Gerrymandering is Not the Root of All Evil

Posted on



Richard Cohen has a pretty good column on the folly of thinking you could eliminate partisanship by acting nice, but I worry that he veers into a whole new error by explaining that the whole thing is just due to the way congressional districts are drawn:

Something of the same has prevailed since the inauguration. Congressional Republicans have made a stand on the stimulus package, just as they did on the original bank bailout when they refused to accommodate a president of their own party, George W. Bush. These Republicans are as wrong as wrong can be, and history, I am sure, will mock them, but they were not elected by history, and they are impervious to mockery from the likes of me. They come from conservative districts, and they are voting as their people want them to. That’s partisanship. It is also democracy. […]

Reality is real. No amount of lofty rhetoric is going to change the way members of Congress are elected. Most of them come from exquisitely gerrymandered districts created by computers that could, if good taste allowed, part the marital bed, separating husband from wife if they were of different political parties. This system created districts that are frequently reliably liberal or conservative. The computer has deleted the middle.

There’s something to this, but it can’t explain the fact that all the House Republicans voted “no.” Nor can it explain the Senate, where many Senators representing states Obama won voted “no.” There’s more to legislative partisanship than manipulation of district boundaries.