Gerrymandering’s top malignant effect has been radicalization of U.S. politics. Having engineered for themselves safe districts where the minority party has no chance, politicians have rendered November Congressional elections moot. Yet, this only shifted tension to the primary; a district’s most vociferous 5 percent can oust established representatives.
But consider: Gerrymandering lumps birds-of-a-feather till each district is “owned” by one party or another. Democratic voters in a Republican-owned district – or Republicans in a Democratic-owned district – will never cast a vote of legislature in the only election that matters: the majority party’s primary. Unless…unless you hold your nose and re-register with whatever party owns your district. This holds, whether you’re a Democrat in a Republican district, or vice versa
The election will be determined by clumps of electors that are awarded by winner-takes-all. Those on the victorious side will gather all the marbles, leaving the losers bitterly muttering about getting even next time. Might there be some way to acknowledge the losing minority in a presidential election, without grinding their face in humiliation, making them determined to do the same thing, when their turn comes around?
Imagine a candidate or new President Elect making the following pledge: "If I become president, I promise to ask my honorable opponent to pick a panel of Americans who will have control over my appointment calendar one afternoon per month. And I expect my opponent to serve on that panel. On that afternoon, I shall meet with -- and listen to -- any individuals or delegations that panel may choose. Millions of Americans will then know that I do not live in a tower of ideological isolation. I will answer questions and hear dissenting points of view."
I hope to shed some badly-needed perspective on the most important foreign policy matter of all... when and how we, as a country, choose to fight. Do the two U.S. political parties differ in how they wage war? What are their distinctions in doctrine, policy, professionalism, style and effectiveness?
It turns out that the Electoral College, per se, is not what distorts the system so badly. It is the winner-takes-all method of allocating each state's electors. Can we break the winner-takes-all habit?
There is precedent. Decades ago, both parties allocated delegates to their national nominating conventions by winner-takes-all, until this blatant unfairness was challenged, then eliminated. So why not take the next step by dropping it from the process of choosing electors? Again, this would require no tinkering with the Constitution, though changing applicable state laws might entail a fight.
Nothing could better indicate the turn in our national fortunes than to see science no longer dismissed as a realm of pointy-headed boffins, but viewed as part and parcel of our nation's future. It is essential to restore the Office of Technology Assessment, and other science advisory agencies in Congress.
Free the Inspectors General: Establish a new and important post, the office of Inspector General of the United States... or IGUS.
Far from creating another vast new bureaucracy, this proposal would mostly utilize payroll slots that already exist, today. Every major department or agency has an internal Inspector General (IG) charged with examining operations and issuing warnings -- when it comes to minor infractions -- or else stepping in more vigorously when things get out of hand.
A new movement among geeks is called the "Neo-Reactionary Movement" -- a quasi-new cult that yearns for the ancien régime of monarchy and feudal rule. One that rejects Adam Smith and Franklin and the entire Enlightenment. And above all -- democracy.
Klint Finley describes it thus: "Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, democracy has actually done more harm than good. They propose a return to old-fashioned gender roles, social order and monarchy."
A collection of articles from David Brin on the issues, elections, economics and politics of our day. Here you'll find essays about: *Can a small transaction fee save Wall Street? * How to simplify our tax system non-politically using a computer program and a simple boundary condition. * Is there a difference between a global warming "skeptic" who has questions about the science and a "denialist" who spouts the same delaying tactics used by Big Tobacco, in the 1980s? * In 1947 Democrats purged themselves of fanatical fringe loonies and saved their party. Are Republicans capable of similar courage and will? There is a precedent! Let us strive for a return to the pragmatic, scientific, can-do-eager nation that was so admired. That deserved to lead the world.
The widely-circulated nostrum called the "Tytler Calumny" is the great example of what has gone wrong with the mental processes of our friends on the right, who used to be represented in sage debate by great minds like Barry Goldwater and Friedrich Hayek and William F. Buckley... but who are now reduced to slinging around aphorisms and fact-free fox-assertions.
The United States of America has been the most exceptional thing ever to happen to humanity. I say this not out of reflex triumphalism or chauvinism, but as a simple matter of outcomes appraisal. Indeed, I bet that in the grand context of time, the American Experiment will turn out to have been one of the major reasons, if we wind up succeeding as a species and even reaching for the stars. Yet...those amazing accomplishments weren't accomplishments of jingoist flag-waving but of relentless, day-to-day creativity, good-natured progress and lots of self-critique by every generation of new Americans.
The whole issue of "freedom" boils down much deeper than the surface levels where it is usually discussed. Let me try to explain.
For 2,000 years the enemies of democracy, led by that infamous so-called “philosopher” Plato, have tried to undermine the Periclean experiment by couching the debate in terms that work to the detriment of freedom. In order to do this, they pulled many tricks. Foremost, they emphasized and concentrated on the LEAST important and least honorable aspect of democracy -- majority rule -- while downgrading the most important aspect (the one emphasized by Pericles) which is open and knowing reciprocal accountability.
In view of how generous Americans are in times of crisis, how can the goodness of average people become better leveraged, especially during intervals between crises? Proxy power is the uniquely convenient ability of a modern person to participate in activism... helping to change or improve the world... by the simple expedience of joining some group that is vigorously pursuing that part of your personal agenda. You add both your membership dues and political impact, to people who are striving to save the world for you.
