everything without representation

i swear, despite the topics of my first two contentful posts, this is not going to be a politics blog. because, well, for the most part i'm rather apathetic to politics (i believe my political views on facebook used to be listed as "Congress sucks" and is now "all legislatures suck"), and i think this post will spell out one of the reasons why. my friend Michael Cowett tweeted a link to his debut column, which deals with redistricting in Massachusetts.  my tweeted response was pretty pithy:

@mcowett agreed, gerrymandering sucks, no matter who it favors. hard to fix it without some major rethinking, unfortunately.this, of course, got me to going through said rethinking.  so what's the big problem with our local Representatives to Congress?  well, primarily the fact that they're neither local nor representative.  that, after all, is the beauty of gerrymandering.  i can only imagine that those who actually serve on redistricting committees are either a) grinning like small children who when told not to leave the room are hanging 99.9% out the door with a toe barely making contact with the threshold, simultaneously mocking their parents or b) not doing that, and therefore completely soulless.

so, since fixing both shortcomings is way too pie-in-the-sky for me to even bother making the clackity noise about, let's look at how either one could be fixed. hypothetically. very hypothetically.


according to the 2010 census data, each congressional district now "represents" almost 710,000 people.  the founders (frequently trotted out by the far right as demi-gods, but regarded by me, a liberal [i suppose], as probably fairly smart guys, what with starting a country and all) allegedly argued bitterly between allotting 30,000 and 40,000 per district.  of course they never could have guessed that the average congressional district would grow by double that figure over just 10 years at the turn of the 21st century.

so, what to do?  there have already been proposals to increase the size of the House — something that occurred regularly before 1929 — although most of them are modest.  what if we reapportioned fairly conservatively?  at, say, 100,000 constituents per district we would be representing at roughly the level of the Italian parliament…with 3,000 representatives.  go back to the founders' plan and we'd be looking at 9,000 representatives.

seeing as we have no plans to build the Galactic Senate (which, i might point out, is on the very short list of legitimately cool things from the Star Wars prequel trilogy), this is pretty much a no go.


the opposing alternative is to scrap locality in favor of better representing constituents with roughly the number of representatives we already have.  most people couldn't possibly tell you what their congressional district looks like or what it includes. it may well sprawl halfway across a state, like my current home district, NY 22.

so, the easy solution?  keep the current number of seats per state, and hand them out on a proportional basis, state-wide.  this is easy in theory only, of course, since it would essentially destroy the two-party system in one fell swoop.  given that those in control of this situation are some of the strongest adherents to said system…yeah, this isn't happening.


ok, i lied.  once i'm indulging impossible fantasy scenarios, i might as well push it to the limit, no?  what would an ideal solution look like?  probably one that increases the number of representatives to a much larger but still manageable number, close to but under 1000.  then, districting is done completely blindly by some algorithm that has access to census data but not the biasing parts: party affiliation, race, etc.  cook up a few competing algorithms, generate their results, and then vote on the overall plan.  the benefits?  probably long-term lowered costs for having properly compact districts.  a bit of a solution to both problems above.  the drawbacks?  two-party chaos or dissolution of the two-party system.

in sum

nobody's going for it.  we walked down this ugly path and now American politics is stuck in it.  like i said, it sucks no matter who it favors and no matter which side you're on.  cheery, i know.

so, to follow up that in terms of implausibility, i think my only possible next topic is to discuss my awesome ideas for college football playoffs.  until then.