Gerrymandering is a primary source of political dysfunction.
Here’s how it works; why it’s bad; and what you can do about it.
Gerrymandering is the process of creating “safe” congressional districts — districts that are overwhelmingly filled with the registered voters of only one party.
These are considered “safe” districts for that party because the party’s candidate is virtually guaranteed to win in these districts.
These districts are created by the incumbent political parties — the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
In the U.S., redistricting takes place in each state about every ten years, following the decennial census.
It has always been regarded as a political practice, and in most states, it’s controlled by state legislators and the governor.
The reason that this is detrimental to the nation as a whole is that a “certain” win, on either side (so long as you tow the party line), acts as a natural disincentive to collaboration and compromise.
It would be self-defeating, for a candidate running in a district that is primarily comprised of voters from one party, to embrace the ideas of the opposing party.
While such acts of compromise would be welcomed by a majority of the country, they would be far less likely to be appreciated by the partisan voters of the gerrymandered district.
The result for the public is that acts of compromise are rarely seen in Washington — precisely because of this disincentive to compromise.
Instead, candidates model their views on the views within their districts — districts which have been artificially created to contain only, or predominantly, the views of one party (one half of the country) and not the views of the other party (the other half of the country).
This serves the interests of the incumbent political players — Democrats and Republicans. They designed this system — and they benefit from it.
It allows these incumbent political parties to more cost-effectively deploy their campaign resources, through targeting members of their party and appealing to their confirmation biases, with consistent and compelling messaging.
This, in turn, hardens the existing views and biases of these already biased and partisan groups — encouraging even greater tribalism and groupthink.
It also allows the incumbent political parties to facilitate the election of only the most extreme party loyalists. Which is exactly who party leaders want to join their ranks. People who they can depend on — to vote the party line.
This is who we are sending to Washington — the products of this system. The most extreme among us. The most loyal — not to you or the country — but to their party.
This system is devastating for the country as a whole — which is mostly comprised of moderate, rational, open-minded, people.
Because of the way the system has been designed, the silent majority who wants to see more collaboration and compromise is not being represented.
Instead, the extremes on both sides of the political spectrum, arising out of gerrymandered districts, are controlling our government — while the silent majority remains largely disengaged.
The current system discourages rational, open-minded, dialogue. It discourages moderate, and/or Non-Partisan candidates from running. And it encourages candidates, of both parties, to be even more rigid.
A Republican congressman, who may support reasonable gun control and a Democratic congresswoman who may support immigration reform, can’t vote for what they believe is right today. If they do, they won’t get re-elected.
This issue, together with money in politics, and special interest influence, are the key flaws in our current system of government.
We should all be talking about these issues and demanding change. Even better, we should create change ourselves.
How do we do that? Sometimes, the best ideas are the simplest.
We do it by abandoning both parties, just as you would abandon any other failed brand, and by registering as Non-Partisans. Here’s why that would work.
If everyone registered as Non-Partisan, gerrymandering would be impossible. It’s based on voter registration. If none of us are registered as Republicans or Democrats, districts could no longer be gerrymandered.
One of the biggest problems that we face as a country isn’t simply a dysfunctional government — it’s our own limited mindset.
We believe that we are powerless to create change without the assistance of government — and like a deer in the headlights, we become overwhelmed and paralyzed. Or we act out, without purpose, planning or direction. We block highways, turn over cars, and lash out at figures of authority. To what avail?
We erroneously believe that we need our elected officials to fix the system — to fix all of our problems. We don’t. And by the way — they won’t fix it — because it works for them.
Gerrymandering works for them. Dysfunction works for them. Polarization works for them.
It keeps us divided and distracted from the failures, the corruption, and the incompetence, of our elected representatives.
This is our current system of government. It’s not what we need. And we don’t have to accept it.
We’re not powerless. We don’t need government to change anything. We can change it ourselves. Not by demanding change — but by acting and creating change.
The simple act of changing your registration to Non-partisan would create radical change. It would send shock waves throughout the system. And you have the power to do that — we all do.
