By Tina Dupuy
OK House Republicans—I give up. Since you’ve been the majority the only thing you’ve accomplished is naming things after Reagan and voting to repeal Obamacare an unprecedented—let alone unreasonable—38 times. Seriously, you’ve done nothing. Even Congresses that set out to do nothing and were dubbed “Do-Nothing,” look like overachievers by comparison.
Last Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Speaker Boehner said, “We should not be judged by how many new laws we create, we ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.
Well, you haven’t repealed any laws either. So even when you throw out the measurements by which we usually judge the merits of Congress and just make up your own—you’re still a national disgrace.
Why is Congress so horrible? Why is the Ebola virus held in higher esteem in most polls than the Legislative Branch? One word: Gerrymandering.
Basically, through a solidly and proudly partisan process our representatives have carved out districts to protect incumbency. So your congressperson doesn’t have to work, be effective or listen to constituents—they just have to be a congressperson.
In 2011, when the dysfunction of Congress was noted as the primary reason Standard & Poors downgraded the United States’ credit rating for the first time in history, gerrymandering was the reason nobody got voted out. The fix is in and Congress gets to cash their government paychecks.
“The concept of equal justice under law requires the State to govern impartially,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissenting opinion in the 2004 landmark 5-4 decision, Vieth v. Jubelirer.
Norma Jean, Richard Vieth and Susan Furey were plaintiff-appellants in the case. These Pennsylvania Democrats claimed that the Pennsylvania General Assembly (specifically Robert C. Jubelirer, President of the Pennsylvania Senate) had unconstitutionally gerrymandered their districts, violated Article I of the U.S. Constitution (one-person, one-vote) and denied them protection under the Eighteenth Amendment.
The case hinged on whether gerrymandering was justiciable (able to be decided by the courts). Five justices said it was not. No one penned a majority opinion.
In the minority, Justice Stevens wrote, “Today’s plurality opinion would exempt governing officials from that duty in the context of legislative redistricting and would give license, for the first time, to partisan gerrymanders that are devoid of any rational justification.”
Justice Stevens wins for the most prescient statement about our current, self-quagmired Congress.
Stevens also cited the 1964 decision Reynolds v. Sims, which forced state legislative districts to have equal populations: “Legislatures…should be bodies which are collectively responsive to the popular will.”
After Reynolds there was a Republican-led fight to pass a constitutional amendment allowing unequal legislative districts. Their amendment failed. But their goal has been realized: Voter disenfranchisement through manipulated districts.
Since Congress doesn’t have to adhere to popular will—it’s no shock they don’t. A majority of Americans want them to work together. A majority of Americans want health insurance regardless of preexisting conditions (as in Obamacare). A majority of Americans want infrastructure spending. A majority of Americans want the government to not nationalize women’s bodies. A majority of Americans want a higher minimum wage. A majority of Americans want comprehensive immigration reform. And clean air. And affordable higher education. And regulated banks.
A majority of Americans (1.4 million more) voted for Democrats and yet we still have an anarcho-Republican majority whose sole pastime is to play chicken with the general welfare of the country.
Congress is disincentivized from compromising, working together, or really working period. Congress can cynically put party before country to the detriment of us all as much as they please. And they clearly, under the “leadership” of John Andrew Boehner, have done just that.
Americans are the ones without jobs, pensions and savings. Congress is safe. See? They really don’t represent Americans.
Overturn Vieth v. Jubelirer. Kill the Gerrymander. Fix Congress.
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