The worst aspect of all polarization this has been the devolution of politics into cliches, outright lies and a relentless disdain toward science… along with every other “smartypants” profession, from medical doctors and teachers to journalists, economists, civil servants, skilled labor and law professionals. All are now targets of trumped-up hatred. And not all of it from the right! The far-left contains plenty of anti-modernists. Isaac Asimov once commented: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
One side of our national character hungers for change and tomorrow. To treat the future - the range of possible futures -- as ambition-attracting terra incognita, across which our children will explore and stride, better than we are in every way, even if that means repudiating many of our now-unclear assumptions and errors! Preparing those much-better generations for a boundless future is our dedicated proposition. Our mission. But there is an opposing passion -- the temptation to wallow in nostalgia, romanticism, sanctimony, authority and the comforting rigidity-of-caste that dominated nearly every other civilization, across 6000 years. It was called feudalism and humanity's greatest heroes fought to liberate us from that beastly, limiting and dismal way of life.
But what does 'consent' really mean? Majority rule helps guarantee against the worst kinds of tyranny - those featuring iron-fist repression by a truly narrow, unaccountable and coercive elite. Hence, if we ever do have a dictatorship, it will cover the fist with silken gloves, and suffer great lengths to convince us that "we" (the majority) voted for it. Still, that will not protect minorities. Nor will it ensure that statecraft is performed with attention to CITOKATE. (Criticism is the only known antidote to error.)Indeed, it is quite possible for majorities to be flat out, cockeyed wrong.
Re-evaluate everything you assumed about reflex politics. Many have noticed that the hoary "left-right axis" sheds no useful light on our complex world. Attempts to spread it onto two or three dimensions suffer from flaws like "tendentiousness." I offer a landscape that seems to do better, but the real point here is to step back and see our present squabbles in the context of our grinding climb from caves to village, kingdom and... civilization.
This study was created for a rebel libertarian society, aiming to divert the movement from Rand-Rothbard madness, back to Adam Smith. But the broad perspectives apply to all people who are sincere about adding grownup breadth to their politics.
We accept a state interest in demanding that all drivers be licensed and that all cars be registered and well-maintained. Why not apply similar standards to the other machines most responsible for premature, violent death in this country -- firearms? In California, where the DMV has lately acquired an astonishing reputation for good service, one could envision renaming it the “Department of Motor Vehicles and Firearms”. A hunting shotgun might be treated like a normal car. You want an AK-47? Then take as many tests -- and get as much insurance -- as a professional trucker who wants to drive an 18-wheeler. If your gun is stolen, report it like a missing auto. Fail to lock it up properly? Your insurance rates go up.
What's wrong with two leaders finding patches of consensus amid a sea of discord? It has a name - stipulation... as when attorneys in a case agree to agree about a set of points, so the trial can focus on areas where they disagree.
Quietly, without much comment or notice, the practice of gerrymandering has transformed from a dismal-but-bearable tradition of occasional opportunism into a cancer eating at the heart of democracy itself, rendering our votes nearly meaningless in some states. When it comes to certain types of elections -- those that choose our delegates for the legislative branch of government -- most Americans have been denied any chance to choose their representatives. They have no real choice at all.
By quietly and gradually cranking up a process called gerrymandering, members of the Political Caste -- in both parties -- have managed to effectively seal most of us away from the very franchise that we all consider to be one of our most basic American birthrights.
In observing -- with some approval -- the departure of the corrupt, incompetent and astonishingly lazy 109th Congress, it is not without some worry that we greet the young and hopeful 110th. Will cynics prove right? While negotiating the ethical and political minefield that is Washington, always remain wary of a particular worst-case scenario... one that can systematically undermine even the most well-meaning politicians.
After sharp Republican setbacks in two successive elections, the latest buzz is about a looming 're-alignment' in American politics. No one ever said it would be easy to fight for a chastened and rational conservatism -- one that is no longer misled by crooks and crazies. Life wasn't easy, either, for the Democrats of 1947. But they kept faith with the moderate spirit of our American wing of the Enlightenment. And liberalism has -- for all its ups and downs -- stayed relevant to this day.
Republicans began their own long journey of re-appraisal in the wake of Barry Goldwater's crushing defeat in 1964, then intensified their efforts after the debacle of Watergate. William F. Buckley, during the 1964 campaign, recognized the dominance of liberalism at that time. He urged that conservatives see themselves as 'well-planted seeds of hope, which will flower on a great November day in the future, if there is a future.' Soon, concentrated efforts began, at places like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, to forge networks of expertise in theory, policy and political operations, filling in every component for a vigorous new age of conservatism.
Imagine if Pepsi and Coke had arranged to divide up the cola market into tidy little local geographic monopolies, where each could charge whatever they liked for colored sugar water... while claiming that their nearly 50:50 overall split means “healthy competition”! Hell, they could even do this while hating each others’ guts,the same way that democrats and republicans now do. The same way that English and French feudal lords despised each other... and yet acted in mutual support against the common foe. Uppity commoners.
Tired of the insipid "left-right" political metaphor? Interested in exploring which dogmas or reflexes you might have adopted out of reflex? Take a simple questionnaire in which I poke at the deeper assumptions that under-lie many ideologies we take for granted. Like: do you believe there ever was - or will-be - a human "golden age"? Do you see progress being made through incremental problem solving or dedication to an ideal? The aim is to help folks step back and ponder why they cling to certain types of ideology. Try it. Only be warned. You may gain flexibility... at cost of some comfy certainties!