Non-Partisan is not Independent (Independent — is a conservative party). Non-Partisan means you are unaffiliated with any party.
Non-partisan identifies you as a free thinker — which is exactly what you should be. It’s exactly what you need to be, and what our elected representatives need to be, to survive and thrive in the 21st century.
The partisan faithful will come out of the woodwork to oppose this approach. Their egos, supported by their ingrained biases and beliefs, that they are currently aligned with the correct party (be it left or right), will encourage them to see any abandonment of their party as a threat. Our egos hate being torn down, even to be rebuilt.
Those who are working for one party or the other will object most strenuously to this approach. Others, who are leveraging their political relationships for employment, social, and/or economic gain, will also argue against this approach. Still others, who simply believe that they're right, and the other side is wrong, will reject this approach.
These people offer no viable solutions. Many of them benefit from the status quo. They can’t see the big picture — and they can’t help you see it either. They can’t understand, that it doesn't matter what they think. What matters, is what we all think.
We have 340 million people in this country that are equally divided. And we can not afford division. We’re at the threshold of a technological revolution. We need planning and collaboration. We need to prepare for the extraordinary challenges, and opportunities ahead.
We need solutions — not dysfunction.
We need to break the deadlock — that’s inherent in partisanship — and move forward with a bold vision and new ideas — ideas that are better suited to our rapidly and radically changing environment.
Partisanship doesn’t allow for any of the above. It’s an antiquated, selfish, and counterproductive mindset. It’s the refuge of a lazy mind.
Here’s what would happen if the entire country changed their registration to Non-Partisan (something everyone has the power to do — today).
It would send a deafening message to the incumbent parties — that we “the people” are sick and tired of their incompetence and corruption;
It would tell the incumbent parties, and their special interest backers, that their days are numbered, and that their reign of incompetence, corruption, and dysfunction, is over;
It would take power away from the incumbent parties and their leadership — by radically undermining their ability to identify and control voters;
It would make special interests less interested in attempting to work through those parties — because of their loss of power and control;
It would make gerrymandering (a key corrupting influence), impossible and unreliable under current models — because voter registration is what is used to create gerrymandered districts;
It would encourage Non-partisan candidates to run — which we desperately need;
It would eliminate a major source of labeling — a primary source of our division;
It would let everyone in the system know, that we “the people” have finally woken up, and are back at the helm;
It would force candidates for public office, to be responsive to what the entire country wants, rather than what one side or the other wants; and
It would force voters to evaluate candidates, not on the basis of labels (R or D) but on the basis of their own ideas, values, and competencies.
If everyone in the country were simply to register to vote as Non-Partisan, it would radically change the nature of politics in the U.S. for the better — and it could happen overnight.
Most importantly, it can happen without Congress lifting a finger. And this is critical — because, in the end, they won’t lift a finger. It’s not in their self-interest to do so.
You may not have realized that you had this power — but now you do.
So, what are you going to do about it?
Major changes are coming. And safe spaces won’t exist. We will soon be hit by a tsunami of technological change. It will happen before we know it. And it will create unprecedented disruption.
Do you believe that we’re ready for that change? Do you believe that our values, and priorities, are aligned with that change? Do you believe that our current government — our current “leaders” — can chart any safe course, let alone an optimal course, through that change? I don’t.
We’re at a point where we need a greater emphasis on social welfare, education, and retraining. And if we don’t provide it, millions won’t survive the social and political changes ushered in by the technological revolution.
Moreover, these programs are not simply needed for the poor or the unemployed that exist today — they’re needed for those who will otherwise swell their ranks — which could soon include you and/or your children.
Don’t assume that because you have a job today, you don’t or won’t require assistance. Jobs that are here today will be gone tomorrow- tens of millions of them.
In The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization? Carl Benedikt Frey, and Michael A. Osborne estimate that 47 percent of total U.S. employment is in the “high-risk category” of potentially becoming automated over the next several decades.
