And you call this Democracy????

I came across this article on the BBC regarding the practice of Gerrymandering in the United States. In ties in nicely with a second article in relation to foreign observers of U.S. elections.

“What do foreign observers bring to American elections?” Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, wrote to constituents. “We are not a country suppressed by tyranny and aggression; we are a free nation built upon a foundation of citizen democracy.”

I find it shocking that the American people don’t vote-in all independents and throw both the Republican and Democrat bums out.  Electoral boundaries should be drawn from a non-partisan group using census data.  Only in America would elections where the incumbent gets to choose who can vote for him be called “Free and Fair” and a “Citizen Democracy.”  Looks more like Zimbabwe.

Take back your country America!

21 thoughts on “And you call this Democracy????

  1. I see how that problem ends up creating hardcore hardliners who rarely have to reach out to get independants to vote for them. And makes incumbents stay in power like lords of old for decades.

    What I don’t really understand is: if some politican excludes certain people so that he can be sure of getting those who are more likely to vote for him – the rest has to vote too, don’t they? They vote in some other area, but they can vote. Wouldn’t that cancel stuff out at least at a higher level?

    Maybe you can bring a bit sense to it, LordKlegg, and explain it.

    PS: Here in Germany, election boundaries are automatically tied to the counties (nearest term that applies) and try changing THEM. Too much bureacracy to shift easily. One of the advantages of ‘unflexible systems’, I guess.

  2. Redistricting procedures are controlled at the state level. Having heard that Iowa has the best system, I took a look at their procedures several month’s ago. Here are a few of the things that stood out. They are prohibited from drawing boundaries to favor particular parties, candidates, or ethnic groups. Wherever practicle, districts should follow county or municipal boundaries – some additional rules apply to large metropolitan areas. They establish several metrics (e.g. ratio of perimeter to area)to provide measures of compactness for a district and provide rules to achieve compactness. The procedure is iterative.

    I believe I looked at this page that contains a lot of good information.

    http://www.legis.state.ia.us/Redist/Redist.html

    The procedures in Missouri do incorporate the idea of metrics, but, given the shape of the 2nd and 3rd (Federal) congressional districts they have to have been applied haphazardly. 

    “What do foreign observers bring to American elections?” Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, wrote to constituents. “We are not a country suppressed by tyranny and aggression; we are a free nation built upon a foundation of citizen democracy.”

    It shows that in some sense we are becoming a third world country. In Florida, Jeb Bush is pulling some of the same the same crap that he did in the last election.

    This article lists some of Jimmy Carter’s concerns about the situation in Florida

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3693354.stm

    There is more about Florida (touch screen voting machines with no paper trail) in three or four key counties.

    DOF’s post. In the Totenberg article, an RNC official said that attendees aren’t screened. Loyalty oaths and preferential admission for campaign volunteers – these people lie as readily as the rest of us draw breath.

    In addition to the the loyalty oath, they also require you to provide your SSN along with some other personal data. That bothers me a bit.

  3. What most other countries, and most Americans for that matter, don’t understand about our government is that the President has very very little power what so ever! Our constitution intentionaly made it that way. We have 3 branches of government, the congress, the president and the judicial branch. The only one of those three with REAL POWER is the judicial branch. It does not matter if George Bush or John Ferry or fucking Side Show Bob is president all the president is is a face for the rest of the world to see, the only power he personally has is veto power. The president can absolutely NOT (may I repeat NOT) declare war on any mother fucking body! He does not affect our economy or anything he is just a face. He can try to sway votes about issues in his favor but he can not do shit on his own!
    The funny thing is, the supreme court is not voted on and they have the majority of power and we can’t even decide who is gonna wear that black gown and interpret the “hidden meaning” behind the fucking constitution! And NOBODY nobody not the president, not congress can tell these unelected people that they are wrong! Thats kinda fucked up! Who gives a shit who is president or who checks to make sure the “right” people are at their town meetings? In the end it does not matter. The president is just the face that greets the rest of the world and love him or hate him, he cant change a fucking thing in our country or anyone elses.

