It's strange that national political races grow ever more expensive, and our national political discussion grows ever more atomized and partisan, at the same time that Congressional elections are less competitive than ever, by design. Why are we all yelling at each other when we should be yelling at gerrymandering?
In the United States of America, this shining beacon of democracy for all the free world to model itself upon, here is how we elect members to our Congress: we eschew public campaign financing, and ensure that the candidate with better funding almost always wins, thereby allowing elections to more or less be directly purchased by powerful interests; then— and this is the most ingenious part— we allow these politicians, once elected, to draw their own districts, thereby virtually ensuring their own reelections. The result is bizarrely shaped districts, highly stratified by political party, that clearly exist only to prolong the careers of politicians, and which bear no resemblance to actual contiguous communities. This practice of gerrymandering, politely known as "redistricting," is among the most outrageous features of our entire political system. And it is only getting worse. The Wall Street Journal reports today:
Of 435 districts in the Republican-controlled House, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates only 90 as competitive, meaning those seats have a partisan rating that falls within five points of the national average. The rating measures how each district votes relative to how the country as a whole voted in the most recent presidential election.
The number of competitive districts [is] at its lowest since Cook first started the partisanship rating in the 1998 election cycle.
This is what happens when you hand careerist politicians the keys to their own future— the same thing that happens when you hand a pill addict the keys to the pharmacy. There is absolutely no chance that Congressional leaders will ever push for a system that might actually resemble a true representative democracy. Why would they? As it is, they can virtually guarantee their own solid career path.
There is, however, a common sense solution to this: have districts drawn by a nonpartisan committee, whose goal is to make them as compact and straightforward as possible and to have them comprise existing communities, so that a single representative can, theoretically, represent a single set of community interests. Alternately, have them drawn by a fucking computer program that knows how to draw rectangles. Either one of these would be far more fair, and democratic, than our current system, which is basically the worst, unless you happen to be a member of a Congressman's family or staff.
The shit that we tolerate in this country boggles the mind.