A Long Game Plan – To Combat Cheating In Politics

Liberals should start practicing judo. Start by accepting Trump’s demand for a commission to investigate electoral fraud. A call that is now echoed in this article from Salon. Watch, as Republicans scurry to back away from the demand.

Indeed. Former Attorney General Eric Holder has signed on to lead the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a newly formed political group aimed at untangling the creatively drawn districts that have helped cement the Republican Party in power, both in Washington and many state capitals. Mind you, Gerrymandering is a crime against the American people by the entire political caste and for years both parties practiced the foul art. There are ways that you personally and all by yourself can help defeat it. And yes I mean you, all by yourself.

Recent years have seen citizen uprisings in many blue states, where ballot measures instituted nonpartisan commissions to draw the districts for Congress and state legislatures. This as happened only in blues like California, Washington, Oregon and so on, leading to much hand-rubbing glee, at first, among republicans, who saw this as “political suicide” by democratic voters.

(Libertarians note: these are the same states that are decriminalizing marijuana and doing other things to get oppression off your back. They are also thriving vastly better than red states.)

Only lo and behold, a funny thing happened. With more neutral districting, Democrats did better at the polls. It seemed that voters trusted those legislators more, not less, when they had to work hard, each election, rather than taking their constituents for granted.

Which led to my call for Democrats to abandon gerrymandering altogether, especially in Democratic dominated states that still use it, like Illinois and Maryland. All those exceptions have accomplished, overall, was to let Republicans cry “See? Everybody does it!”

Obama and Holder will jawbone Illinois, Maryland and others to abandon gerrymandering, so that it will become strictly a Republican crime. Instead of just mostly a Republican crime.

At which point we might see whether Supreme Court Justice Roberts and Justice Alito — and Justice Gorsuch — are still able to stomach the utterly intolerable. Or whether those three can rouse themselves to be citizens first, before and above being partisan hacks. (We will see a number of occasions, over the next few years, when those three might hold the fate of our Great Experiment in their hands.)

The simplest solution to a cheat 

As it happens, Justices Roberts and Alito earlier held back from meddling in gerrymandering, because they saw no clear way to prescribe a redistricting process. Only here’s the thing: you don’t even have to demand impartial redistricting commissions! I have long responded with a three sentence solution:

(1) Set some upper limit to all districts’ perimeter-to-area ratio. (You can be generous; just forbid the absurdly contorted.)

(2) The legislature – or some commission — may establish the boundaries, but…

(3) There must be minimal overlap between the boundaries of districts for state assembly, state senate and Congress. They must be as different from each other as practically possible. Hence, if they gerry one house to benefit their own party, fine! They’ll mess themselves up in the other two.

There you go.  No need for formulas or “commissions.” Problem solved. Do it. Just do it.

There is, of course, a way for we citizens, ourselves, to defeat gerrymandering cheats, at least a bit, even if the crooks manage to cling to their criminal practice. If politicians have contrived things so that only one party can ever win in your district, then register as a member of that party! That way, you can vote in the only election that matters in your district, the primary.

Seriously, you betray nothing by registering as a Republican, if that’s the party that owns your district. You can then help moderates to win the local nominations and to withstand Tea Party/Breitbart bullying challenges. (And note, you conservatives who live in Santa Monica or some other liberal enclave, this can work both ways!) Think about it.
This proved unnecessary after California’s brilliant reforms, with non-partisan primaries and top-two runoffs in the fall. It has led to amazing outcomes, with moderates winning in both parties and the minorities in each district gaining clout!

 Our side: Reduced to essentials 

Exaggerating a bit to make a powerful point, this essay by Yonatan Zunger asserts provocatively that Tolerance is a Peace Treaty, not a moral precept. A powerfully important treaty, yes, that allows us to create far more complex, effective, productive and happy societies. But ultimately one based on pragmatism, which is vastly stronger than any “value system.”

When tolerance, diversity and all those nice things are called moral-axiom absolutes, that weakens them! Because someone else can simply shrug and cancel your hifalutin Core Value by saying “I have different core values. Different axioms.” (Like holy writ telling me that your kind are filth.)

Our tolerant, diverse, positive-sum society needs no such axiomatic crutches! Amid our complexity, we’ve prospered and achieved more, in a few generations, than all others combined, across all continents and 6000+ years. There are zero positive metrics – from art to fun to prosperity to happiness, to soulful contemplation – in which this approach has not been rewarded multiplicatively, not arithmetically. When it comes to science and knowledge – gathering the tools and powers of creation – we’ve been rewarded exponentially. That is one heap of validation for free speech, tolerance, flat class structures and the rule of law.

There are powers who see where this is going. If the Enlightenment thrives for just one more generation, we’ll reach a critical mass of bright youths and citizens committed to their own blatant self interest, in this positive sum miracle. Those aiming to reinstate traditional human governance styles of oligarchy and feudal-inherited privilege know that they have just a narrow window of time in which to bring the experiment crashing down.

Their chief tool – fomenting frantic, anti-future populism among a fact-averse lumpenproletariat – worked somewhat in 1930s Europe. It took grit and courage – yes, militancy – to face down that last major oligarchic putsch. Indeed, our Great Experiment will only be rescued by determined will and goodwill, as it was from evil empires in the 1860s, the 1940s and across the Cold War.

It requires that we view Tolerance and Freedom of Speech and class-flatness not only as our core tenets but also as the greatest tools ever discovered for achieving positive sum outcomes. Tolerance is our oxygen, our practical need, not a catechism that can be used against us.

Read Zunger’s article. Then recall how I have been poking at audiences for decades with a deliberately aggressive call to arms, rousing appreciative, if nervous laughter:

“We must go forth and crush every worldview that does not accept diversity and tolerance!”

If that does not wring from you a tense, ironic smile — maybe a chuckle that is both nervous and determined — then you just don’t get it. How dissonant, contradictory, yet necessarily militant we are obliged to be, to save the fecund, wondrous peace our predecessors won. See my essay: The Dogma of Otherness (from my collection Otherness).

 Let the comparisons begin! 

I’ve recommended that the fact-centered half of our civil war use wagers!  I’ll offer a major missive about that, soon. Meanwhile though, note that the maneuver can only work if you parse the bets so clearly that there’s no wriggle room and the facts are overwhelmingly clear. Like defying  your favorite confederate cultist to name fact-based professions that are not warred upon by Fox.

Or to name a major metric of U.S. national health that does not do vastly better, across the span of democratic presidencies.

Case in point: U.S. consumer confidence has boomed to its highest level since 2001 — yes, higher than at the peak of the housing boom.  Reinforcing the almost perfect correlation that every single large and attributable metric of U.S. national health does better across the span of democratic administrations than across their republican predecessors.  Usually “oppositely” better. (In other words, most such metrics plummeted across both Bush Administrations.)

We have to pry some intelligent “ostrich” conservatives’ head out of holes-of-denial.  And all it will take is a few… million… of them to make the difference that saves us.

And it begins.

 

About David Brin 16 Articles
David Brin is an astrophysicist whose international best-selling novels include The Postman, Earth, and recently Existence. His nonfiction book about the information age - The Transparent Society - won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association. (http://www.davidbrin.com)