  4. Our defunct education system strikes again.

    First off 1/3 of our government is an awful lot of power even in your distorted view.

    The President sets policy, appoints supreme court justices, selects cabinet members and drafts/vetoes legislation.  Just to name a few.

    If you don’t believe these things end up effecting your everyday life you either live at home in your parent’s basement or have been institutionalized for the last four years.

  5. So presidents appoint the judges who are the secret shadow government?

    But presidents have no power, huh?

    Of course, you can explain everything with a vast conspiracy. And anything that makes sense outside of the NWO can be explained by declaring it a well-working cover scam.

    Sheesh. I believe many politicans are corrupt. But there’s enough visible corruption for us not to need to invent anything else.

  6. Does anyone notice that the most unconvincing entries are always the ones with bad spelling and no paragraphs?

    It makes you wonder if those people don’t believe in their own opinions. Or why do they have to throw them on the table in such a hurried way?

  7. Well, its all relative.

    Against:
    As already pointed out Gerrymandering is bad for politics because

    1) Allows incumbents to stay in power for a long time.

    2) Makes politics more ‘political’ or more divided since politician need not cater to the middle ground to get the votes.

    3) They may be used to displace politicians by placing them in a district whose views are against those of the politicians.

    For:
    However, one could just as easily argue for it
    1) Redistricting does not per se allow incumbents to stay in power for the people would still have to vote for him/her. And if the people keep voting a person in time and time again, then perhaps it means that the people feel that the politician representing them is doing a good job. This could be contrasted to an employee that is fired for not doing what the boss wants and the employee who the boss really really wants to keep for doing the job well done.

    2) By forcing the politician to go towards the middle ground to get the votes, that have effectively meant that they are no longer truly representing the people. True this may be argued as a form of compromise but what if the people want their voice to be heard without any dilution. For example if half the people in that district are environmentalist and the other half are heavy industry polluters then it is really difficult to represent both sides effectively. And in fact many people complain that politicians are ‘corrupt’ in the sense that they make deals with the other side (compromise). So redistricting actually helps one get a politician that will not compromise the position of the people who voted for him/her.

    3) While one is pretty much free to carve up the district in whatever manner, there is still the rule relating to amount of people in each district. If for example one is able to carve up a district that consists of one house and that house happens to be the politician house and lump all say 5 million people from the other party in one district then that would be problematic. For each district carved up that consist of voters leaning to one side, there will be another group of people with voters leaning the other side. Redistricting does not make people’s view go away. Or put in another way, the candidate could easily go and stand for election at another district. It may be argued that doing so would place a disadvantage on that person but was not one of the arguments against this based on that of keeping an incumbent in power for too long.

  8. I will still say that any system that protects incumbents like that is inherently anti-democratic.

    Continuing like that will (in the long run) cause situations like in ancient England, where some disctricts for parliament were totally fake things, being bought and sold. You know, places where there WAS enough population in former times, things like that.

    Really, nothing keeps a politico on his toes like the threat of losing. Sure, it also makes them much more likely to be in ‘election mode’ all the time, but better than people who feel they have a ‘right’ to their seats.

  9. I’d be more than happy to vote in independents…
    But right now I’d even settle for a decent TWO party system.

  10. The unfortunate reality is that candidates need a party infrastructure with the ability to raise fundining. They have to buy media coverage, register voters, get out the vote and sustain the infrastructure. I believe that, when the 527s are thrown in, expenditures in this presidential race will come in at about $1B. At the presidential level, an independent without the private resources of a Ross Perot or a Steve Forbes doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance.

    Ralph Nader wrote an Op Ed column in today’s New York Times advising the Democratic Party. Some of what he said bears on this thread.

