aNewDomain — The Constitution of the United States protects us from tyranny. It was designed that way. Geniuses came up with it, and it’s been doing its job for going on three centuries now.
Lately, though, there is a lot of talk about our democracy being undermined by Russian hackers. This is true, actually. The Russian government got into our voting systems. They got into our social media, making fake profiles to friend average people through which they could disseminate anti-Clinton memes. And they at least attempted to influence officials in and around the Trump campaign.
But none of this was ever really necessary.
We Americans have been working hard to destroy our own democracy from the very beginning.
And that, as Donald Trump would say, is just sad.
A losing game
Whenever you talk about gerrymandering, someone in the room will just shake their head and claim that both sides do it.
That, too, is true.
But what’s also true is that there’s one side that does it more — and better.
Fully two thirds of the congressional seats that Democrats would need to flip in 2018 to gain control of Congress are in non-competitive districts were gerrymandered to be safe red seats
I mean, please. Despite the noise on Twitter leading up to the election, Jon Ossoff was never going to win Georgia’s 6th District. Tom Price was selected out of that district. Why? Because it was safe. Yes, Ossoff’s campaign came within a couple of points of success. That near-victory (another word for a loss) might be useful to Dems down the road as a fund-raising tool, but this was a Republican victory all the way.
And it demonstrated exactly why the lines they drew as a firewall against Democratic incursion are going to hold in 2018.
The victor, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, was well known for her orchestrating massive voter purging efforts when in that office. Because her purges seemed to target Democratic voters (especially people of color) she lost an earlier bid for Senate and endured all manner of legal hassles.
But Senate races are not affected by gerrymandering. And ultimately, Handel won her race against Ossoff for congress in the same red district she’d helped purge of left-leaning voters.
You know, cable news doesn’t talk about these issues much. Most media treated the 6th district election as a referendum on President Trump. But it wasn’t. Not really.
Every day, we talk about politics as though it is normal and democratic but it isn’t.
What isn’t a secret is that, for the second time in my lifetime, a majority of Americans voted for a Democratic president yet this country elected a Republican one. Gerrymandering does not directly affect presidential elections.
Indirectly, blue voters in safe red districts might be difficult to motivate to come out on voting day. Indeed, Democratic voter apathy is legendary during non-presidential years.
But states elect presidents on their own popular vote. What happens at the Electoral College level is gerrymandering, pure and simple. Remember: A vote in Wyoming counts more than three times as much as a vote in California. That’s why the 2016 Presidential Election was over before California and Hawaii votes were even counted.
And voter suppression is also part of the picture, too. You can’t deny it. Here in America, we jail black people at rates much higher than white people — and for identical offenses. This disenfranchises and permanently takes out black, poor, typically Democratic voters.
The whole point of Voter ID laws is to keep these Democratic voters from the polls. That’s not just an allegation from the losing party, either.
It’s explicitly why these laws are introduced. And we have that right from the horse’s mouth.
These tactics do what they are designed to do: disenfranchise opposition voters.
Three of the most important states in President Trump’s 2016 victory were the most heavily invested in voter suppression. These states carried President Obama in 2008 and, for two of the three, in 2012; all three carried Trump in 2016.
The margins of victory in all those states were in the tens of thousands. As in the Bush/Gore election, a few voters in a few counties mattered. As for the rest of us, well, we hardly mattered at all.
It seems pretty clear that without voter suppression, we have broadly Democratic state governments and representatives, and a Democratic president.
At long last, Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case about political gerrymandering. That’s something they’ve refused to do for the last couple of hundred years.
But the court’s timing seems awfully suspicious.
Consider: Pres. Barack Obama nominated a replacement for Justice Scalia following the judge’s death. But a Republican Senate – with a majority that owes something to anti-democractic voter suppression tactics – refused to vote on that replacement.
And when their party got a president, they put up none other than Neil Gorsuch. They had to bring in the Vice President to break a tie on his confirmation – for the first time in U.S. history. But they did it.
A Republican’s dream
He’s already voted in favor of allowing tax money to go to religious institutions. Republicans have wanted this forever. It is hard to see how this is constitutional.
And ask yourself this: What’s going to happen when a mosque uses tax dollars to repair their playground?
So, as gerrymandering cases make their way up to the Supreme Court, can we trust our justices to rule in favor of democracy?
Conservatives of late have shown no particular regard for democracy. Forget the Russia allegations for a moment. It doesn’t take Russian interference to undermine our confidence in our electoral system.
The bigger problem is how little most Americans seem to care about our own election system.
Conservative voters seem happy to accept any rationalization for voter suppression. And no conservative institution is out there challenging gerrymandered districts in conservative states.
This is the end of the win-at-all-costs mentality.
Wanting your party in regardless of the price — even if it cripples or kills the democratic process — is the sort of thinking that leads directly to dictatorship, to tyranny.
Right now, The Trump administration has a commission to investigate voting irregularities. It has demanded a raft of sensitive and confidential voting records from all 50 states.
So far, a majority has refused to comply, including Kansas – whose Secretary of State is leading the commission requesting the data. In many cases, as with Kansas, this may only be because state laws prohibit such sharing of data.
Big Data, letter bombs and the war on drugs
Voter suppression is targeted. Republican operatives can letter-bomb neighborhoods with misinformation about voting dates or rules, just for starters.
More concerning, it’s easy to see how the war on drugs could be directed to particular neighborhoods based on voting habits. Big Data is the gerrymanderer’s new best friend. It lets them go street by street, house by house. More data allows for more precise gerrymandering that can surgically exclude voters from districts where they might matter.
And as tactics grow more sophisticated, so do the means to measure their success. This is called the Efficiency Gap: how much more a Republican vote matters then a Democratic one.
On such measures, the state of North Carolina scores the worst. In that state, some 2.4 million Americans voted Republican and 2.1 million voted Democrat. But the state sent 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats to Congress.
This mirrors a nationwide trend of Republicans either losing the popular vote or winning by slim margins but sending a lopsidedly Red team to the federal government.
Conservatives are supposed to be about freedom. The Constitution is meant to protect us from tyranny. But conservative judges, state legislatures and federal representatives are working relentlessly to keep power for themselves, excluding and disenfranchising dissenting voices.
This is rule of the majority.
This is what giving America back to King George looks like.
In the end, such elected officials don’t work for us. They never did. We’ve known for decades that the Congress and the Senate work for rich folks at the cost of the rest of us. Conservatives will tell you that’s mere hyperbole. The data says otherwise.
The terrible thing we allowed in 2016 was the removable of the middleman. Our representatives used to need to be bribed by corporations in the form of lobbyists and campaign contributions. But now we’ve elected the corporations and their double-speak directly to power.
This is the central danger of building these machines to elect Republicans. Just about anyone now can pick them up and use them.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover image: TheImaginativeConservative.org, All Rights Reserved. Inside image: PatriotInstitute, All Rights Reserved.