Friday, November 12, 2004

The Election Was Stolen

I have had emails asking me to sign on-line petitions asking Congress to investigate the recent elections. The Michael Moore-left, which didn't get it before Nov. 2, is still without a clue. This is funny and sad. The country needs better than a clueless opposition.

Elections in America are actually awry when it comes to gerrymandered districts, the resulting power of incumbency, the Supreme Court's avoidance of the resulting disenfranchisement problem, and the silly diversion of campaign finance reform.

The morning's WSJ includes a pointed editiorial on "No Contest"

"There are 435 Members of the House of Representatives, but only seven incumbents lost last week. The political class would like us to think that those numbers represent the voters' satisfaction with their Congressmen. But everyone knows better.

"Election Day once again highlighted just how uncompetitive most Congressional races have become. Not only are most outcomes foreordained, but the contests aren't even close. Winners in just 37 House races this year received 55% or less of the vote, which is the conventional threshold for determining vulnerability in the next election cycle. That's down from 62 such races in 2000.

"Blame the perks of incumbency, and blame gerrymandering especially. The Founders required elections every two years because they designed the House to be the political body most responsive to the public. But politicians, through their ability to draw their own districts, have rigged the system to undermine those intentions and hold on to power. Computer databases now assess voter tendencies block by city block, and contests are effectively decided months before anyone pulls a lever.

"Of the seven incumbents who lost this year, four were Texas Democrats who went down because their districts were redrawn by Republicans. (The three others were a Democrat in Indiana and a Republican in Illinois and in Georgia.) Currently, the redistricting racket favors the GOP. But it hurt the party for years before 1994 and eventually it will again. In any case, the dearth of competitive House races is bad for the country because it makes for less accountable politicians.

"In more than 150 House races, the winner garnered at least 60% of the vote. More than 75 others -- double the number of competitive races -- were certifiable landslides, with the winner grabbing 70% or higher. Those types of results scare off potential challengers. Over in the Senate, by contrast, 11 of 34 contests were won with 55% of the vote or less, and two others by 56%. The politicians haven't found a way to gerrymander an entire state. Yet.

"If Republicans are now opportunistically using their majorities to reverse Democratic gerrymanders, then good-governance liberals aren't helping by making money their reform holy grail. While the politicians have built safe seats -- and the Supreme Court has blocked responses such as term limits -- John McCain and his friends on the left have peddled campaign finance reform as the panacea. But if they really care about making elections more competitive, they'll drop the fool's errand of trying to separate money from politics and instead push initiatives that would turn redistricting over to nonpartisan panels, as in Iowa and Washington state.

"A good place to start is California, which has 53 House seats, 12% of the entire nation's, yet not one of them switched parties last week. In 51 of those races, the winner received at least 60% of the vote. Nor is the entrenchment limited to Congress. "In all 100 state Assembly and Senate races," reports the Sacramento Bee, "the winner was either the incumbent or a candidate from the incumbent's party."

"The good news for Californians opposed to electing politicians for life is that they have a popular Governor in Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger who can do something about it. Voters followed Arnold's lead on 10 of his 14 initiative recommendations last week. Were he to back a ballot measure that removed control of redistricting from the Legislature -- and gave it to retired judges or another independent body -- it might stand a good chance of passing.

"Non-competitive elections only increase voter cynicism, and we seem to be holding more of them. Next to the bipartisan gerrymander scandal, the campaign finance debate that so preoccupies the media is an irrelevancy."