How can a political party getting 51 percent of the vote end up legally with five seats in the House of Representatives when the other party got 13? In 2012 this happened in Pennsylvania, and it continues to happen, as a normal way of doing business. The answer is those maps you see of voting districts in the paper that look like a plate of spaghetti that fell on the kitchen floor. Gerrymandered districts drawn up by the party in power in state capitals put voters from the last election in a precinct united not geographically but ideologically. Put all the liberals of suburban neighborhoods together in one place, but farm out the conservatives into several so they can squeeze out a majority in several districts. Again, it is legal, and parties of both sides of the aisle do it.
I emphasize that this goes on thanks to the scheming of donkey and elephant alike. But in the above case, Republicans enjoyed the benefit of their party’s majority in Harrisburg arranging the map conveniently. This explains how unpopular laws that favor the wealthy neighborhoods get passed even though wealthy voters are much fewer. People unaware of how this comes about will rail about Big Government or the system being rigged without realizing how they regularly shoot themselves in the foot by splitting their ticket, assuming that they are keeping both parties in a healthy tension, correcting each other’s excesses. Instead, gridlock results. You have noticed that Washington for several years has gotten little work done. The party of the White House and the other party of Congress could not sit down to even discuss things like the filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the February death of Antonin Scalia.
When presidents are faced with this logjam, they will often use executive power. This has been around since before Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation was one such use of it when a hostile Democratic legislature could not be cajoled into approving abolition. While we thought the document to liberate the slaves was popular and set in stone, it would have passed out of existence at the end of Lincoln’s term if Washington did not ratify the constitutional change that locked it in place. The Thirteenth Amendment had such humble beginnings.
It should be apparent by now that the opportunistic scissors-and-paste shenanigans of the party in power on the state level has to go. But so too should scams like voter ID, outlawed by the high court when several states devised it to disqualify racial minorities. Poor people do not have photo and other identification the way enfranchised people normally do. It is not as though voter fraud has happened even on a small scale where there has been no proof of identity required. The fact that poor and minority voters vote in ways that benefit themselves — as you would expect them to do, the way middle class and wealthy voters do — is no excuse to penalize them by onerous requirements whose purpose is obvious. And with the infamous Citizens United decision, the wealthy no longer have a limit to the amount they can spend to elect their change agents in office and their lobbyists who promote the wealthy person’s agenda. The wealthy stay so successful in enacting laws that hurt the poor and middle class despite the latter’s so outnumbering the wealthy because the wealthy pay to blanket the electorate with incessant political brainwashing researched to perfection. The non-rich cannot afford rebuttal.
So it should also be apparent that, before one of the most bizarre yet momentous elections in modern times, everyone should be registered to vote. Those who enjoy democracy’s economic benefits already know this and are registered. This is for those not so aware. Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ urges us all to practice the virtue of patriotism by involving ourselves in the use of government for the common good of all since government in the Catholic understanding is supposed to be the guarantor of justice, especially for the poor and the unconnected. In that understanding, government is not the enemy but the servant, which might come as news to those who are unregistered and therefore marginalized. Demonizing government big or small is a most effective way of pushing the poor away from a help to which they are entitled.
To register, call 877-658-6837 before the Oct. 17 deadline.