Why is Congress in Grid Lock


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US Capitol

The United States Capitol.  This is where the laws are made, at least it used to be where the laws were made.  Now it is where men and women gather to make a lot of noise and to point fingers at each other.  No other time in the history of the United States has this body of public servants been so delinquent in their duty to their country.  Time and time again they have failed to resolve a major issue and time and time again we, the people, have paid for it.

What’s wrong?  Why can’t they debate an issue and come to a compromise?  Are they all just simply hardheaded?  How can they do this to us?  The answer is it is not them, it’s us.  We elect representatives and senators to go to Congress.  We vote for people with our views and we send them off to Congress with a mandate to see that our views are carried out.

In a functioning government the representatives and senators would have been elected after a strong race that pitted candidates with different opinions against each other and the majority would win.  It was generally the case that the moderates would turn the election.  That would send to Congress men and women that knew they had some working room.  Their mandate was not single minded.  Their constituents expected them to fight but they also expected them to be reasonable.  There have been many stories about the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil.  The fought like cats and dogs over an issue, but they would find a compromise and the government moved on.

Today the representatives and senators are being elected by people all of one mind.  Today, in most districts, the real fight is in the primary, the general election is not much more than an afterthought.  Why is this?  The answer is the makeup of the electoral districts.  The mobility in the country has allowed likeminded people to easily flock together.  Some of this is done by choice and some by economics.  It is human nature to feel comfortable around people that think like you.  This is part of it but natural migration would not put enough people in one place to form a full Congressional district, only political weaseling could do that.

You probably learned about this in school.  I learned the term fifty years ago and I can’t believe it is still allowed in our system.  The term is gerrymandering.  Every few years the governor of each state is allowed to redraw the Congressional districts in order to adjust them for the latest census.  This should be a minor adjustment unless there was a mass migration for some reason.  It may not be a minor adjustment if the governorship had changed hands since the last adjustment.  As a loyal member of his or her party, the governor will draw the districts in a way that will give his or her party the greatest advantage in the next election.  If a state has five Congressional districts, the governor would work to draw them all so that all of the opposing party’s core electret is in one district.  This would give his or her party a great chance of having four out of the five representatives elected in the next election to be from their party.  The process of redrawing districts for political gain is called gerrymandering.

Ohio Districts

Take a look at the Congressional districts of Ohio.  Look at the districts in white.  Do those districts have such a high concentration of population that they needed their own representative, or was there a little creativity at work here?

After many many years of this our Congressional districts in many states our now solid Democrat or solid Republican.  The candidate of the opposing party doesn’t have a chance in the general election.  The real fight is in the primary.  It is a fight to prove if a candidate is liberal or conservative enough to carry the day.  During this fight the candidates will swear loyalty to the cause and swear not to back down or to give up their principles and this block of liked minded voters will hold them to that promise and they will remind them of it later.

When these people go to Congress, they have no working room.  They either vote the mandate or expect to be replaced in the next election.  There is very little chance for a Reagan/O’Neil type compromise when we, the people, are ordering them not to under threat of being ousted.

If we want government to act reasonable, we have to act reasonable.  We have to allow our representatives and senators to listen to the arguments and to vote rationally and fairly on each issue.  Yes, they have to support their cause but it can’t be to the detriment of the country.  The people have to tell them it’s okay to compromise as long as they don’t give up the store.  The solution lies with us and not on Capitol Hill.  They can’t fix it, we have to fix.

Gerrymandering must be stopped.  If you hear that your state is about to enter another round of redistricting tell your state government to be fair and draw districts that allow for fair elections across the state.


Pete is a retired software developer, a writer, and a martial arts instructor. He lives in Maryland with his wife Cathy and they are enjoying their retirement. Pete is the author of four novels, "The Teacher", 500 Years from Home", and "The Long Journey Home" are available at Lulu.com; and "Pioneers" in available at the Kindle Book Store.

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Posted in Congress, politics, Social Issues

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