones put together.  It IS in fact the House of Representatives that truly reflects the divisions in our nation.  Here, for example, you will say, "Ah, but the sole Congresscritter from Montana is a Republican."  Yes, but here's why.  Even in the blue areas of my state, Democrats only won narrowly.  In the vast open spaces, Democrats didn't even register on the scale.  And so it goes across the nation...

        When do I get to vote on your marriage?

        by jarhead5536 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 11:24:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oddly, you sparse states (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mindara, Laconic Lib

          benefit greatly from the Federal system because you can't support all the needs you have because of your small tax base. Some things don't work well on a small scale and are vastly more expensive. Yet, you get all rugged individualist on us, when cooperation cuts costs.

          I live in the small state of Maryland and we have over 6M people. We've been doing stuff longer and better for a long time. We get kind of tired about hearing about oil subsidies and BP spilling oil when we are forbidden to even lose a drop on our driveways lest it make its way to the great Chesapeake.

          Sure we gerrymandered. We got rid of the ancient Roscoe and kept the illiterate shore people happy. We could have drawn the map all blue if we wanted though......easily. They will still get all the benefits we continue to provide, like the best hospital system, the best schools, best libraries.....because we have the density to support all of it.

          Your congressmen live here and in northern Virginia and benefit from all of it while you have to sit there back in the big states. They know where they have it good.

        •  You shouldn't have a voice (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MarciaJ720, Laconic Lib

          or at least one which can be noticed. The idea that your personal voice should be heard 80 times louder in the senate than say a person from California is a complete betrayal of the American principal of equal voting rights.

          Next time you have a bunch of friends over try buying a megaphone and just do all your talking via it. See if any of your friends like you after that.  Thats how the small states are viewed by many.

          I do not care if its California Vs Hawaii, New York Vs Road Island or Nebraska vs Texas.  Small staters have no moral right to greater representation.

          As a constitutional right they do. So the simple solution is, start removing the title "state". I think we need more territories.

          That or merge states, or break states up.

          The best answer is to merge states for economics of scale issues with governance.

        •  You keep beating this drum (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Laconic Lib

          Last time, I told you: you have three representatives in government, one for every 333k citizens. What's more, the Senate is more powerful than the House, and everyone knows it, and each individual Senator is more powerful than any given Congressperson by roughly an order of magnitude. (One Senator can and frequently does block any law he or she wishes to, with no repercussions, and even the rather weak filibuster reform won't stop this, it will just make it a bit less convenient.) So basically, you have two powerful representatives and one much less powerful representative in government, for your 1 million people.

          California, meanwhile, has 53 congressional districts, and two senators, for its 37 million people. That's one representative of any kind per 675k citizens. So you have twice the representation that Californians do.

          But it's worse than that, because your 1 million citizens have veto power over more or less anything that California's 37 million citizens want to do at a federal level. Just as an example, one Senator, by himself, was responsible for the failure of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which would have dedicated federal funds to trying to figure out why the California sea otter is starting to die off again. One Senator destroyed that bipartisan legislation, supported by a 2/3 majority in the House and at least 70 Senators. (Yes, they could have passed it, but it would have taken several weeks of the Senate's time, during which they could have done nothing else, and there were other things that were more urgent on the agenda. And, of course, since then, it hasn't even been brought up.)

          And even if that were reformed, since the Senate is closely divided (and likely to become more so in 2014) it is frequently the case that, even on a straight up or down vote, 50/50, your Senators will have the power to decide that the government should act against the wishes of over 70% of the population of the US.

          And yet your main thrust is that because you only have one House member when you really by rights should have 1.3 House members, you are woefully underrepresented.

          Tell you what: when California gets 72 Senators, then you guys can have 2 House members. Sounds absolutely fair to me.

          •  Here's my answer, (0+ / 0-)

            and I haven't said it publicly because it won't ever happen.  House members should not be identified with states at all, rather regions.  Every ten years, a computer program should construct 435 compact and contiguous districts of equal population regardless of political lines like city limits and county or state boundaries.  That way, I can shut up about poor "Montana", and you can shut up about poor "California" having inadequate national influence by population.

            I have always believed that the idea to make Senators popularly elected was a mistake.  Senators represent the entity of the state, while House members represent actual people.  That was the way it was supposed to be, and we should go back to it...

            When do I get to vote on your marriage?

            by jarhead5536 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 11:59:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  we wouldn't have gotten the constitution (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Onomastic, Bon Temps, O112358, MarciaJ720

        ratified in 1789/1791 without the Senate as it is.  However, back then there were few 'small' states and they were all relatively bigger than today's 'small' states.  Maybe it needs to be reexamined, but that would take a new Constitutional Convention ;)

      •  The Senate was never meant to be representative (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hmi, Onomastic, nominalize, slothlax

        You are complaining about the very feature that distinguishes Senators from House members and it's reason for existing!

        That's the whole point.. 2 Senators per state was set so that the smaller states would have equal standing.  State sovereignty has been all but forgotten in this day and age, but it was paramount to the framers and original states.

        •  The whole point was to bribe a bunch of selfish ** (0+ / 0-)

          You are right there is a Constitutional right.  But wrong about the morality. The morality from the get go was simple bribery.

          But ya there is nothing preventing us from forming one big "empty state"

      •  We should at least add 200 reps (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MarciaJ720, happy camper

        To put the number about 1 for every 500,000 people.  

        Not to mention, it would force redistricting, and it would inject a lot of new blood into the process.

        Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

        by nominalize on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 05:58:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I was just at Huffington Post and posted this (0+ / 0-)

        1 second ago ( 9:21 AM)
        This comment is pending approval and won't be displayed until it is approved.

        The Republicans have Gerrymandered their way into being a people in power of the House at least until 2020. That is 8 more years of total anti-legislation (unless it is theirs), anti-working folks in the House. Boehner & Company are worthless as legislatures. All because a certain colored person occupies their precious White House.

        Then I come over here.....  It is picking up people who are concerned enough that the R's are playing dirty.....

        Then again, I think of Florida....  That Governor, Rick Scott, came in and changed things up only to LOSE big time.  But in the meantime, places like Michigan, Texas, etc., are not well represented and are being bullied by the the Bullies.

        -6.13 -4.4 Where are you? Take the Test!!!

        by MarciaJ720 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:27:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Actually, thanks to the Texas GOP, (40+ / 0-)

    it's no longer true that the power to redistrict only exists once every ten years. I hope we're able to capitalize on this in Ohio. Unfortunately, Issue 2 (Voters First Ohio), which would have replaced partisan redistricting with a nonpartisan citizens panel (including an equal voice for those not in either major party), was defeated in November, in part thanks to tricks pulled by Ohio Republicans to make it difficult and confusing to follow, in part because of lies told by the Ohio GOP, and in part because the Voters First Ohio campaign didn't trust itself or its issue to be appealing and mounted a confusing campaign that appeared to be about other things.

    I hope they analyze their mistakes, regroup and come back. I'm ready to go out again to gather signatures to put it back on the ballot in November. To have 12 Republican congressmen and 4 Democratic congresspersons* in a 50/50 state is a mockery of democracy.

    * As you might guess, the Republicans are all white men. The Democrats are one white woman, one white man and two black women.

    Jon Husted is a dick.

    by anastasia p on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:43:54 PM PST

    •  gerrymandering and apartheid (27+ / 0-)

      What a lot of people don't realize is that apartheid was kept in place due, not to majority support (even among whites), but the way representatives were apportioned. In fact Apartheid lacked majority white support from the outset. I've seen a lot of cocky diaries and commentary to the effect that demographics mean that Democrats will become increasingly dominant in American politics, and that Republicans will be relegated to a rump party. This is wishful thinking based on not looking carefully enough at how votes translate into representation.

      Here's something from 538.com (Nate Silver's old blog) from a few years ago that we should all think a but more carefully about:

      Apartheid was introduced despite the repeatedly demonstrated opposition of a majority of the white electorate. While its racially exclusionary practices, which limited the franchise to white voters(as well as a limited number of mixed race ones between 1936 and 1958) the defenders of South Africa took great pride in arguing that the nation possessed a system that was highly democratic and representative of its voters, the “freest in Africa”. And on paper it was, with a constitution remarkably similar to Australia or Canada. Nevertheless, the election results that brought in Apartheid indicated that the system did an extremely poor job of representing the opinion even of its limited constituency.

      [...]

      The National Party had taken advantages of one of the quirks of the South African system. The first was that seats were allowed to deviate from the population quota by a margin of 15% in either direction in order to accommodate local boundaries and to limit their geographical size. While an average of around 7200 votes were cast per constituency, the National Party only won 2 seats where more than 7200 votes were cast. The United Party by contrast won more than half its seats in districts where over 8000 votes were cast.

      Secondly, the National Party had the advantage of being an ethnic party in a country in which the ethnic balance favored them. Afrikaners, to whom they focused their appeal, made up 57% of the population, and were furthermore, better distributed for electoral purposes, making up the majority in 98 out of 150 seats. The redistricting that followed the Nationalist victory in 1948 only increased this discrepancy...

      link

      Steve Kornacki had an important article on the very real implications of this for the US: http://www.salon.com/...

