Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, August 12, 2002
 
Safe House

Republicans are now basing their hopes for the 2002 Congressional elections largely on the assumption that they will be able to neutralize an interest group largely hostile to them - voters. Redistricting from the 2000 census has been carefully done to protect incumbents. Very few seats are now competitive, and the GOP money machine guarantees enormous funds will be available for their candidates in those few races.

Republicans say they have seen no evidence of that to date. Still, in expressing confidence that they would hold the House, party leaders pointed not to the national mood, but rather to political, fund raising and demographic forces that have created a political fire wall for Republicans.

"I've seen grim off-years and we're a 1,000 miles from that," Mr. McInturff said. "Thank goodness for the Republicans that there are far fewer competitive seats than there normally are in a reapportionment year, and that they are well-funded."

The broad picture looks very favorable for Democrats. The 2001 elections, which were generally described as a draw, were actually a sweeping victory for the Democrats. Every change that has occurred since - the decline in Bush's popularity, the continuing weakness of the economy and a likely double-dip recession, the business bankruptcies and scandals, the return of perpetual budget deficits - works mostly in our favor.

Republicans now seem to have conceded the Senate, and only the small number of seats available protects them in the House. This study finds only 19 competitive seats available; most analyses put the number around 40, still only 9% of the total.

Republicans couldn't and didn't pull this off alone. Democrats have been just as eager to gerrymander to protect their own. Here in California, with a Democratic Governor and and solid majorities in both houses of the legislature, it is expected that every incumbent in both parties, other than Condit, is likely to be re-elected without a serious challenge. Condit's seat is described as competitive, but will almost certainly stay Democratic.

So we now have the standard of performance required in the gerrymandered incumbent-protection system. For a Congressman to keep his seat, he must avoid being caught having an adulterous affair with a woman he may possibly have murdered to shut her up.

Since both parties are joined in what amounts to a conspiracy to undermine democracy, the only alternative is to take the process out of their hands and let non-partisan boards draw district lines, which is done in most other democracies.



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