On a global scale, McKinsey estimates that the adaptation of currently demonstrated automation technologies could affect 50 percent of the world economy, or 1.2 billion employees and $14.6 trillion in wages over the next two decades.
Don’t be alarmed — be prepared.
And think critically about the world you’re living in.
10 people in this country currently control more wealth than the bottom 150 million people. That’s not morally defensible - or socially sustainable.
Meanwhile, the middle class is disappearing. The “American Dream”, that you took for granted, has become increasingly unavailable to your children.
How will you and your children adapt to what promises to be a rapidly and radically changing environment — that will literally redefine life as we know it — a world that we lack the ability to even fully comprehend?
A world in which Artificial Intelligence (according to Ray Kurzweil, the head of AI for Google), will be a billion times more capable than human intelligence in less than 30 years.
How will an education system, designed for the industrial revolution, keep pace with the technological revolution — a revolution that will require constant re-skilling, retraining, and continuous adaptation?
It won’t. It can’t.
Meanwhile, we don’t even have a functioning government. Call me an alarmist — and I’ll call you slow.
Public confidence in government is now measured in the single digits. The public now views witches more favorably than politicians — and with good reason.
Moreover, under the current system, absent systemic and structural change, I don’t believe that we will ever again have a functioning government. Those days are over. Politics has lived up to its reputation as a blood sport. And our intense polarization has made it impossible for either party to govern effectively.
One party establishes a healthcare system and the other party dismantles it. One party builds a wall and the other party tears it down. One party enters into an agreement and the other party withdraws from it. That’s no way to run an enterprise — let alone surf a tsunami of technological change.
Our political dysfunction is primarily due to three things: gerrymandering; money in politics; and special interest influence.
2016 — the year that both of our major political parties put forward candidates, that lacked the character and moral authority to serve as POTUS, signaled a sea change in American politics. It evidenced the futility, and dysfunction, of the current system.
It was the canary in the coal mine. And things will never be the same again. The word is out — “character” is no longer a requirement for the office of POTUS. Both HRC and Donald Trump proved that.
Never, in my 50 years of following politics, have I ever seen anything like what we are now seeing. You have to go back 160 years to find this level of political dysfunction.
It’s time to start thinking outside the box. And it’s time to start taking action.
It’s time for people to recognize their profound interdependence and start working together.
It’s time to jettison the current system of party loyalty and replace it with loyalty to each other.
It’s time to stop waiting for the government to fix our problems and to fix them ourselves.
And the first place to start is by removing those who have failed to perform, and whose mindset precludes successful performance.
Today this may sound like a radical perspective. Tomorrow you’ll be hearing a great many people saying something similar.
And they will be saying it with increasing volume. And if their voices aren’t heard — it’s only rational to assume that some will eventually express themselves with force. People in the U.S. are far too educated, empowered and entitled, to suffer in silence.
Tens of millions of people in America are desperate. They have no way out. Deaths by drugs and suicide rates, for the bottom 60% of America’s population, have doubled since 2000. In 2015 (latest available data), there were 44,193 reported suicide deaths in the U.S. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 34 in America.
We are at the threshold of an unprecedented technological revolution. And we are entering what are clearly uncharted waters.
Social Media is the first wave of that technological revolution (a small wave by comparison to what’s coming), and it’s already causing significant disruption. Suicide rates for girls, ages 15 to 19, are now the highest in 40 years.
Business as usual — is not the answer.
We can no longer take refuge in the false comfort of complacency. That’s no longer a luxury that any of us can afford.
You don’t solve problems by ignoring or underestimating them. You solve them, by identifying them and seeking them out.
People are educated and empowered like never before. They won’t starve in silence. Instead, they will adapt. And that adaptation will create even more social and political change.
So, get ready. It’s time to learn how to surf a tsunami.
Don’t be afraid — be excited. You’re living in the most extraordinary period in human history. And you have far more power than you realize. You simply need to step out of the headlights and use it.
Believe in yourself and each other.