Designed dysfunction

A well-functioning democracy reflects people’s preferences. If a majority of citizens favor stricter control of guns, which they do, then Congress would pass bills that give effect to that sentiment. If more people vote for Democrats, which they do, then Congress would have a Democratic majority.

There are no doubt many reasons for why our political institutions fail to produce outcomes preferred by citizens. One of them is surely state redistricting: the actions by one political party to ensure incumbency in both state and federal legislatures.

Elizabeth Drew, writing for the New York Review of Books, makes that point. She cites the work and conclusions of David Daley in his book Ratf**ked: the True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. She writes:

The inescapable fact is that Republicans have historically been more attuned than Democrats to the political advantages of gaining and maintaining power at the state level and more inclined to involve themselves in what might seem unglamorous structural questions.

One result is that the Republicans are overrepresented in Congress. They’ve pulled that off by working to dominate state governments and thereby get themselves in a position to draw most of the congressional districts, which gives them the power to perpetuate themselves in Congress. Thus—if they’re of a mind to—they can block whatever a Democratic president wants to do. As a result, we have a distorted contest for power between the two parties for control of the executive and legislative branches.

Democrats, as a rule, tend more to national politics then state and local elections. Here in Washington, Democrats, who significantly outnumber Republicans, allowed the latter to seize control of the state senate. This has yielded a gridlocked Olympia, seemingly incapable of enabling the people’s wishes.

Party politics is important, more important now in an era of rank partisanship than “voting for the person.” In casting ballots, ask which party more closely identifies with your interests, then vote accordingly.