Why testing democracy is common
Testing democracy is a constant challenge we live with. It’s the price we pay for being self-governed. Others, threatened by our inherent freedom, want to destroy us from without. Some, jealous of our inclusive democracy, want to tear us apart from within. The contention goes with the territory, which underscores the importance of our democracy’s defense.
We can point to specific events to prove the point and take a pulse of America to discern what people think and feel. Jennifer Agiesta and Ariel Edwards-Levy, writing for CNN, makes a not-so-subtle claim in their article, CNN Poll: Most Americans feel democracy is under attack in the US. They report:
Most Americans feel democracy is under attack in this country (56%), according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, as 51% say it is likely that elected officials in the US will successfully overturn the results of a future election because their party did not win.
Nearly all Americans feel that democracy in the US is at least being tested: 93% total say that democracy is either under attack (56%) or being tested but not under attack (37%). A scant 6% say that American democracy is in no danger.
Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say that democracy is under attack, and that view is most prevalent among those who support former President Donald Trump. All told, 75% of Republicans say democracy is under attack, compared with 46% of Democrats.
This is not a good report card. It speaks to a lack of confidence in our governing system. The recent 2020 election highlighted how divided the nation was and persists to be. The gap is getting wider, rather than cooling, healing, mending.
Gerrymandering is an example of testing democracy
There are many examples of testing democracy. Here is one.
Though the news barely mentions another challenge to our democracy, it’s well worth noting. Our democracy is based upon the fundamental principle that our governing power rests with the people – the voters. Further, those voters are clustered in states and districts from which emerge leaders (sometimes questionable, though they are) who represent these voters. It’s why we refer to our government as a representative democracy.
We think we pick our legislators. In some instances, we do. In other examples, those legislators pick us.
Many states have redrawn, or will soon redraw, congressional district borders to reflect the changes in their respective population densities. Much attention is given to this exercise to ensure the integrity of its process and the transparency of the decisions made. In some instances, for example, independent groups are selected to redraw the congressional borders. Much effort is made to ensure that those groups are equally represented by Democrats and Republicans (never mind all of those other, minority parties – do they matter?).
Ah, fairness. Another principle of our democracy, right?
It’s all a ruse. When population densities are considered for redrawing congressional district borders, it should not – must not – matter of what political stripe those citizens might be. They are people, not categories!
The actual effect is that those beloved legislators, on both sides of the aisle (there are only two to consider), are actually in the business of picking their voters! It’s a con job to ensure a political party is able to retain political control. It’s not about representation at all! It’s called job security!
Drawing district lines begins with people – not political parties
But we’ve lived with this gerrymandering habit for so long, what can be done? Well, nothing is we insist on ignoring it. If we ignore it, it doesn’t go away. If we ignore it, this version of a democracy testing will persist.
Redrawing congressional district lines is actually a rather simple process. Given the power of computers and databases available today, a simple artificial intelligence system can easily accomplish the task while you step out for a latte. Seriously. No special teams are needed. No attention to bi-partisanship is needed. Transparency can be easily made apparent and confidence can easily be restored.
The fundamental approach is to start with people, not political allegiance. Keep boundaries simple and obvious and eliminate shapes that are overly convoluted.
I provide a more detailed explanation of how gerrymandering can be removed in All Votes Matter! Suffice it to say, testing democracy should not be a consideration when reapportioning our citizens within congressional districts.
Testing democracy is habitual because it’s ignored
Testing democracy, it should be noted, actually begins when we choose to ignore the principles and processes involved. We may be confronted with age-old habits and traditions, but that does not mean we should ignore those elements that eat away at our democracy.
In another example, when we elect a president, old traditions die hard because we ignore them. Electing a president via the Winner-Takes-All (WTA) approach causes the elections to be anything but democratic. We cannot continue to cast out almost half of the ballots cast in every presidential election without expecting such things as confidence in our government not to erode. It takes but little notice that our paltry voter turnout election-after-election is because our citizens have lost faith – trust – in the voting process.
Does any of this unnerve you? Are you disturbed? Good. Don’t ignore your intuition or the good logic that helps you recognize the tests of democracy.
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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team