      And Rachel Maddow also had two amazingly good segments on gerrymandering, on December 12, beginning here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/...

      •  South African "Democracy" (6+ / 0-)

        It should be understood that when I speak of comparatively liberal and moderate South Africans of the pre-democratic era, practically all of them were very reactionary by modern American and European standards. It is only in comparison to the hardliners of the National Party that they were liberal or moderate.

        The undemocratic nature of the South African system was baked into the 1910 constitution, when the country was united. Because no agreement could be reached on a common franchise, each of the four provinces retained its own system.

        Cape Province had what was known as a "civilisation franchise", which was in theory colour blind. However as this was a property and income based franchise, in practice far more more whites qualified to vote than black South Africans. In the 1890s Cecil Rhodes, as Premier of Caper increased the property qualification when it seemed to many black voters would qualify.

        Natal also had, very much in theory, a property qualification system by which non whites could qualify to vote. Very few actually managed to do so. There was only one black voter on the electoral rolls by the 1930s and a few thousand others of Asian descent.

        Transvaal and the Orange Free State had unambiguous prohibitions on non whites voting.

        Another constitutional provision allowed rural constituencies to have fewer voters than (more English speaking and compartively liberal) urban areas. As this was considered to be part of the bargain made to allow Union to be accomplished, Jan Christiaan Smuts and other (comparatively) moderate Afrikaner political leaders insisted on keeping the smaller rural seats, even when it would

        There was some hostility, particularly in the National Party, to the idea that non white voters had some influence over the result in some Cape districts.
        When The Nationalist General Herzog formed a coalition with General Smuts of the South African Party, in the 1930s, they removed Cape "Native" voters from the common electoral roll (giving them three seats - to elect white representatives, non whites even if qualified to vote were not allowed to serve in Parliament)

        By 1948, the National Party (combining the Purified Nationals who had rejected the United Party of Hertzog and Smuts , the Reunited Nationals who had followed Hertzog out of the United Party in opposition to South African involvement in the Second World War and the allied Afrikaner Party which was formed by Hertzog's followers who had left the Reunited National Party after Hertzog fell out with the Purified Nationalist leader Dr Malan) came to power. It was said that the Nationalists had a majority of seats in the House of Assembly, the United Party (by then led by Smuts) had the majority of votes and the black South Africans were the majority.

        There is no man alive who is sufficiently good to rule the life of the man next door to him. Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris, M.P.

        by Gary J on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:21:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  District-packing, (10+ / 0-)

        alluded to in the second paragraph you quote, is alive and well in the US, if not quite so extreme. Here in NY the acceptable margin of deviation is 5%, so you can imagine what that means: Democratic-leaning downstate urban districts (which also often happen to contain large minority populations) are drawn as close to +5% as possible, while sparsely-populated upstate urban districts, which tend to vote GOP,  are drawn as close to -5% as possible.

        Add to this the effect of "prisonmandering", the practice of counting the inmates (most of whom lived downstate in their pre-incarceration lives) of state prisons (most of which are upstate, and fiercely protected as a source of scarce local jobs) as residents of the county in which they are imprisoned, yet are unable to vote, and you've got a system that is operationally not too different from the way votes were apportioned in slave states before the Civil War.

        I'm not sure whether NY would have lost another seat last go-round, if the state had nt been gerrymandered, but it would surely have proportionally more Democratic representation if not for that. And our Democratic governor, who is rightly getting lots of praise today for his SOTS statements on gun control, has been complicit in drawing lines that helped the GOP retain control of our State Senate. Grmmrm.

        "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

        by sidnora on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:30:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cuomo has been more than complicit (6+ / 0-)

          He wanted the GOP to keep the Senate so he wouldn't have to put his name on anything too liberal when he runs for president.

          •  Yep. That's the reason (0+ / 0-)

            for his complicity.

            It's going to be interesting to see how he threads his way between the sound and fury he unleashed yesterday and the current Senate structure. On gun control, at least, it sounds like he may have decided it's OK to be liberal, and it also sounds like he has the Senate's backing (co-leader is a Democrat, and a very close Cuomo ally). Fine with me.

            "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

            by sidnora on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:02:17 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I won't vote for Cuomo (5+ / 0-)

            For all of the reasons you cite.

            My personal favorite for 2016 is Brian Schweitzer. Western governor with solid progresssive ideals. (Arguably more liberal than Presiden Obama.)

            •  I love Brian Schweitzer! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Laconic Lib

              I even have a photo with him, that the LH took at NN one year. I think he'd make a great nominee.

              Although I was a big fan of Cuomo's father, I have a strong personal dislike of him, and always have. I think he's a thug. A smart thug, but a thug. The fact that we don't have a more progressive governor here can be attributed to the screwed-up condition of the NYS Democratic Party, and a certain former Democratic governor's inability to keep it in his pants.

              "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

              by sidnora on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:27:01 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  He would be a disaster on global warming (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Laconic Lib

              'Hey I know, let's dig up all the coal in Montana and turn it into oil using a process that is horrendously polluting, and then burn all that fuel!'

              Depending on the scale, that could actually be worse for the environment than the oil shale. Which has already been called the final nail in the coffin for global warming.

              He's also got some other pretty serious issues, but nothing that would stop me from voting for him. That, though, well, I won't vote for anyone who supports something that will, you know, kill off most of the people on earth.

        •  Late to the game, but (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sidnora

          I'm an Upstater and while Valesky (one of the renegades) is not my Senator, I like and trust him.  He's not conservative, just doesn't want to work with an insular NYC Senate caucus, a group that sounds kind of screwed up and dysfunctional.  I haven't followed all the ins and outs too closely and would like to hear your take on the situation.

          There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

          by slothlax on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 12:24:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Honestly not quite sure yet. (0+ / 0-)

            I had a good opinion of one of the other "independents", Savino, before this happened. It appears that she's been recruited into the faction by virtue of having a personal relationship with Klein, which does not improve her in my eyes (allowing the relationship to affect her political decisions, not having the relationship in the first place).

             I dislike Cuomo's personal style pretty intensely, and his naked ambition makes him way too bipartisan for my taste, so anytime it appears that they're pulling him further to the left than he would otherwise have gone, I'll give them points. It seems possible that the indie faction may have helped broker the new gun-control laws that Cuomo appears likely to get passed. I'd call that a good thing.

            I want to see how the lines break down when they're dealing with a money issue, fracking, for instance.

            As to the screwed-upness of the caucus, they are that. There are a couple I think should just be booted out of the party, like Felder, if it wouldn't cost us the majority. But I think Stewart-Cousins is an immense improvement as leader, and I wish the indies had given her a chance to prove herself before jumping ship.

            "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

            by sidnora on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:41:42 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It will be interesting (0+ / 0-)

              I was rooting for a Democratic Senate for a long time, but as an upstater, I'm more inclined to be comfortable with the split in the caucus because NYC domination is not something I want.

              I'm also open to fraking.  Strong oversight and regulation, the gas drilling companies have to be a lot more open about potential risks (what chemicals are they using, ect), but I don't see how we can hold off on it forever.  I see resource extraction, generally, to be the most fundamental economic activity.  Managed right, it can do our state a lot of good.  Managed wrong, who knows?

              There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

              by slothlax on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 12:11:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  True, but (8+ / 0-)

      Because the gerrymanders extend to the the state level, it will be very difficult to take over the legislatures in question before 2022.  There will be progress, because I don't think we'll ever see another year like 2010, but much like the US House, too few seats are competitive to flip the legislatures.  Look at the results in the 2012 state elections.  Despite majorities for statewide candidates, no Republican gerrymandered legislatures were flipped.  Wisconsin is a great example.

      •  That's fatalistic bullshit (0+ / 0-)

        This cycle has been going on forever, the idea that 2010 was some set in stone political moment is just not true.  The gerrymander happens every ten years, things change. Particularly issues and demographics.  By 2020 things will be much different than they are today in many ways that we can't possibly see now.

        There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

        by slothlax on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 12:36:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are saying it's possible to have a Democratic (0+ / 0-)

          A Democratic House the next election?  I think it is possible, but the game is loaded to the Republicans.  Democrats would have to win just about every contested seat, they would have to keep the Mathesons and Barrows in office and maybe win a couple of seats that aren't on the radar right now.  All of that to take a narrow majority, against the tide and against nearly unlimited money.  Yes, it could happen with the help of a totally dysfunctional
          GOP, but, to me, it is far more important and doable to take back governor's chairs in purple states and keep them until the next round of redistricting.

          •  That's not the standard you set (0+ / 0-)

            You said it would be hard to win back the legislatures by 2022, that's what I was addressing.  I agree that is where the real battles lie and I think a lot of the states that went red in the wave in 2010, especially the Midwest, will see Democrats creeping out from the cities.  I've seen it happen here in upstate NY as previously Republican Senate seats have gotten more competitive or flipped.  I think you're right, 2014 will be a tough year to flip the House.