    • Press all Democratic candidates at the federal and state level to condemn partisan redistricting. The new, more frequent gerrymandering is carving up our nation’s electoral districts so that there is not even a semblance of two-party competition. Liberals have stood idly by and allowed our country to be turned into one in which incumbent-dominated districts account for 95 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives. Similar patterns attach to many state legislative elections. Where there is no practical choice, there is no real election, just a coronation. I know that a three- or four-party system does not interest the [liberal] intelligentsia, but surely they should turn their attention to the end of the two-party system, as the Democratic Party is crowded to the edges of both coasts heading out to sea.

    Of course he also spoke about the corrupting influence of corporate campaign contributions.

    Since we are suggesting reform, “fair” redistricting should be accompanied by at least two other measures.
    – Proportional allocation of electoral votes rather than the winner-take-all system in place in most states.
    – Campaign finance reform. In addition to the usual proposals, I have also heard heard about something called anoymous contributions.

  11. “system that protects incumbents like that is inherently anti-democratic”
    That may be true. But as I stated, redistricting does not per se protect incumbents. It is neutral. After one redistricts, the people can still vote for another person. What is inherently wrong with having everyone in a district liking their politician?

    What about the complaint that the system prevents minority views from being represented. Redistricting allows these views to be represented.

    “Continuing like that will (in the long run) cause situations like in ancient England, where some disctricts for parliament were totally fake things, being bought and sold. You know, places where there WAS enough population in former times, things like that. “
    Why would ‘continuing like that’ lead to situation in England? Not doing a census may lead to a situation in England but I do not see how redistricting will lead to districts where ‘there was enough population.’

    Oh Ralphy…
    “corrupting influence of corporate campaign contributions”
    What does corrupt mean? Does he mean that campaign contributions lead politicians to commit crime? Or does he mean that one would be corrupted in the sense of promoting the interest of the contributions.

    If it means promotion, then would not every campaign contribution be corrupting? Ralph Nader received quite a bit of contributions from Republican supporters so does this mean that he has been corrupted and is now working for the interest of Republicans?

    Or since he gets financing from environmentalist groups, and he does promote those interest, does not that mean that he himself is also corrupt? Furthermore, if corporations are all that bad and corrupt then perhaps one should be happy whenever, a job is outsourced not because it reduces the corrupting presence of a corporation.

    One may argue that clean air or a clean environment is good but corporations are ‘bad.’ If corporations are bad then we should worry whenever one see jobs being created as it means that more people are now part of the corrupt corporate system. If having part of one’s campaign finance provided by a corporation is corrupt and bad then having one’s entire payroll and income provided by a corporation would be really corrupt. Therefore only the unemployed can be a true independent.

    Promotion of a corporate interest is not always a bad thing. If a corporation persuade the local government to take land (with adequate compensation) for a corporation, that may seem bad or corrupt. But what if the land is going to be the location of a new factory for 6000 workers and without the local government providing the land, the firm would just leave the place. This occured with General Motors in Detriot when they were deciding whether or not to build their new plant in Detriot or to leave the city.

    “I’d be more than happy to vote in independents…”
    Why is there an obsession with independents. Perhaps it would be wise if a party renamed itself the independent party.

    What would this independent candidate platform be? If you are projecting onto the independent candidate everything you want in a candidate (all your positions and such) then of course by such a definition an independent would be better. What you are saying is you want a candidate to represent your view. Which is way the redistricting may help one get such a candidate. People with a certain mindset are group together so these people together can elect a person that represents their viewpoint. If one is in a district where half of the people are consumer advocate, environmentalist and the other half are industrialist, the candidate that is elected would most probably have to compromise between both the position. And of course if that is done then the environmentalist would point to this as a ‘corrupting’ influence of a corporation when in effect the candidate is trying to incorporate views from another segment of the population.

