Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But a specific type of gerrymandering—to boost competition—is the best hope for saving a broken system that's lurching toward authoritarian rule.
Brian, you are right. The very heart of democracy is competition! But you neglect the real punchline about what that competition is over. Ideally parties and candidates compete over ideas of how government should serve the people, and what would enhance society overall. But in the US, we have a poorly educated electorate overall for whom religion and superstition and conspiracy theories pass as enlightened thinking for a substantial number, though not all. As a consequence the “competition of ideas” is really about how to force religion and lifestyles and thinking upon anybody who prays, lives, or thinks differently from the dominant Protestant evangelical orthodoxy that is backward looking to the old days. It is a cultural of fear and superstition. It is a culture of wanting to keep a privileged position in society not based on merit or hard work, but simply as birthright by the color of one’s skin or practice of dominant religion. This is the antithesis of the openness, exploration, discovery, and advancement that comes from a true competition of ideas.
With all that said, maybe drawing up districts that have close to even split between D/R representation can work, but what of registered independents? They come all across the political spectrum. And then this does nothing to solve the (US) senate problem. And what if increasingly active voter suppression?
I am happy you are writing about this. It needs to be discussed and real change needs to be on the table. But I fear for US democracy and governance.
There is so much to think about here! I was a poli sci major, and I was taught that we need to keep groups of interest together, which I thought would help racial and ethnic groups have a chance at getting representation. But I 100% agree that competition would greatly help our federal government and our country. And any improvement would be wonderful.
I'm like Zach- a liberal in a red state, without representation that actually represents me (even on the state level). Pizza cutting would help liberals like me in the suburbs for sure. But I'll need to think through the states I'm familiar with and see if it would help the folks living in the blue cities who'd be losing their only sure representation, or if it would help the ethnic groups that live together (Indian tribes or towns like Dearborn, MI for example). I wouldn't want majority rule to wipe out their chances to be heard. Then of course, any better ideas for redistricting have to actually get implemented, which would take a miracle. At any rate, I really wish you taught a class online or something so I could ask all my many questions. :)
I'm more a fan of your Washington Post suggestion that we implement open primaries and instant runoff Ranked Choice voting. I would look forward to that energizing small party candidates, bringing minority issues forward, and increasing the competition in elections. Open primaries and Ranked Choice voting can also be a ground up solution that can be done locally. It may also get news outlets to realize that there are more than two parties. And, since you are from Minnesota, it might get the major parties to realize that every once in a while a Jesse Ventura is going to pop out of the woodwork and kick their complacent gerrymandered butts.
“In noncompetitive districts, politicians aren’t responsive to the electorate, but instead are responsive to the extremists.”
That’s it right there in a nutshell. It needs fixing badly.
Not sure the prescription is exactly right because as mentioned, it is politically unlikely to occur. Maybe there is some intermediate step that could incentivize this new paradigm in gerrymandering.
Brian, I'm curious if it would have a simpler impact if we doubled the size of the House of Representatives. Is that something you've looked into? One upside is that it would require one, national bill instead of 50 state gerrymandering policies. It wouldn't prevent gerrymandering, but I wonder if it would make it harder to go to such extremes.
Hmm, I don’t know about this one. The “pizza slice” districts you describe sound somewhat similar to what I’ve experienced in cities I’ve lived in (Austin, TX and Salt Lake City) and in those cases, all it really does is dilute the city’s voters enough to ensure that there will be little to no chance of a Democrat being elected in any of the districts. Currently it’s very plausible for me to visit each of Utah’s four congressional districts in the course of going from home to work and running a couple errands. That doesn’t feel right to me. Ultimately I’d feel a lot better if Salt Lake County and its immediate vicinity was its own district, since as it currently stands, it feels like we have no true representation in congress. It could be a different story for Texas. With 38 districts and a less extreme partisan divide, it may be more feasible to draw equitable, competitive districts there.