New York Times: Steak Rubs, Gobbledygook and the Future of American Politics

Jesse Wegman
Oct 3, 2017
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Drawing legislative maps with the intent of benefiting one party is as old as the country itself, and in its milder forms the courts tolerate it as part of the normal political process. But as map-drawing software has grown more sophisticated and voters more polarized, the district gerrymanders have become more pernicious. The most extreme examples can lock in a party’s majority indefinitely, even when it gets a minority of the vote statewide.

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“The problem in this area is if you don’t do it, it is locked up,” Mr. Smith said. “You are the only institution in the United States that can solve this problem just as democracy is about to get worse because of the way gerrymandering is getting so much worse.”

Mr. Smith is right. Regardless of which party is doing the gerrymandering — and both are guilty — the motive is as obvious as it is insidious. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a 2003 case, “The first instinct of power is the retention of power.” And as long as politicians can retain that power with impunity, they will, even when they know it’s harmful.

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