If you want to actually do something about the party structure and tribalism discussed in Kemp’s most recent post, I would recommend voting for anti-gerrymadering amendments on the ballot Tuesday. The bottom line is that white conservatives and minority incumbents have teamed up over the years to draw districts in a way concentrate types of voters together. That often serves to make incumbents in those districts untouchable and provides great incentive for ideological and ethnic pandering.
As a practical matter, it tends to benefit Republicans on a large scale because of the way it concentrates traditional Democratic voters into single districts. But it also guarantees token minority representation. Corrine Brown in north Florida is a perfect example. By concentrating north Florida black voters into her district, she solidifies her hold on her seat and the white conservative hold on all the rest.
Safe seats tend to lead to corruption, on all sides and ethnicities.
So with that introduction, I’m going to turn over the space briefly to my cousin Robin Gibson, a longtime — mostly Democratic — civil and political stalwart in Polk County. He recently sent out this email, and I’m reprinting it with his permission.
I think we’re all distressed about the excessive partisanship in government and the uncivil paralysis it has caused. We have a chance to do something about it and I’m urging you to join me in taking that step.
Part of the reason for the fix we’re in is because of the way politicians from both parties have over the years gerrymandered voting districts into bizarre shapes that are designed to serve themselves. Political tradition holds that, if you happen to be in power, you get the privilege of designing voter districts. Using sophisticated computer models, you draw oddball boundaries that create a disproportionate number of favorable districts. Then you draw equally oddball boundaries to confine your opposition voters to as few districts as possible.
Since virtually everyone elected in this system turns out to have a safe seat, incumbents from both parties wind up liking it. (Of the last 420 races for state senator and state representative, only three incumbents were defeated.) Representatives move more to the extremes and away from the center — where most of the people are. When that kind of representative goes to the Legislature or Congress, the incentive is to reject all suggestions from the other side, go at each other’s throats, grandstand to constituents, return to your gerrymandered district, be safely reelected, and do it all over again. Both parties are equally guilty.
Proposed Amendments 5 (for state offices) and 6 (for federal offices) to the Florida Constitution are designed to put an end to the practice. They require that districts be drawn as much as possible along existing community and county boundaries. Voters will be choosing their representatives rather than representatives choosing their voters. Political representation will line up with the way government delivers its services.
It has already been done in a few other states and is working. More states are joining the movement. Support in Florida has come from just about every worth-while organization. Opposition has come from entrenched politicians in both parties.
A 60% vote is required for passage. It’s important. Please consider these amendments favorably.
Voters will be choosing their representatives rather than representatives choosing their voters. I think that’s the key phrase here. I disagree somewhat with Robin that there is a middle where most voters dwell. Or rather, I think that that the ethic of that middle — give me all my services and military, but do not tax me — is completely unsustainable. But diminishing ideological and ethic concentration would be a modest step in the right direction.