            There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

            by slothlax on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 11:38:18 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  In California we now have a non-partisan (26+ / 0-)

    commission drawing the lines for both state and federal districts. The voters took the task completely out of the hands of politicians. The 2012 cycle was the first with the new districts and most people gave the non-partisan commission of "just folks" good marks for not worrying about incumbents or parties, just fairness.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:49:08 PM PST

    •  Yes, but is it fair for the country to have (4+ / 0-)

      a major Democratic-leaning state send less Dem reps to congress than it could, you know to balance out the states highlighted in this diary?

      It seems like "we" (i.e., progressive types) shoot ourselves in the foot time after time after time.

      •  Yup, it is fair (0+ / 0-)

        Forget partisan politics.  When people know the vote they cast for Congress means nothing because the outcome is already determined, why do you think nobody trusts Congress?

        There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

        by slothlax on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 12:40:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Massive mistake (4+ / 0-)

      This is unilateral disarmament by Democrats. Until there is a national solution, Democratic states need to gerrymander with the best of them.

      •  Retaliation, partisan advantage etc. (6+ / 0-)

        When Democrats have the advantage in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, what should be done?  I think they should take redistricting out of politicians' hands.  IMHO, it is much tougher to gerrymander in favor of Democrats.  You don't find large areas of competitive states that are 90-95% Republican, which can be a vote sink.  Secondly, having non-competitive districts makes for lousy representatives, no matter which party is in control.  

        In my home state of Minnesota, a Republican trifecta was stopped by the election of Democrat Mark Dayton.  Because Dayton was in the governor's chair, redistricting was sent to the courts.  Just a year later, Minnesota Democrats re-took both houses of the legislature with lines drawn by the courts.  More telling, we have more competitive House districts than almost any state.  Districts 1,2, 3, 7, and 8 all could swing with a good candidate for either party.  District 8 swung back to Democrats this year and Districts 2,3, and 7 were three of less than 20 nationally that voted for a rep from one party and the presidential candidate of the other party, a good sign of competitiveness.  

        •  AMEN (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fuzzyguy, redlum jak, MPociask

          Competitve districts lead to better governance.  Even though Allen Quist (in many respects) is a nutjob his viewpoints still deserved a chance to be heard on a broad level.

          (I thought the Cravaak seat was an accident.) The range is socially conservative but economically liberal.  With the antiunion animus of the GOP its a tough climb to take the seat but not impossible with a guns and abortion candidate.

          The GOP lost its majority in both houses because of its TP nuttiness and generally out of the mainstream attitudes. (Lets face it the voter id and marriage amdts mobilized the DFL to GOTV.)
           

          •  Don't disagree (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            madcitysailor

            I don't disagree with anything you've said.  However, I wouldn't classify MN-8 as an "accident".  It was accomplishment of the GOP's wildest dreams, but nearly impossible to sustain without augmenting the district with many hard-right exurbanites.  The GOP House and Senate wasn't any nuttier than Wisconsin, but with fair lines drawn, Minnesota was able to flip both houses, while with gerrymandered lines, the Wisconsin GOP actually picked up seats while not getting a majority of votes in either house of the state legislature.  

            Quist's candidacy and primary victory made Walz' re-election a near certainty.  Thank you MNGOP.  Speaking of which, the MNGOP wasn't ready to govern and did make it easy for uncommitteds to vote for Democrats in 2012.  

            •  I realize I wasn't clear (0+ / 0-)

              I meant to say the Cravaak victory 2 years ago was somewhat accidental.

              Oberstar forgot that he needed to work to keep his job.....

              There definitely is a hard right streak of voters that run between Stillwater and St Cloud.......(Frankly I think that will be the seat that is redistricted out of existence in 2020 if Mn loses a seat to the next census.)

      •  What I say too (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alswearingen

        I hear cries to ungerrymander a Democratic state like Illinois and my response is, "OK — after you give us Texas."

        Jon Husted is a dick.

        by anastasia p on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:25:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  CA got Democratic pickups because of... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, AllanTBG, MPociask

        ...the Commission's redrawn lines, both in Congressional seats and in the State's legislature.  And that's in a state that is already very heavily Democratic-leaning, and as compared to 2000 district lines drawn largely by Democrats.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

        The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

        by TheOrchid on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:39:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I agree with everything you wrote except America (6+ / 0-)

    is a federal constitutional republic...not a representative democracy.  They are similar but not the same.

    •  Yes and no (4+ / 0-)

      I've heard that one before (mostly from Republicans).  I've heard a lot of disagreement about it.  I agree with those that feel that there is overlap between them and that they are not mutually exclusive.  

      •  A republic, as defined by Madison, is a democracy. (7+ / 0-)

        So, the terms are not mutually exclusive. However, I too have heard many republicans wanting to dicker over the "were a republic, not a democracy" argument. I think they mean it to suggest that we shouldn't be so darn worried about representing the will of the people, because they believe that the if some of the founding fathers wanted things to be unrepresentative way back then, by golly, we should still be unrepresentative today.

        Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

        by tekno2600 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 11:13:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  In Federalist 10, James Madison (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fuzzyguy

          explicitly said that a republic and a democracy are not the same.

          He said:

          The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.
          Please note, by his definition the government in a democracy is not delegated to a few representatives by means of elections. This is one hell of a difference.

          Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

          by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:42:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's a somewhat misleading reading of Madison (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MPociask

            When he speaks of a Democracy, he is generally referring to the theoretical "direct democracy," of which there is not a single example anywhere in the world. However, when talking about a republic, his argument boils down to the idea that it is a representative democracy vs. a direct democracy. So, I would submit to you that the distinction is not quite as big as some people would lead you to believe, based on one selective quotation or another. In fact, for all practical purposes, the way we use the term democracy today is pretty much synonymous with what Madison meant by a republic. If you don't believe me, argue with this guy: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/...

            Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

            by tekno2600 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 10:07:44 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  If I am faced with a choice of believing (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fuzzyguy

              anyone living today or believing the entire generation of Founders then the choice is simple.

              Of course, you very nimbly changed the subject, didn't you? You introduced the term representative democracy which is not mentioned anywhere at all in any of the Federalist essays.

              My reading of Madison's words is definitely not misleading. He is very clear, and no one at the time objected. Everyone agreed with what he said.

              You, are guilty of a common human failing: when one is wrong, one will not admit the error, but one will instead try to change the discussion, or, and you are trying this defense as well, one will try to make the rest of the world conform to one's erroneous understanding of the issue.

              My quotation is not "one selective." it is one of many and it is one which serves as the basis for Madison's explanation of why he chose a republic rather than a democracy.

              So, you have insulted me by shooting from the lip and accusing me of being misleading, being misled, and of using quotations selectively.

              As for how we use democracy today, I don't know just how you arrived at that conclusion. I certainly don't use the term "democracy" in the way you assert and many scholars understand the difference between democracy and republic.

              But there are no doubt people who agree with you, but that does not change the fact that our nation is not a democracy, but is rather a republic, and there is no doubt that the distinction between the two is enormous. And there is no doubt that the republic has failed to control the harmful effects of faction. Otherwise this diary would have been completely unnecessary.

              And finally, you are also guilty of another human failing. When you read this reply to your snide remarks you will feel an overpowering urge to lash out at me. Go ahead, I know that you have to have the last word. Take your best shot. I promise to read it and not reply.

              Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

              by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 10:31:16 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You're missing the point. I'm not attacking. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MPociask, nominalize

                I respectfully disagreed and you said I was making "snide remarks" to "lash out" at you. That was never the intention.

                I am just saying in a short, clear, unaccusatory way that the argument you are making, whether it is based on your reading of Madison or someone else's, is misleading. Clearly a republic involves some type of democracy. It is just a representative democracy instead of a direct democracy. Direct democracy is more of a theoretical concept that a real one. Even Greek Democracy probably did not live up to the standard of asking all citizens to vote on all decisions all the time. So, Madison was railing against a semi-mythical concept and proposing that representative democracy was more practical. I think the overwhelming majority of people today would agree, though perhaps you would not.

                But, unless we want to write many pages of text arguing about semantics, the bottom line is that the distinction between a democracy and a republic that Madison made is virtually meaningless today. We are a democratic republic, a republican-style democracy, a representative democracy, or whatever fine point people want to put on it. The terms are not mutually exclusive as they are used today, and outside of rarefied theoretically debates, there never really was a practical difference either.

                Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

                by tekno2600 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 11:27:51 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I think your interpretation simply ignores (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  pee dee fire ant

                  state sovereignty.  The Republic that Madison and other founders envisioned, IMHO, was one in which the states retained most powers and a few powers were granted to the federal government.

                  There was no concept of a strong central federal government.

                  The discussion above about the "unrepresentative" nature of the Senate reflects this.  We have simply lost that state-centric view over the centuries.

            •  Founding Fathers fetishism (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              tekno2600, a2nite

              is mainly a feature of the Republican right.

