hearts and minds

March 20, 2017

Whitford v Gill – Wisconsin federal case – partisan gerrymandering of districts

The great majority of Americans are flat-out opposed to the bogus legal theory that a corporation is a “person” in the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. And when objectively polled, we overwhelmingly favor universal, comprehensive health care – basically Medicare for All as a solution to the health care crisis and to end the continuing epidemic of medically induced personal bankruptcy. Americans think that we should have government that is of, by, and for the people, rather than government that is by and for corporations and the super-rich. Despite this, none but a tiny handful of elected “representatives of the people” in government actually support these views. Why can’t we obtain legislative bodies which actually proportionally represent the views, the values and the opinions of the people? There are a few underlying reasons, resulting in several structural defects, which cause this dysfunction. This essay spotlights one of those structural defects.

An amicus publicus (friend of the people) brief is needed in the current Wisconsin redistricting constitutionality case that is now before federal courts. This case will likely be heard by the U.S. supreme Court, and will thus affect all people, in all states. The current statement of the case neither considers nor defends the important interests of the persons and the Constitutional principles which are most aggrieved and damaged, since it focuses only on the parochial, partisan complaint of named and allied defendants. 

The interests of “we the people” in a real, rather than a sham democratic republic, and in truly representative elections, is completely neglected. The interests of hundreds of thousands of real, live individual Wisconsin citizens – indeed, many millions of U.S. citizens – who do not wish to concede and surrender our rights and our influence in government to either (or both) of the two self-permitted political parties, is also entirely neglected. This important case should not be allowed to transform the defense of democracy itself, and the Constitutional rights of the individual citizen, into a partisan wedge issue. 

Election rules, procedures, and laws should not be judged solely based on whether or not one of the two self-perpetuating political parties excessively disadvantaged the other permitted party. The constitutionality of those rules, procedures, and laws should be judged based on whether or not they are obstructing the principles of equal and proper representation of the people, the Constitutional rights of the people, and the Constitutional principle that the state legislatures and the Members of Congress “shall be chosen by the People of the several states. ‘By the people’ does not mean, ‘by the managers of two permitted political parties and an appointed “redistricting committee”’. ‘By the people’ does not mean ‘by corporations’ or ‘by people who are not legitimate citizens of the state’.  

It is important to realize that the U.S. Constitution does NOT require district elections. And there is absolutely no reason in the 21st century to stubbornly and stupidly maintain and protect the archaic, anti-democratic scheme of dividing people into single-seat districts, 
including the advocated “reform” of creating the pretension of “unbiased” or “bi-partisan” boards of elite appointees, who are tasked with devising arbitrary, purportedly “competitive” single seat districts. Such districts are essentially designed to, and they certainly function to: 
(a) be “fair” and “even-handed” only to the two permitted political parties, while simultaneously
(b) maintaining the exclusive control of all branches and levels of government in the hands of the managers of the two corporate-controlled, self-perpetuating political parties.  

People who claim to be defending democracy, and who are not corporatists or party loyalists, 
should try thinking out of the box for a change.  We shouldn’t merely seek to end blatantly unfair partisan gerrymandering.  It is single-seat districting itself that is unconstitutional. Single-seat districts are either uncontested or force a choice between two candidates selected by the two permitted parties. But an election is supposed to provide every citizen with an equal influence on government, untrammeled and free of interference or censorship by the managers of the two self-permitted, lobbyist controlled political parties, and a fully equal opportunity for each citizen’s views to be represented in government. Citizen’s votes should count and be counted, and they all should matter equally; not just be used to satisfy and to ratify the two-party hegemony.

The plaintiffs claim that partisan gerrymandering “is unconstitutional and profoundly undemocratic … because it treats voters unequally, diluting their voting power based on their political beliefs, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection …”.  In reality, the problem is that single-seat districting itself is what does exactly that to individual citizens. In fact, engineering “competitive” districts is, in some ways, even worse than “partisan gerrymandering” in terms of violating citizen’s Constitutional rights, and violating principles of democracy.  Creating districts which are engineered to be “fair”, but only to the two self-permitted political parties, effectively forces ALL voters to limit their choices, their opinions, and their votes to pre-selected candidates chosen by the two permitted parties.  And the two-party system has been increasingly dysfunctional and unrepresentative, especially since both parties are controlled by corporations and the super-rich, and not by the people or even by their own members.

The critically important issue at hand is not whether the managers of one of the two self-permitted parties unfairly pulled the rug out from under the managers of the other party. The issue at hand is whether the people are sovereign in a democracy, and whether the Constitutional rights of individual citizens are being systematically violated and denied by the election process itself, and by the two-party hegemony. The Constitutional rights of the people are violated by the system of single-seat districts, which was devised by and for the two self-permitted, self-perpetuating political parties.  

The description on plaintiffs’ web site concludes by referring by name to three professional politicians who support their stand in this case.  Each of these so-called “reformers” is a former legislative “leader”, and all legislative leaders are selected by the two self-perpetuating political parties. They are, of course, loyal members of those parties. Who, may I ask, represents the rights and the will of those millions of us who acknowledge no such party discipline, loyalty and membership? In their summary, plaintiffs assert that, “This is a nonpartisan campaign designed to make the districts in Wisconsin fair so the legislature reflects the will of the people.”  This assertion is patently false and misleading.  The truth is that this is a partisan campaign designed only to create procedures that will be “fair” to the managers of both permitted political parties, so that the two-party stranglehold on government in America will be strengthened and perpetuated.

It is unconstitutional for the election procedures and the courts to presume that the will and the rights of the people can be reduced to a sterile competition between the managers of two permitted political parties. Self-governance in the democratic republic of the USA shall not be a spectator sport where the candidates, issues, arguments and audience are pre-selected by controllers in order to present a marginally interesting entertainment, and to protect and perpetuate a rapidly deteriorating status quo.

If representation in Congress and in the state legislature was determined using ranked choice voting, in statewide or (where needed) appropriately sized mega-district multi-vacancy elections, virtually all citizens would be pleased to know that primary elections are no longer necessary for any elections with ranked choice voting. They would also be very pleased to find that with RCV, one of their top choices would actually be elected in each of these legislative bodies. More subtly, but even more importantly, no matter who you are or where you live, your ranked choice votes will actually matter in the outcome of every election, and candidates will be forced to consider every potential voter. In contrast, half the citizens don’t even bother voting in the single-seat district elections we have today, and a large minority of those who do vote feel, with good reason, that they have no representative in that legislative body, and even the “winners” feel that their votes are unimportant, and taken for granted, in many cases. For good reason, voters feel completely unrepreesented when their single vote is cast for the candidate that loses. And many voters live in single-seat districts where they will never be able to vote for a winning candidate. Plurality voting single-seat district elections for the state legislature and for Congress (which is what we all currently have), especially in an electoral system where the management of both permitted parties is controlled by corporations and the super-rich, defeats democracy and is perhaps the greatest reason for massive citizen apathy and disengagement from voting. Plurality voting in single-seat districts inherently violates the Constitutional rights of individual persons, including equal protection of the laws, free speech and petition for redress, and the mandate that representatives shall be chosen by the people.

Be Bold for a Change
March 11, 2017

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