    “Proportional allocation of electoral votes rather than the winner-take-all system in place in most states”
    Adopting this measure may also require one to change the law such that a President need not require 270 votes or a majority of college votes. Failure to do so would for example mean that in 1996 Bob Dole would have won the elections. This is because neither Clinton nor Dole would have reached the 270 mark. And the election would be sent to the House of Rep, whereby each state has one vote. And assuming party lines voting, the Republicans would have won.

    “I have also heard heard about something called anoymous contributions.”
    Most states prevent anonymous contributions or severely limit it to small sums to money.

    “Democratic Party is crowded to the edges of both coasts heading out to sea”
    One thing to note is that people vote, not pieces of land. There more more people along the coasts.

  12. But, Pop, you’re missing the picture. We don’t complain about situations that are fair, but about situations that may make our side weak or inefectual. You are attempting to use reason to explain something emotional. The strongest human motivation is fantasy.  grin

  13. If a corporation persuade the local government to take land (with adequate compensation) for a corporation, that may seem bad or corrupt. But what if the land is going to be the location of a new factory for 6000 workers and without the local government providing the land, the firm would just leave the place. This occured with General Motors in Detriot when they were deciding whether or not to build their new plant in Detriot or to leave the city.

    Not everyone agrees that’s a good thing.  If a municipality can condemn private property for supposedly economic benefits, then private property – as a fundamental understanding in our economy – is totally screwed.  All it takes is a local board who thinks your property would be better used by some other private party… one with more lawyers and a public relations department.

    As for adequate compensation, that’s in the eye of the beholder.  In a free market, if I own something and want to sell it, I set the price.  That is what owning something means.  And if I don’t want to sell it, I don’t have to.  The constitution makes an exception for “public purpose” of which “more profitable, tax-generating use” is a rather novel interpretation, to say the least.

    Captcha: “had,” as in “we have been…”

  14. That may be true. But as I stated, redistricting does not per se protect incumbents.

    Perhaps, but it does protect the incumbent party. Gerrymandering would be a moot point if voters would actually reflect on why they they vote for whom. I’m not convinced that this accurately reflects the voter’s behaviour.

  15. “Proportional allocation of electoral votes rather than the winner-take-all system in place in most states”

    Adopting this measure may also require one to change the law such that a President need not require 270 votes or a majority of college votes. Failure to do so would for example mean that in 1996 Bob Dole would have won the elections. This is because neither Clinton nor Dole would have reached the 270 mark. And the election would be sent to the House of Rep, whereby each state has one vote. And assuming party lines voting, the Republicans would have won.

    I am reaching since this obviously is never going to be implemented. But if we are talking of voting directly for head of state (we Germans don’t), then I favor the French version. Every canidate enters the race, and if there is no majority (unusual) then the two canidates with the highest numbr of votes face off in a second election two weeks later. It works like a charm I think. It would allow third-party contenders a fair chance, because a vote for them need not be lost (if the person getting your vote in the first round doesn’t make the cut, you can still vote for the lesser evil in round two).

  16. Eminent domain
    Personally I believe the Poletown exception is justified provided that benefit is 1) clear and significant and that 2) there is adequate compensation. Although it could be argued that the subsequent expansion and some interpretation whereby mere tax benefit increase is sufficient may be too wide. However, since this post is not talking about eminent domain plus the fact that the law in this area is pretty uncertain as the Supreme Court has agreed to take up the Kelo v Connecticut (or what you may know as the Pfizer Hotel) case this term to decide on eminent domain, I will not further comment on it. Well except for the point that this may to a certain extent be a two edge sword. Check out NAFTA ruling that stopping a business that pollutes or rather changing the environmental laws to stop a business may be viewed as expropriation and that government needs to pay compensation.

    “Perhaps, but it does protect the incumbent party”
    Na huh. hee hee. Proper reasoning below.