              Madison's views may be interesting; and certainly whatever those who wrote the Constitution thought sheds light on that document.

              But their thought is not the last word in defining any term or concept in political life.

              •  I know it stings when the facts (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                fuzzyguy, pee dee fire ant

                disagree with you, and I am only presenting the facts. You have presented nothing but anger.

                Remember, it is well known that facts have a liberal bias. In other words facts are not usually on the Republican side.

                But it is true that Republicans often quote authorities and then misrepresent what those authorities said, that is what happens very often with the Founders.

                But I misrepresented nothing. Show me where I did.

                Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 10:39:57 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'd encourage you not to worry so much about who (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  verso2, MPociask

                  is right and engaging in attack or counter-attack, but to focus instead on the big picture. We are Democratic Republic. We've always been a Democratic Republic. We probably always will be. Direct Democracy is just a theoretical concept. It has never really existed. It probably never will. Our form of Democracy is the most successful type of Constitutional Democracy to date. There is nothing wrong with calling our country a Democracy. Eminent scholars do it all the time. All the other back and forth arguments and talk about hurt feelings serve no purpose.

                  Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

                  by tekno2600 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 11:45:21 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  No misrepresentation involved (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MPociask, tekno2600

                  nor did I charge you with misrepresenting Madison's views.

                  "Democracy" to an 18th-century classically educated gentleman meant popular rule on the Athenian model--and therefore any state whose institutions did not correspond to that model (as they understood it 200+ years ago) was not a democracy.

                  That was Madison's view. It's also not very interesting--being rather like the phlogiston theory of burning. Human thought has advanced since the 18th century. (Though other ideas of Madison's are, not least to set the historical context for the text of the Constitution.)

                  The Far Right uses this argument to dismiss democracy tout court: in their eyes, the US was not intended to be a democracy--and therefore any argument that something isn't "democratic" is irrelevant because it isn't supposed to be.

                  So ... basically, I am not a "whateverist": "Whatever the Founding Fathers said was right. Whatever the Founding Fathers did was correct." (To paraphrase the catchphrase that Maoists used to use during the Cultural Revolution.)

                  •  What is important is to understand why (0+ / 0-)

                    Madison rejected the Athenian model and chose the republican model. This choice is at the core of the problems that we face today. Our thinking has not advanced because if it had we would have solved our government's problems long before now.

                    One of the barriers to solving problems is that people like you are obviously very satisfied that you know all there is to know about everything.

                    So, tell me, what problem was Madison trying to solve when he rejected the Athenian model? Did he understand how the Athenian model worked? What was the historical consensus about ancient Athens at the time?

                    Just like you, the Framers thought they knew all they needed to know about everything, but, just like you, they didn't. And because of that error Madison chose a form of government that has not served us well and certainly is not democratic, even in the sense you insist on using.

                    I am trying to solve an important problem. You, not so much. But don't worry, I will continue to work on it, and when I solve it, with others, you will get the benefit of it.

                    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                    by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 12:25:46 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Do I understand you rightly (0+ / 0-)

                      if I conclude that you're trying to figure out a way to apply the Athenian model of direct democracy to the contemporary United States?

                      •  Well, there is something that you don't know! (0+ / 0-)

                        It is not unusual for people who do not know the answer to a question to try to change the subject by asking their own question.

                        You first.

                        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                        by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 01:19:48 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Are you more interested in what (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          MPociask

                          Madison thought, or didn't think; or in your own project, which seems to turn on the error you ascribe to Madison in structuring the US government as a representative democracy?

                          I actually would be interested in hearing about what project you might have for addressing the defects in the "representative" part of representative democracy. As I've said, I do not believe that Madison has the last word, either in terms of his definitions, or in the answers to political questions as he framed them. If you are on track to developing better answers, either in Madison's own terms, or in others, why, fine: let's hear about it.

                          But your comment about "changing the subject" suggests to me that you're more interest in playing games. (And I would be happy to be wrong in this supposition.)

                          •  Then all you have to do is answer the (0+ / 0-)

                            questions I asked.

                            But your second refusal to answer is clear evidence that you are not sincere. All you want to do is pick a fight. You are just itching for me to say something that you can attack. So why would I want to waste more time talking with someone who just plays "gotcha" games.

                            I was very upfront and clear in everything I said, but all I got from you and others is the usual smart-ass remarks. And that is your right, but it doesn't solve problems, it only creates them.

                            I doubt that you would have anything to contribute anyway. Your ego would get in the way.

                            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                            by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 02:22:06 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I am not interested in attacking you (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MPociask

                            nor in playing games. I am not a first-class expert on Madison, and I do not expect to call you out on your interpretation of his thought. I asked the question in the hopes of moving off Madison per se to address the actual problems we face, since I do not find the Madison to provide the framework we need to do so.

                            So, tell me, what problem was Madison trying to solve when he rejected the Athenian model? Did he understand how the Athenian model worked? What was the historical consensus about ancient Athens at the time?
                            Off the top: Madison's objective was to limit the role of average Americans (most of them farmers, many of them rather independent types on the frontier; and other unruly sorts) in government because he and other elites feared they posed a threat to their dominance. (David Graeber and others have recently pointed up the role of struggles over debt in 18-century America, comparing them to similar struggles in other preindustrial societies, including ancient ones, in ways Madison might have recognized.) The famous comparison of the Athenian city-state was brought in as a straw man (no one had actually proposed modeling the US after Athens) to point up the need for representation over a huge area rather than a small city-state; but the actual problems with his solutions certainly included a nonrepresenative Senate (malportioned and elected by legislatures); plus the recognition of slavery and the 3/5ths clause, altogether entrenching southern domination of the Republic until the Civil War.

                            How did he understand the Athenian model? Probably well by the standards of the day, and not well by the standards of a classical scholar of today. But I don't think that that understanding was in fact key; rather the reference to Athens was shorthand for a defense of elite interests; there's a very interesting discussion in Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution.

                            Daniel Lazare has a very interesting take on the Constitution in The Frozen Republic. (I don't agree with all his analysis, but I find grappling with it to be a bracing challenge, and useful.)

                          •  Good answer. There is one other use for the (0+ / 0-)

                            disparagement of the Greek democracies.

                            No, I am not trying to apply the Athenian model of "direct democracy" to the contemporary United States.

                            But, by trying to understand the differences between a "pure" democracy and a republic as Madison saw them, one can see why our system has failed to control the harmful effects of faction.

                            To analyze how the Athenians managed to control the harmful effects of faction serves as a check of the former analysis.

                            And in so doing, it becomes apparent that the Athenians had nine features of their democracy that enabled them to succeed in controlling the effects of faction.

                            We have none of those nine features.

                            The question now becomes, what does one do with that information?

                            If one believes in the possibility that the Internet can be a powerful tool for developing complex ideas then one might try to launch these ideas here on DKos.

                            One could pursue other ways, more traditional ways.

                            Have a nice life.

                            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                            by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 03:29:30 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Interesting (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            tekno2600

                            And I will check out the nine features.

                            It occurs to me to note that Madison would not have made the distinction we do between direct and representative democracy because the only democracy he was aware of was Athenian. Other states were either oligarchic republics (Rome, Venice), kingdoms with or without estates of some kind representing lords and propertied elites; or the hybrid English Commonwealth, basically the latter without a king. He would have associated the idea of popular rule with the Levellers, Fifth Monarchy Men, or Muntzer's peasant rebels, and I don't think those examples would have aroused any enthusiasm on his part.

                            However, I think our differences start with the question of faction, as 18-century American elites saw it (while, of course, failing to see that they were themselves a interest group--doing so would have threatened their core identity as politically interested gentlemen).

                            In fact, oddly enough, the US system fails to be responsive precisely because it tries to avoid the political, and in that evasion, fails to produce responsive and responsible government.

                            Good luck and best wishes!

                          •  Geez. Talking with hestal is like giving yourself (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            verso2

                            a root canal. No matter what you do, you're screwed. If you agree or disagree with him, he attacks and then while he's doing it he accuses you of attacking him. However, it sounds an awful lot like he thinks Athenian Democracy was better. Personally, I don't think that a Republican form of government has served us that poor, especially since we have been getting more and more representative such as the direct election of Senators. Until recently, there were also limits to money in politics. I think, over time, the money will be removed from politics again, the power of the Senate will be reigned in, as well as that of the runaway Supreme Court. Perhaps we will even move to some kind of electoral college reform and national voting standards. Overall, we are moving toward more reprentativeness. But, I doubt we'll get there by abolishing the present system and trying to set up some form of direct democracy.

                            Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

                            by tekno2600 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 07:37:08 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

            •  town meetings in New England (0+ / 0-)

              are still direct democracy.   Just as an example

              Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

              by nominalize on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:06:10 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think that works best when a town of 10 people (0+ / 0-)

                decides to make some fairly simple, routine decisions. When there are a lot more people and the decisions are highly complex, I'm not sure the old models are scalable.

                Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

                by tekno2600 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 07:40:25 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  They're not scalable (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  tekno2600

                  Above 10,000 residents or so, most towns become cities and adopt republican democracy.   I just wanted to point out that direct democracy does exist in places.  

