Thursday, June 26, 2008


David Broder has an interesting piece on gerrymandering and its effect on voter turnout.
In 2002 and 2006, the most recent off-year elections, about nine out of 10 congressional districts were won by more than 10 percentage points -- a clear sign that the game had been rigged when the lines were drawn in the state legislatures. In the first of those years, only eight incumbents lost; in the second, only 21.

As scholars have pointed out, the scarcity of real competition in nearly all districts has many consequences -- all of them bad. It makes legislators less responsive to public opinion, since they are in effect safe from challenge in November. It shifts the competition from the general election to the primary, where candidates of more extreme views can hope to attract support from passionately ideological voters and exploit the low turnouts typical of those primaries.

Gerrymandered, one-party districts tend to send highly partisan representatives to the House or the legislature, contributing to the gridlock in government that is so distasteful to voters.
I've written on this subject before. I would welcome reform.

Unfortunately, Broder dilutes his piece by opening with a silly attack on Barack Obama.
When Barack Obama decided last week to throw off the constraints on campaign spending that go with the acceptance of public financing, he was rightly criticized for rigging the system in his favor.
It's "rigging the system" to say, "I'll pay my own way instead of taking public money?" How so? Obama was rightly criticized, but not for rigging the system. The valid criticism is that he retreated from his prior commitment to public financing, and his promise to work with his opponent to stay within that system.

Did somebody attempt to "rig the system" (I would probably say "game the system", and perhaps "break campaign finance laws") in relation to public financing, using a commitment to public financing in order to get on a state primary ballot and to get loans for his campaign, then flip-flop on his entire record of "campaign finance reform", breaking his word, and declining public money? Absolutely. But that person was John McCain.

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