The Weiner Component #24 – One Vote Per Person

English: Original cartoon of "The Gerry-M...

The basic concept of a Democracy is one vote per person, with every vote counting equally.  According to the Constitution, “We The People,” and not the states, created this nation.  Yet in the 2012 Election the states by the electoral vote determined the President and the states through gerrymandering determined the representation in the House of Representatives.  The Republicans got the majority of representatives even though the Democrats received one million one hundred thousand more Congressional votes.  Somehow the intent of the Constitution seems to have been subverted.

The government is the servant of the people carrying out the majority will with protections for the minorities.  This is how this country is supposed to function.  If it does not then the system has been corrupted and must be cleansed.  In the 2012 Election the majority will was compromised and to a certain extent thwarted.

Even though the Democratic Party received over a million more votes in the House Election the Republicans got the majority of Representatives there.  How was this possible?

In England during the 18th and 19th Centuries, as the voting franchise was gradually extended to all males, there were, with the Enclosure Movement and the Industrial Revolution, a mass movement of people from the rural areas to the urban centers.  No adjustments were made to balance the votes and what developed were “rotten boroughs;” areas where the number of voters necessary to elect a member of the House of Commons was well under one hundred voters, in some cases under twenty, while in the urban factory towns it could be in the multi-thousands.  And anyone could run in any district in the country.  There was also open voting; the secret ballot did not exist until 1872.  The “rotten boroughs” were not done away with until the middle of the 19th Century.

In the United States the system that developed was called  “Gerrymandering.”  The term Gerrymander was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812.  It came from the name of the then-Governor, Elbridge Gerry who had signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic Party.  One of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander.  The term was a combination of the governor’s last name and the word salamander.  In 1812 the Massachusetts Senate remained firmly in Democratic hands while the House and Governorship went to the Federalist Party.

Besides achieving desired electoral result for a particular party, gerrymandering has been used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, or class group.

In the 2012 Election a number of states elected Republican majorities on all levels of their government.  In the United States there is a census every ten years for the purpose of redistricting the voting districts on both the state and Federal level.  The political party in power usually draws the new districting map.  By carefully drawing the lines they can break up ethnic or racial groups, set up districts with definite party majorities, or emphasis any group they want.  There are no rules in drawing the shape of these districts and they can take any shape possible, hence gerrymandering.  In addition many of these states made voting much more difficult, if not almost impossible, in districts that favored the opposition party.

In 2012 the district lines drawn up allowed the Republican controlled states to win control of the House of Representatives with far less than fifty percent of the votes cast for members of the House.  It took a lot of maneuvering and strange shaped voting districts to do this.

Isn’t it time for the Federal Government or the courts to set up a system that creates these districts on a non-partisan basis with simple shapes strictly according to the population?  If the government cannot do this then it may take a Constitutional Amendment to achieve this goal.

A Democracy is supposed to be a government representing the will of the majority.

Our goal should be to make this in the best way possible.  The British eventually got rid of their “rotten boroughs.”  Are we ever going to get rid of gerrymandering?

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The Weiner Component #16 Are The Republicans Modern Day Dinosaurs?

English: Original cartoon of "The Gerry-M...

About 65.5 million years ago something happened to the environment to which the dinosaurs could not adapt and they essentially disappeared from the earth’s surface.  They had existed for about 135 million years as a successful species on this planet.  Could the present day Republicans be similar to the dinosaurs?  Could they be on the verge of an environmental disaster?  Are they holding to absolute positions that have not only been largely repudiated by the general public, but that they insist on retaining regardless of their constituents being against these positions?

Since the end of the 2012 Presidential Election the Republican Party seems to be in a strong state of denial about the results.  According to statements and positions held by its members in Congress, Fox News, and by assorted Tea Party type individuals, one would think they won the election.  Will reality ever set in, at least in Congress, or will the government continue to be dysfunctional?  Because the Republicans still hold a majority in the House of Representatives and the ability to filibuster any bill or appointment in the Senate we could conceivably face two more years of gridlock in Congress with virtually no positive legislation being passed.  If that were to happen the results in the 2014 Midterm Election would be very interesting.  The Republicans could argue themselves out of existence and the U.S. could end up as a one political party country.

The Founding Fathers in establishing the Constitution had no thought about the establishment of political parties.  Yet in the first Presidential Election George Washington ran as a Federalist.  For the first three Presidential Administrations the Federalist Party, the one dealing with the moneyed classes, was the major party.  In the Election of 1800 John Adams ran against Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson established the Republican Party, which was sardonically renamed the Democratic-Republican Party by the Federalists, and later became simply the Democratic Party.  The campaign was bitterly fought with each side convinced that the nation would collapse if the other side triumphed.  Thomas Jefferson won that election.  The Federalists were never able to mount another presidential election.  Shortly afterwards they disappeared as a political entity.

From 1800 to 1828, the Era of Good Feeling, the country had essentially one major political party, the Democratic-Republican Party.  In 1828 the party split into two parts: the Jacksonian Democrats, which favored a strong presidency and greater democracy for the common man, and which became the modern Democratic Party; and the Whig Party, headed by Henry Clay, which believed in the primacy of Congress over the executive branch, and also in modernization and economic protectionism.  The Whig Party collapsed in 1850, both over the death of its leadership and the issue of slavery.  In 1854 the Anti-Slavery Republican Party came into being.  It adopted many of the economic policies of the Whigs, backing national banks, business growth, railroad expansion, and high tariffs.  From that point on, with minor changes in their positions, the current political parties have existed.  Today we could, conceivably, be heading toward another “Era of Good Feeling.”

In 1964 Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Baines Johnson for the presidency of the United States.  Goldwater was an ultra conservative candidate, the first since the end of World War II.  He had the support of the far right, about 22% of the voting population.  His slogan was, “In your heart you know he’s right.”  Goldwater lost that election, achieving 22% of the popular vote.

Traditionally there has been a wide spectrum going from right to left over a wide expanse.  The Republicans have gone from the far right, always across slightly to the left of center.  The Democrats have moved from the far left slightly past center.  Jimmy Carter, who served as president from 1976 to 1980, was a conservative Democrat whose place on the spectrum would be slightly to the right of center.  Nelson Rockefeller, who was appointed Vice President in 1974 by President Gerald R. Ford after Richard M. Nixon resigned from the high office, was a liberal Republican who was slightly to the left of the center of the spectrum.  In fact the ultra conservative wing of the Republican Party opposed his appointment.  The rest of the Republican Party tended to be all over the right side of the spectrum with some being more liberal than conservative Democrats, and with only a small percentage at the extreme right.

Since that time, in a very leisurely fashion, the extreme right has been able to gain control to the Republican Party.  They have done so essentially through the use of money.  It takes a large amount of currency to run for public office.  Today one of the main functions of a politician is to continually raise money for his/her campaign.  The major fundraisers like Eric I. Canter have inordinate amounts of power within their party.  They also owe quite a bit to their major contributors.

Do politicians today owe more allegiance to their major contributors than to their constituents?  When does a contribution become a bribe?  These are interesting questions and need to be addressed by the same Congress that is dependent upon these contributors.

The dinosaurs died out because of massive changes in their environment to which they could not adjust; the Republicans could do the same because of similar changes to the evolving demographics of the nation, which they cannot accept or to which they cannot adjust.


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