                  I used to live in a MA town that found a middle ground between city government and town meetings--- a representative town meeting.  256 representatives for 12,000 permanent residents (it was a college town).  Not quite direct, but quite a bit more so than the House of Representatives.

                  Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

                  by nominalize on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:59:40 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Scalable? (0+ / 0-)

                    If you mean a government in which the People are able to put forward ideas to each other for improving society, and they are then able to discuss these ideas and decide, by vote of the People, which of these ideas they want to convert to government policy, and they are then able to put the ideas into the proper format, and they are then able to vote again on the law and thereby actually put it into force, then the answer is that we certainly can do that. In fact, we do it very often. We do it many times a year.

                    In many ways we emulate Athenian democracy all the time.

                    And now, for something different.

                    As you can see by this thread, I have been hammered for insisting that there is no such thing as "republican democracy." By democracy I mean the government that I described above. As you said, when the population reaches a certain size we tend to switch to elected representatives. When we do that we are no longer a democracy, because it is impossible for any human being to reconcile the disparate goals and beliefs of his/her constituents. In Federalist 10 Madison pointed this out and he was right to do so. He hoped that his system would overcome this problem but he failed. This failure is confirmed by every public opinion poll about the performance of Congress. But we, the People, seem willing to accept it. Yes, from time to time, we are able to get in some officials who try to deal with our most pressing issues, but during that time many people suffer unnecessarily. I wonder if we will ever grow weary of being told to take an old, cold tater and wait.

                    However, there is a problem with waiting. We are running out of time. Global warming is coming on like a freight train and we do nothing.

                    I cannot overemphasize the danger we face, and we do nothing.

                    But, to get back to scale. We have the technologies to emulate, with high fidelity, the features of Athenian democracy. These technologies are proven, we use them comfortably and confidently all of the time. It would be Peter Rabbit simple to transform our government and our lives.

                    I am an old man. I was born before WWII. I have seen lots of ideas come and go. I have seen lots of events that were of national importance. None of it surprised me. But I have been surprised at the unwillingness to think about change that I have seen here on DKos. I have been watching things here since 2004 and I have never seen a greater collection of closed minds, except when I visit some Republican sites. Each side is calcified, and it won't matter much to me, because I will be dead pretty soon. But it will matter to billions of people when their food supplies drop in nutrition and safety, and it will matter when their water supplies dry up and become unsafe, and it will matter when their electricity becomes unreliable, and gasoline goes to $10.00 per gallon, and...

                    All I can do is warn people in this feeble way, and try to get them to lift up their eyes.

                    We, as a People, know what to do. Hell, even I know what to do. But I won't waste what little time I have left. I am looking for a way to get the story out, and DKos looks less and less like the way forward. I am very disappointed about that. I have long hoped that the thing would change from a college dorm room environment in which all of the participants are eager to show how smart they are, and who listen only to their own voices, but it hasn't.

                    I know I sound like an old fool, but can y'all afford to ignore me or someone like me? Do you have the answers? Should I listen to you? I think I have an answer, but nobody will listen. But, don't worry, I am not through trying. Somehow, someway I will find a way.

                    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                    by hestal on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:39:03 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Scalable, (0+ / 0-)
                      If you mean a government in which the People are able to put forward ideas to each other for improving society, and they are then able to discuss these ideas and decide, by vote of the People, which of these ideas they want to convert to government policy, and they are then able to put the ideas into the proper format, and they are then able to vote again on the law and thereby actually put it into force, then the answer is that we certainly can do that. In fact, we do it very often. We do it many times a year.
                      I do not.

                      Town meetings are a form of direct democracy.  They are the main form of government in these towns (there is no mayor or city council).  Town meetings are open to every voting-age citizen in the town.  Every person can have their say, every person can vote on the legislation.  All the legislation, not just the occasional referendum.

                      Towns generally manage open meetings when their population is under 10K, because of participation rates.   But then they  move to city government because of its practicality.  

                      This model is not scalable once you get to thousands of people, because it would take forever, and because most of us have things like jobs and families that use up most of our waking time. Besides, finding a meeting space would be impossible in most small towns.  

                      As for new tech, making virtual meeting spaces is really expensive.  Most places can't even afford setting up public wifi; they can't set up a virtual legislative assembly.  Not to mention all the trolls, spammers, and hackers that can interfere on a lark.  

                      In essence, the switch to representative democracy is one of practicality, as it should be.

                      Looking around the world, we see many different attempts to address the problems that arise from representative democracy.  Proportional representation is one--- almost no votes are squandered in such a system.  Maybe that would work better than the first-past-the-post system we have now, I don't know.

                      (Note: around the world, "republic" generally means "representative democracy with no monarch"; Canada is not a republic, for instance, while France is.  One more way the meaning of the term has shifted)  

                      Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

                      by nominalize on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:07:04 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Yes it is scalable, and we make good use (0+ / 0-)

                        of it very often in our society.

                        But there is no use to go on. You did not ask me one question about what I am talking about. You had no curiosity at all. You are so sure of yourself. But, you are wrong.

                        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                        by hestal on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:59:31 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  You have little to say but you do it with hundreds (0+ / 0-)

                      of words and lots of angry outbursts. That's why, as you admit, "nobody will listen" to you.  Learn to be brief and polite. Have a good life.

                      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

                      by tekno2600 on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 11:30:30 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

        •  Cheney insisted during the Bushies (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tekno2600, a2nite

          that this was not a democracy but a republic.  

        •  4 nt (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tekno2600
      •  Research it. The debate is not about what form (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sinan, RF, hestal, fuzzyguy, a2nite

        of government the United States currently has and that is a federal constitutional republic.  The debate lies in  what form of government America should have because America has progressed  into and holding out certain democratic backgrounds,  traditions and principles that make a lot of people want our government to be a democracy....or feel we have/or should have moved in that direction.

        However, currently we have a drafted Constitution...we have a shared power between a strong federal government and smaller units (states) who also have their own powers and representatives elected to rule after we put them in office.  We have 3 branches and check and balances.  The Constitution mandates a republic rule even within state governments....although states do not have to have the 3 branches as does the federal...but they still all currently do.

         If you want a true democracy, the first step is  understanding that you do not currently live in one...and thus you can then take whatever needed steps you wish to take to help change that.  If you think we already have a democracy....well, you will continue to be very disappointed in how things turn out.

        I personally wish we had a true democracy or even a representative one but a democracy that also retained the Bill of Rights.

        Start with the White House website and you will see in all described in detail.  You can go on researching from there.

      •  Your PA-12 map (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        verso2

        is the old PA-12 map from 2002. The new one does not include the SW corner of the state, and it is in fact more Republican. Of the areas no longer in the district, Greene has trended Republican quickly anyway (it is largely a coal and gas economy), but the urban parts of Washington county and especially Fayette county (Uniontown) gave Murtha comfortable margins back in the day. The new district adds parts of the Dem-leaning Beaver Valley, but also more of the ancestrally Republican northern fringe of Allegheny and Westmoreland, where Altmire outperformed a generic Dem only because he wasn't very Dem.

        Allegedly Altmire (who is a grade-A asshole) had more pull in the state legislature than Critz, and gave his approval for the district to be less Democratic than it was, to save his sorry Blue Dog ass from a primary. It didn't work, but instead Critz lost the general election.

    •  That was the motto of the John Birch Society (7+ / 0-)

      "This is a republic, not a democracy, let's keep it that way."

      And I never understood it, except that it didn't sound very democratic.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:03:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh c'mon. A republic is a TYPE of representative (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      indie17, TheOrchid, MPociask

      democracy, as is commonly understood today.  Democracy includes EVERY system of government in which citizens vote to choose leadership and/or policy from at least two options.  Without exception.  

      The definition of a republic has been elastic, but it has never preceded democracy as a means of popular government.  Those who insist we're not a democracy have either fallen for the old lie that confuses direct democracy with any democracy, or are knowing redistributors of that lie.

      Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

      by Leftcandid on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 07:36:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Framers definitely rejected democracy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bailey2001, O112358

        in favor of republic. Read Madison's essay, Federalist 10. In it, he explicitly differentiates between a democracy and a republic, and he explicitly describes how a democracy could not handle factions, but a republic could. He also explicitly said that factions were the greatest danger faced by our new nation, and the principle aim of government is to control the harmful effects of faction. He also gives a precise definition of faction.

        So, there is no need to doubt what the Framers' intentions were on the question of democracy vs. republic. They were crystal clear, and the question is settled.

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:28:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Except that... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shaharazade

          ...we're as much democracy as republic, now, and Madison's idea that a republic could control factions doesn't seem to have fared very well against two main factions these days: (1) corporations, and (2) their handmaidens, the Tea Party Republicans.

          The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

          by TheOrchid on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:43:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You are correct on one point: (0+ / 0-)

            Madison's republic has not been able to control factions. In fact no republic of the kind Madison chose can ever control factions. Only a democracy can control factions.

