More Cracking, Less Packing


I couldn’t resist writing a new post on this historic day. In the past week we have seen a lame-duck congress pass a couple of really significant bills:

  • Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – REPEALED!
  • 9/11 First Responders Health Care Bill – PASSED!
  • Tax Cuts for Everyone – umm…
  • START Arms Control treaty with Russia – Passed

Many people are applauding and marveling at the amazing progress made by Congress, but are our expectations simple too low? DADT should have clearly been repealed years ago, the First Responder’s bill should never have been held hostage by Republicans who were too focused on taxes, and we almost missed out on a no-brainer nuclear treaty with Russia!

And all of this is before we get the most radicalized new members of congress this country has ever seen!

Which brings us to the other big political news this week. The US Census has released the data that indicates how many congressional seats will be awarded to each state. With the new numbers of seats comes the redrawing of district lines, and that could be the secret to fixing a lot of what’s wrong with Congress today.

Too Much Packing

When politicians are tasked with redrawing district lines, they are essentially deciding which voters will be clustered together to choose a single candidate. For too long, the prevailing strategy has been what analysts are now calling “Packing.” This describes the drawing of a district to contain an overwhelming majority of one party’s supporters in order to all but guarantee victory for that party. This helps party leaders feel confident about the outcome in their elections, but it also has a very negative an insidious outcome.

Let’s explore a district that was packed by Democratic state leaders to be an overwhelmingly Democratic district. During the primary process, the electorate knows that the Republican candidates don’t have a chance. Because of this, Democratic candidates are not concerned with being moderate or appealing to non-Democrats. They are simply concerned with getting as many Democratic voters to support them. This often leads to candidates focusing on the extremists in their parties, and losing their perspective of what compromise and governance is all about.

When so many districts across this country are packed in this way, we find extremists populating Congress, and we see a serious decrease in willingness to “reach across the aisle.” There is less compromise and less cooperation. Congress can accomplish less, and the American people ultimately suffer.

What needs to happen is a little more Cracking.

The alternative strategy for redrawing district lines is called Cracking. This calls for the breaking down of packed districts, and the creation of districts that could easily by won by both Democrats and Republicans. In situations like this, the politicians are forced during the general election to get independent voters to swing in their direction. They are much more concerned with being considered moderate, and there is a sincere desire to govern towards the middle of the American populace.

Not enough State Governments are employing Cracking as their chief strategy for redrawing district lines, and the reasons are obvious. These decisions are being made by politicians! And if they want to stay in power, they must ensure their party will win more elections.

The silver bullet to solve this problem is independent commissions established to redraw district lines. I believe California is trying this, and it could work a long way towards bringing politics back towards the center.

This country has such low expectations for congress that we are amazed when the 9/11 bill passes – clearly something is wrong. We need to work towards punishing extremism, rewarding moderation, and stop allowing politicians to choose who gets to vote for them.



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