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The government fix

GAYS MILLS - Our government, you’d have to agree, is in a heckuva fix. It just doesn’t seem to work anymore, as it has in the past. Congressional approval ratings are in the cellar, the ‘checks’ built in to our system don’t seem to be balancing, as a nation we are deep in debt and getting deeper for the foreseeable future, many important government agency heads are ‘acting,’ and the economy has been okay, but now looks a bit shaky. The list goes on–and on.

I think about our government a lot now, because I’ve become a bit of a news junkie in my mature years. Many of the pundits and talking heads on news shows seem like old friends by now. 

So where do you start to repair a mature democracy that seems to be struggling to survive? In times past, the advice was to ‘write your congressman.’ I doubt if that is good advice today. Four months ago, I took the trouble to write personal letters, via the U.S. mail, to both of our senators and our representative about a flood issue. I have yet to get a reply from any of them. I know legislators are some of the busiest people around, but they have staffs that I assumed would at least respond with a form letter.

There are two things that might help stabilize government, fix it somewhat, and make it feel more like ‘we the people’ are really in some kind of control. I must have been absent from high school the day they covered the Electoral College System of presidential elections, but that is one problem area. I just don’t get  how that system is supposed to be truly democratic.

The main problem as I see it is the winner-take-all feature of the archaic Electoral College System.  This practice is followed by 48 states. If ‘every vote counts’ and ‘one person-one vote’ has any validity at all, those votes should go to the person for whom they are cast. Within each of the 48 states, the losing candidate’s electoral votes really don’t matter under the Electoral College System, in fact they actually go to the candidate you may not have voted for. In the words of a friend of mine: “It don’t make no sense.” 

One possible and practical partial fix: proportionate voting by the Electoral College. Currently only Maine (4 electoral votes) and Nebraska (5 votes) use proportional voting, accounting for only 9 votes out of the 538 votes in the Electoral College. The electoral votes in those states are divided as closely as possible in proportion to the popular votes cast. That small and logical tweak would make things far fairer in all 50 states. 

A second idea that would improve our democracy considerably is to have fair congressional districts. Right now many of the districts are not fair, very oddly shaped, are not logical, and “don’t make no sense”. The problem: gerrymandering. This is where the politicians in effect pick their voters rather than the other way around. They do this by manipulating voting districts to their advantage and creating ‘safe’ districts for their party. Some such non-competitive districts have remained in one party’s power for decades. Both parties are guilty of doing it (redistricting) when they’re in power and neither of them should, to be fair.  

Gerrymandering is like the players making up the rules. Again we the people, the employers of every politician, should make the rules, set guidelines for the districts in a fair and non-partisan way. Iowa reportedly has one of the fairest congressional district maps in the country.  It is made up by a non-partisan group and districts “do make sense,” are logical, competitive, and fair.