            I don't know what you mean by your statement that we are "as much democracy as republic now."

            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

            by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:46:25 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  That's *direct* democracy; a form of Democracy. (0+ / 0-)

          Direct democracy isn't the only definition of democracy, no matter how many rightwingers repeat that it is.  

          Not saying you're a rightwinger; I know you're not.  The point is that the concept they were discussing is but one small aspect of the larger definition.  We can't be tricked into failing to consider context.  If we're going to redefine democracy as direct democracy, go for it, but why do it?

          Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

          by Leftcandid on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 11:10:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  So, the facts, in your bizarre world, are (0+ / 0-)

            nothing more than a trick?

            That's just plain nuts.

            Whenever people use inaccurate terms in analyzing human systems they usually wind up with inaccurate results.

            In any discussion as important as the nature of our government it is important to define the terms. Madison definitely believed this because he very precisely defined the terms he was using. And he did this for a very important reason. He was letting everybody know that the government he chose would be controlled by elected representatives and that the People would not have any say whatsoever except in elections every two years.

            In addition, Madison took the trouble to explain that the colonial governments, or at least many of them, also used elected representatives to run their government, and they, according to him were doing a bad job.

            So, Madison said, there has to be a way to use representatives and still solve the problems that were plaguing the colonial governments. He tried to devise such a government but he failed. The very things that were bad in the colonial governments are bad in ours today. In fact this diary is about some of the same problems.

            So, by using the same terms that Madison used, by understanding the differences between democracy and republic as he saw them, and by understanding the failings of the colonial governments as he described them we are well prepared to figure out how to fix our government.

            But to react to such a careful, orderly analysis and discussion by accusing me of playing tricks is to admit that you are not prepared to act as a responsible citizen.

            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

            by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 11:22:44 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  But surely you're aware that Republicans (0+ / 0-)

              use this "We're a Republic, not a Demcoracy" argument to propagandize people into voting Republican.  This is indisputable.  

              I'm not disputing what Madison said.  I'm disputing the definition of Democracy as Direct Democracy only.  The concept of a system of government where the citizens govern via a vote of some kind must be called Democracy, & there can be subsets of it, so no, I disagree that we must discuss it exactly as Madison did.   What of Jefferson naming the party he organized the Democratic Republican Party?  Are we thus obligated to value Madison over Jefferson, or vice versa?

              I don't mean to say that calling our government a democracy is not an imprecise answer--it is imprecise--but it is accurate because we vote.  The most precise definition is a federal constitutionally limited democratic republic.  The republic form is not inherently democratic; ours is, but our founders did not create the notion of a republic generally.  It is certainly possible to have a republic without a vote, depending on how one defines it.

              Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

              by Leftcandid on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 09:19:46 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  It is not accurate that voting makes (0+ / 0-)

                a government a democracy. They voted in Russia, and China, and Iraq, and Iran, and Nazi Germany, and ....

                There is only one qualification that makes a country a democracy, and that is that administrative power can be delegated and that transformative power cannot, is not.

                Our government delegates both kinds of power to our representatives. In fact, our constitution makes no distinction between these powers. Amazing, when you think about it.

                If you don't dispute what Madison said, then look at Federalist 10. You will see that he describes several functions that were known as shortcomings of republican governments. After defining these problems, Madison then tries to devise a way to solve them. He failed. But he declared victory. In the final, short paragraph of this important essay he said: "we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government."

                So he spent his time cataloging the "diseases" of republican government, and then he gave us a republican government. And if you read the essay in its entirety you will find that his proposed solutions had no hope of success because they delegated both administrative and transformative power to our representatives.

                There is only one government in history that understood this important consideration, and it did not have the "diseases" that Madison listed and that we have seen ever since.

                If you want to truly understand how ineffectual our republic has been, then make a list of the "diseases" that Madison described and check our own history. You will see outbreaks of these serious diseases everywhere.

                And, finally Madison gives the whole subterfuge away: he denigrated democracies but then says that it was very important that the new government preserve "the form and spirit" of democracies. In other words he said if we let them vote, they will think they have a democracy. And, behold, that is exactly what you think.

                You can look all of this up in Federalist 10.

                Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                by hestal on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:35:38 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Madison =/= "the framers" (0+ / 0-)

          Indeed, many of the framers thought Madison was practically a neo-royalist for espousing a federal vision that would seem to us today to be rather normal.  

          Let's not make fantastical extrapolations just to try to win an argument, when you could focus on actually educating people.

          Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

          by nominalize on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:10:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  How droll. (0+ / 0-)

            The Framers signed off on the form of government, and they, like Madison knew that democracy was an option. So, just to be crystal clear, the Framers including all agreed to the republican form of government. They did not approve a democracy.

            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

            by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:20:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  They approved both. (0+ / 0-)

              Moreover, they did so in every one of their states and cities.

              Look.  I know that when you play Civilization, democracy and republic are two separate choices, so it's totally tempting to see them as inherently distinct.  

              And it is wise to point out that they aren't inherently linked--- you can have democracy without a republic (like the dozens of constitutional monarchies out there), and you can have republics without democracy, like the old Roman Republic.  

              But as Madison, a product of the Enlightenment, would be the first to tell you, knowledge progresses. We have a much more advanced knowledge of how various systems of more or less representative government work than the framers of our constitution did, simply because we've had over 200 years and hundreds of more examples to learn from.

              It is extremely dangerous to hang one's wit upon the words of learned men of long ago as if they were holy writ, even though their knowledge has long been supplanted by thousands of scholars in politics and political science.    

              Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

              by nominalize on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:27:29 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  No, a representative democracy CAN be one type (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        verso2, a2nite

        of republic....however, our form is a federal constitutional republic.  

        Again, the type of government we have currently is not in debate.  We have a drafted Constitution that is considered supreme law of the land and mandates how our government runs and even the focus of the states' own governments.  We have shared power between a federal government and state governments and a 3 branch federal with checks and balances.  Although the Constitution allows for the states to not be run without a 3 branch system, they still must be run and uphold a "republic form" of government ... and currently they all do.  We elect representatives and a few policies, generally by state or locally.  We have an Electoral College rather than a popular vote, and so our President and Vice President are not elected directly by voters, but rather indirectly as that power is given to Electors, who ultimately have the final say.  Since we run our country by the Constitution's guidelines and still follow its tenets there is no argument that we are indeed a republic.

         The argument and debate lies in whether or not we should continue to be a republic....or should we become a democracy because we have processes, backgrounds and traditions that are strongly democratic. A republic can have democratic processes in play, in certain areas and still be a republic and America does have that background in modern history....thus, the move by a lot of people, to fully implement that form of government.

  •  The Court won't do anything (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Cedwyn, nextstep

    I could be wrong, but I don't see it.  The people elect the politicians who draw the lines, we can make redistricting more of an issue at the polls if we want to see change.  Or that would be my argument if I was a lawyer defending partisan gerrymandering.

    But I think it might be moot by 2020.  The "blue" area keep expanding out from the urban areas as the inner suburbs become more diverse and Democratic, while there is no countering trend of increasing Republican votes in the cities.  If that trend holds, there will be no amount of gerrymandering that can save the GOP.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 09:30:46 PM PST

    •  Disagree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shaharazade

      Given an existing majority, they can play with what's legal on the +-.

      E.g. New York's +- 5%, they can push it to 6%, then 7% ...

      To overcome this purely with numbers of voters, Democrats would need about an 80%/20% advantage.

      "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

      by nosleep4u on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 07:38:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  +6% (0+ / 0-)

        To have a truly representative House under the current maps the Democratic party would have needed a +6 national margin.

        I think the best solution is to pursue a 50/50 plan. Half of the reps are elected from districts with the other half elected using "at large" state wide seats. Bringing back competition to the electoral process is our best hope for reducing the dysfunction.

        Getting the gamesmanship out of states is a good government measure.

        Its funny how the party of free markets spends its time building unilateral monopolies by gaming the system.

      •  What's with the +/-5% criterion? (0+ / 0-)

        Is it local to New York? In general, court decisions I've seen require well under 1% variance under the Supreme Court's 1960s "one man/one vote" decision.

  •  The House of Unrepresentatives is misrepresenting (11+ / 0-)

    again.

    Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

    by tekno2600 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 11:06:23 PM PST

  •  Error in the diary: California (16+ / 0-)
    Of course, it’s true that congressional districts in several states, including California, Illinois and Maryland, were redrawn by Democrats in ways that favored that party.
    California's districts were drawn by an independent commission made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans plus two independents.  The diarist is incorrect in saying that the Democrats drew the lines to favor themselves.

    It's true that Democrats gained seats in the re-drawing, but that's because the old lines were drawn for incumbent protection. With the new lines, races were closer, but Democrats won a lot of squeakers.

    •  Thank You (0+ / 0-)

      I was going to add this point myself until I saw your comment.

    •  Got rid of a lot of bad incumbents, too (0+ / 0-)

      Howard Berman (D) -- gone.
      Mary Bono Mack (R) -- gone.