    “Gerrymandering would be a moot point if voters would actually reflect on why they they vote for whom. I’m not convinced that this accurately reflects the voter’s behaviour.”
    So…this would be the fault of your beavis and butthead neighbours who vote? I think a better question to ask would be what would the standard you wish to use to determine whether there is harm to the parties. Take me through the steps. For example:
    Statement: Redistricting to shift all voters who support position A to district A protects the incumbent.
    Rebut: Is it not possible for another person who also support position A to run in that district? If having voters of position A to be placed in district A is bad then what happens if say over time people in district A all support position A. Does this mean that to protect the interest of democracy one would have to break that district up?

    All I am asking is some reasoning behind the position:
    Redistricting is inherently obnoxious to the idea of a free and democratic society because it unfairly protects the incumbents.
    That is a good claim. Now explain how does it unfairly protect the incumbent.
    Note: I use unfairly because one could argue that doing a good job in office also protects the incumbents.

  17. So…this would be the fault of your beavis and butthead neighbours who vote? I think a better question to ask would be what would the standard you wish to use to determine whether there is harm to the parties. Take me through the steps.

    Statement: Redistricting to shift all voters who support position A to district A protects the incumbent.

    Counter-Statement (Austin, TX): Redistricting to break a district that favors party D into fragments and merge them with rural districts that already overwhelmingly support party R.

    Do you see the harm to party D?

    My complaint about gerrymandering is not that it harms or protects an individual incumbent, but that the party in the majority stands a good chance of denying the opposing party any representation at all.

  18. elwedriddsche (10/11/04 at 01:07 PM ) very nicely made the point that I was struggling to express. Thanks.

    PopTarts (10/10/04 at 07:43)

    What does corrupt mean? Does he mean that campaign contributions lead politicians to commit crime? Or does he mean that one would be corrupted in the sense of promoting the interest of the contributions.
    . . .

    Most states prevent anonymous contributions or severely limit it to small sums to money.

    There is an opinion piece, written by Michael McConnell for the Wall Street Journal, that gets to these points and also an issue that I believe you raised in another thread. The article was written before McCain –  Feingold finally passed.

    We need to be clear about the problems with the current system and about the purpose of reform. The problem is not too much campaign speech. Nor is the problem that “special interests” are using their resources to influence public opinion. That’s what freedom of speech is all about. Pro-lifers, environmentalists, and free-traders have a right to make their opinions known to the public. All of us are “special interests.”

    The problem is that elected officials use the powers of office to extract contributions and hence to perpetuate themselves in office. (That is why the prohibition on the use of publicly funded telephones, offices, and computers for partisan fundraising is more than just a technicality.) The flip side of this is that contributors seek to influence public policy not by persuasion but by currying favor with officeholders. Roger Tamraz contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party not because he believes in its philosophy of government. He did it in hopes that the Clinton administration would return the favor.

    A more radical proposal is to create a mechanism for anonymous contributions above the ordinary legal limit. If a candidate does not know who made the contribution, then there is no possibility of improper influence. This would also bolster the argument that contribution limits are constitutional. If everyone is free (within certain generous limits) to contribute to the candidate of his choice, then the only question is whether there is a constitutional right to make one’s generosity known to the candidate. That is not freedom of speech. The constitutional right is to persuade one’s fellow citizens—not to make an officeholder grateful. To be sure, there may be practical problems in ensuring anonymity. Contributors are extraordinarily clever about evading the laws in this area. But I think campaign nondisclosure merits serious consideration.

    Eminent Domain. . .
    Here is an additional link on that subject

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110002287

    The danger of such an extreme power led the authors of the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions to limit the power of eminent domain in two ways. First, the government had to pay “just compensation.

  19. All of this touched on a discussion in the forums from a few months ago (the “Eating Ballots” thread in Politics).

    The real issue is not the effect of gerrymandering on future elections, it’s the broken election system that results in a skewed representation.

    In the UK, e.g., you can win the elections with well below a simple majority if you manage to squeak by in the right districts (or whatever they call it over there).

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