      Internet advocates were happy about those. I'm sure there were others to be happy about for different reasons. The practice of incumbents entrenching themselves in uncompetitive districts in CA is dead. Berman himself was the redistricting king (via his brother in the state leg), so his loss was especially appropriate.

  •  Another factor also to be figured in. (9+ / 0-)

    The "Hastert" rule which the Republicans follow slavishly, save for the Fiscal Cliff requires a vote inside the caucus, the results of which are required to be followed by all Rs at one level or another, but what that means is that all issues are in fact decided inside that caucus and nowhere else, which further means that no Non R in fact gets to have a voice in the decision, and s/he and his/her district are entirely disenfranchised.

    If you recall, it didn't matter how many of the Ts didn't like Boney, but they figured out exactly how many were needed to elect him to keep contraol of the committee process, the rules process and all the mechanics of the house, and that control was kept with the max number needed not to protest voting for him out of a T caucus of 67, leaving the number who insulted him available to do so.

  •  Model democracy? Not so sure. (6+ / 0-)
    The United States of America was the world’s first modern democracy and it has remained the world’s model democracy ever since.
    Model democracy?  Ya, except for that little incident in the 1860's in which over 2 percent of the population was KILLED, it's been mostly smooth sailing.  Oh-and the 2000 election.  And voter ID laws.  And unreliable and unverifiable electronic voting.  And partisan control of the election apparatus.  And the lack of any national standards.  And the unlimited flow of money into elections.  And the most expensive elections on earth.  And the influence of corporate lobbying.  Hmmm....  I could keep going for a while.

    But that really had nothing to do with the substance of the diary, which was impressive.  It was well written and informative.  Thank you for taking the time, it was well worth the read.

    We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

    by RageKage on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 12:11:01 AM PST

  •  More people voted for Democrats (9+ / 0-)

    in Congress than for Republicans in 2012. Dems won the popular Congress vote and STILL Republicans control the chamber. Don't let ANYONE tell you people voted for a "Divided government".

    Why do I have the feeling George W. Bush joined the Stonecutters, ate a mess of ribs, and used the Constitution as a napkin?

    by Matt Z on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 05:00:05 AM PST

  •  Why don't we just throw these seven states out of (0+ / 0-)

    Union Altogether -  and maybe replace them by making Mexico a State..

    That will not only make our Reresentative Democracy more Representative, it will solve our immigration problem overnight and I believe it even might us Oil-Independent right now.

  •  this is why the 2010 elections were so important (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite

    but i'm sorry, this is just nonsense:

    Democrats currently lead Republicans by 1,362,351 votes in the overall popular vote total.  Democratic House candidates earned 49.15 percent of the popular vote, while Republicans earned only 48.03 percent.”
    they didn't win enough votes in the right districts, and that is all that matters. until house races are won by this metric, it's a meaningless metric.

    all it tells us is that dems placed a lot of votes in places the GOP wasn't ever going to win and vice versa.  and really, we're talking about not even a full 1% of difference.

    even if their wins are 100% due to gerrymandering, the stat is meaningless.

    Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

    by Cedwyn on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 05:48:30 AM PST

    •  Chicken and egg... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      polecat, triv33, shaharazade

      Basically what you are saying is that the shape of the districts don't match the number of votes cast - which is the whole point of gerrymandering, to concentrate the popular vote of the other party into areas that won't win districts.

      It's hardly a meaningless issue. If we want representative government, we can't depend on winning control of the ability to draw the district along unrepresentative lines.

      •  i didn't say the issue was meaningless (0+ / 0-)

        i said the stat is, and it is.  and we are only talking about less than 1% difference in those vote totals.  

        it's also true that of the 234 House seats held by the GOP, Obama only won 15 of them.  i'm not sure one can chalk that entirely up to gerrymandering.  i suppose comparing, as best as may, to the 2008 presidential results might be illuminating.

        Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

        by Cedwyn on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:37:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The stat is clearly not meaningless. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zinman

      While garnering only 48% of the popular vote, Republicans control 53.5% of House seats, for a full 5.5% spread.  Given the nubmer of votes cast in the 2012 election, this means that something is seriously, seriously amiss, and it's because of highly undemocratic House district gerrymandering by Republicans.  It's flatly undemocratic and, since Republicans lost the popular vote this year, highly un American as well.  This is particularly troubling as there is a movement starting amongst Republicans in a number of swing states to change awarding of electoral votes from winner-take-all to apportionment by which candidate won which Congressional district.  At least one Republican operative has already made the case that, had such apportionment been in place during the 2012 elections, Romney would have won the Presidency.

      So yeah, the stat is not meaningless.  Quite the opposite - it's practically the only stat that matters.

      The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

      by TheOrchid on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:59:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, but... (0+ / 0-)

    ...unless you are advocating a Parliamentary-style national party vote for Congress, you will always face the risk that, on a district by district level, the outcome of elected legislators will differ from the national total vote, even if no gerrymandering occurs (and don't forget, Democrats have done the same thing...how many Illinois House seats are you prepared to give up?)

    •  Or mixed-member proportional representation (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      verso2, homunq

      like Germany and New Zealand use. You can have districted seats, but with a set of overhang seats to balance out the party representation.

      •  Proportional Representation (PR) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        43north

        Yes, PR is the only real solution for gerrymandering. The problem is that urban centers are up to 95% D, while rural areas are mostly not over 75% R. This means that even a party-blind, "fair" districting procedure will tend to skew R by a bit.

        And actually, there are even better PR choices these days than MMP (as suggested by above comment). I'm talking about biproportional systems such as PAL representation. Such systems would elect the same members from the same districts in a state where that's proportionally fair; but could guarantee that over 80% of Americans would have a representative they'd voted for (directly or indirectly). How? By expanding representatives territory to cover multiple districts, so that each district would have one rep per (winning) party. So for instance in a state with 9 districts and 10-20% Green voters, 50-60% Democratic voters, and 30-40% republican voters, there'd be a single statewide Green representative; 5 Ds (probably 1 each for the strongest 2 D districts, 1 for the 3 weakest districts, and the others with 2 districts each); and 3 Rs (with about 3 districts each).

        Senate rules which prevent any reform of the filibuster are unconstitutional. Therefore, we can rein in the filibuster tomorrow with 51 votes.

        by homunq on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 05:00:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Here in Maryland, progressive groups allied w/ GOP (3+ / 0-)

    to try to get the new 7-1 map thrown out by referendum for being overly partisan. Referendum failed and we'll never have more than 1 republican rep from Maryland again. Personally, I would have gone for an 8-0 map, but the incumbents were opposed to it.

    •  Here in Massachusetts (0+ / 0-)

      we have had an all-Democratic delegation since 1996. In two straight cycles our overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature has drawn the districts (10 in the 2000 census, 9 in this census) to exclude the GOP. Only one of our districts was competitive in 2012 (the 6th) and that was because the incumbent had some scandal issues to overcome.

      Personally I love it, but it always makes me uncomfortable when people bring up this issue. The GOP had about 35-40% of House votes statewide and got no seats. But given what they did in Texas and Colorado last time (redistricting mid-decade to squeeze more juice from the lemon), screw 'em.

      Big issue is we happened to lose a lot of state legislatures in states with large House delegations in 2010, precisely the wrong time.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 10:36:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I wasn't part of that, but (0+ / 0-)

      I sure did agree that I've seen better 7-1 maps, some of them here on Kos. Seriously, my congressional district (8) now looks ridiculous. Chris Van Hollen's district is a noodle reaching from the PA to the DC border.

      A lot of people who got thrown out of VH's and Donna's districts were not happy with it, not at all.

      A subtext of all this is the desire of the MD Democratic party to hand-design districts for particular people, a practice generally unpopular with voters when they get wind of it, which leads them to do somewhat foolish things like vote for bankers

      “Delaney spent more money and ran a more able campaign, but I think there was another element to it — Garagiola came in incredibly cocky, as if it was not a race,” said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

      if necessary for years; if necessary, alone

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 03:10:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I hope we can keep this in mind (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yella dawg, Ohkwai

    as 2014 approaches. We didn't do so well on that in 2010.

    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

    by sidnora on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:37:15 AM PST

  •  Minor correction (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    celdd, SanJoseLady, verso2
    Of course, it’s true that congressional districts in several states, including California, ...
    California redistricting was non-partisan. Wording in the diary makes it sound as if this was a partisan gerrymander.

    Yes, it happened to favor Democrats, but that's because it now more closely represents the popular vote. Previous maps were partisan, but were designed to secure incumbents, not maximize party seats.

    "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

    by nosleep4u on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 07:23:14 AM PST

  •  Yes. (0+ / 0-)
    we must also preserve our model democracy with model representation of the will of its people.

    "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 07:42:18 AM PST

  •  And extended from this.... (0+ / 0-)

    In the overall popular vote in ALL congressional districts, I would like to see how many more people voted for Dems than repubs. I suppose due to redistricting, the full impact might need to wait for next cycle.

    Everything repubs stand for is based on lie.  Ugh.

    This is one of the best chart representations I have seen on this.  

    Would like to see it on every state.

  •  if Ryan is talkin,' he's lyin.' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, shaharazade, a2nite

    that Americans "chose divided government" is merely today's, or, this hour's, whopper.

  •  This diary would never have been (0+ / 0-)

    written if the Framers had chosen to install a democracy rather than a republic.

    In Federalist 10, James Madison said that there were two differences between a democracy and a republic. He said:

    The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.
    So, in a democracy, according to James Madison, the Father of the Constitution a democracy does not have representatives. I repeat, Madison said that a democracy does not have representatives. This means that, according to Madison, only republics have elections for choosing their representatives. Therefore if the Framers had installed a democracy then we would not need congressional districts because we would not have elections. Therefore there would be no such thing as redistricting or gerrymandering, and this diary would have been unnecessary.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:38:46 AM PST

  •  the House of Misrepresentatives (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    appledown, a2nite

    would be a more accurate description for the abomination that pretends to be be the People's elected body in Washington (it is anything but, with districts corruptly and deliberately manipulated to guarantee a certain party will get it and unlimited amounts of secret corporate cash allowing people to just waltz on in and purchase themselves a seat...on behalf of the john's that these political prostitutes willingly do the bidding for).

    And John Boehner is the biggest misrepresentative of all, deliberately trying to create the impression that he and the rest of the body "represents" the People of the country when he knows full well that is simply not the truth.

  •  Amend the Constitution (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, a2nite

    I suggest we form a movement to promote ...

    "A constitutional amendment making it illegal to create any congressional, state or local office voting district, based on race, wealth or political persuasion for the purpose of benefiting a particular political party."

    Let's outlaw gerrymandering.

  •  Vitally important topic. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beetlebum, Lawrence

    Right now it seems the best we can manage is to target heavily those districts where we might have a shot. I don't know how many seats that means.

    I always imagine that, with computers, there could be some kind of standard formula for districts. Say, you start at each state's northeastern-most point, or the center, and from there delineate the districts purely on the basis of equal population. Or some such.

    That's imagination with really no clue as to how practicable it would be. But some impartial method has to be found.

    If one is, I imagine it would take a Constitutional Amendment or something to override, if possible, each State's Legislature from determining districts.


    Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

    by Jim P on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:21:40 AM PST

    •  There has to be a better way ... (0+ / 0-)

      There's got to be a better way than what we're doing now (or having done to us). Also, if the Democrats take this on as a party mission, and actually LEAD on the idea of making our system fairer, we can gain the moral high ground in the minds of voters.

      The fact that it's the right thing to do shouldn't be a small part of the calculation.

      And while we're at it, let's make Citizen's United unconstitutional as well.

  •  Preconceived notions. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade, a2nite

    It all depends on which preconceived notions are brought to an issue.

    The ownership society believes that

    to govern = to rule

    to represent = to rule as a parent would --in loco parentis

    democracy = to select via the ballot

    republic = rex (king) publio (of the people)

    presidency = rotating dictatorship

    The ownership of things is the sop to compensate for the fact that the people are not in charge.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:34:24 AM PST

  •  Thanks for this much needed diary. (0+ / 0-)

    "No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar." Abraham Lincoln

    by appledown on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:37:24 AM PST

  •  I tried explaining this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite

    to my Republican father, and he just didn't get it.

    He just kept going on about how all the Democrats were concentrated in urban areas, so naturally, this is the result. My point was that the districts ought to be drawn by population, not by area... so that any concentration of votes should have minimal impact. Plus, I pointed out that Republicans also have concentrations of votes in rural areas. But these points simply didn't sink in. sigh.

    Freedom isn't free. So quit whining and pay your taxes.

    by walk2live on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:49:33 AM PST

    •  They are drawn by population (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      verso2, marsanges

      It is unconstitutional to draw them by area. But it's now possible, with software, to produce districts that are very closely equal in population but stacked in terms of partisan ID.

      The two techniques generally used are "packing" and "cracking." When there's a large number of Dems in an area, but not a big majority, you can "crack" them; split them into two or more districts where they are a minority. Example: an area with 45% Dems. You split the area into two 55-45 GOP districts, instead of one Dem-likely and one GOP-likely. 45% of votes, but no seats.

      If the numbers are big enough that you can't prevent having at least one Dem district, you "pack" as many Dems as possible into one district. That gives them 95-5 wins in that district, but they're outnumbered in all the other districts. Example: an area with 60% Dems supporting three districts. Each district has 33% of the total population of the area. You can make one district ultra-Democratic (say its 33% of the total pop. is 30% Dem, 3% GOP). That leaves the other 30% Dem to split into two GOP 18 to 15 districts. So 60% of the votes and only 1 of 3 seats.

      The software has such detailed info on voting trends by precinct (precincts being very small and localized) that it's not hard to do this.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 10:47:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's what I meant... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fenway49

        basically that it should not matter where someone lives.

        I put together a very simple spreadsheet showing two ways to split up a population among 5 districts - one gerrymandered, one not. Both examples had the same vote totals, but in the gerrymandered example, the results by district were obviously skewed.

        It didn't matter. You can't argue with someone who doesn't grasp the concept.

        Freedom isn't free. So quit whining and pay your taxes.

        by walk2live on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 04:23:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  True (0+ / 0-)

          If the person doesn't (or doesn't want to) grasp the concept, it's very hard.

          Here in Massachusetts, to my delight, our districts are drawn so that all nine are pretty safe Democratic. The statewide House vote might be something like 62-38 and the vote in virtually every district is pretty close to 62-38. The GOP is frozen out.

          But we didn't have to do anything too crazy on the map to get there, we just happen to have Democrats spread out pretty well. There are plenty of states with GOP legislatures that do the same in reverse.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:37:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The second part of this sentence is not true (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fuzzyguy, a2nite, marsanges, Lawrence
    The United States of America was the world’s first modern democracy and it has remained the world’s model democracy ever since.  
    ... or at least arguably not true. If you look at the rest of the modern democracies they have by and large all created a parliamentary type system and mostly used some form of proportional representation creating multi-party democracies and not our winner-take-all system that allows for this sort of abuse.

    I haven't read through their pages in a couple years but FairVote provided a really great resource on the various forms of proportional representation used around the world and what the various pros and cons of the systems were. There is no perfect system but there are several that are far better than ours and most new democracies take a look at ours and reject it.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 10:11:59 AM PST

  •  the sad part (0+ / 0-)

    is that the core constituency the GOP depends on most to enable their stupidity and hypocrisy would be marginalized and generally 'unacceptable' except that the GOP has 1000 unchallenged  radio stations to amplify and coordinate their messaging.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 11:40:16 AM PST

  •  We would be a lot better off if a computer (0+ / 0-)

    were to do the districting nationwide.

    Districting in the hands of politicians have kept this nation back for too long.  It promotes racism and pits neighbor against neighbor instead of fostering conditions where neighbors work in concert for their own common good.

    And everyone whining about the GOP redistricting should look at the new districts here in Illinois.  it is a travesty that any political party be allowed to draw districts such as those.

  •  Institute the Wyoming Rule (0+ / 0-)

    Basically what the Wyoming Rule is that since Wyoming as house district itself has the smallest population no district shall be larger. It would add approximately 100 seats to the house. Legislatures all over the world have much larger legislatures than ours and have slipped into the ocean yet. Along with this through the power of the Constitution in Article 1, Congress could implement redistricting rule along with the process.

    Section. 4.The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
     

    "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

    by phastphil40 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:41:37 AM PST

  •  Karl Rove's 2010 architecture crossed the line (0+ / 0-)

    Excellent article!  Especially when keep in mind that the now least democratic body--the U.S. House-- is constitutionally supposed to be the most democratic. How did this gross perversion of constitutional purpose come about?

    In 2010, the 21st century architect of 50-year Republican Party domination, Karl Rove, applied across the ticket the five-point "red shift" he had been for using as a Republican handicap for his candidates for high office.  This yielded the greatest shift in reported party electoral success since the 1930's.  

    When the gerrymandering is the result of the broadest application of electronic vote shifting technology in history, as part of a conspiracy to establish single party monopoly power in the United States, surely the line of conscience and lawfulness has been crossed.

  •  Excellent diary. (0+ / 0-)

    This is the type of diary that keeps me coming back to DailyKos.

    If we had a sensible media, this issue would be in the headlines over and over again until fair redistricting takes place.

    Tipped and recced.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:13:28 AM PST

  •  Department of Justice (0+ / 0-)

    Too many abuses in the red states for the DOJ not to investigate.  Gerrymander is one.  Federal voting rights law should be amended to reflect federal law that protects the popular vote.  Change the rules and take the abusers to court if they refuse to respond.  The GOP is so obvious in its disrespect for voting laws that we need to hit back hard or accept an illegal take-over of our government.  I have been commenting on this for the past few weeks and generally receive support for a response now.  The non-partisan committee in California prevented extremes.  Any extreme that prevents democracy can and should be challenged.

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