A while back I suggested a third party might unclog our gridlocked political machinery. But on second thought that would probably take too long and probably wouldn’t work anyway.
What our body politic needs is a major overhaul beginning with the upcoming November congressional elections. But we’ll be swimming upstream due to our antiquated, unrepresentative electoral college and gerrymandered congressional districts. Only a relatively few districts are any longer actually competitive.
Our electoral college was rigged from the very beginning to favor the conservative slave - holding southern states. It was no coincidence that five of our first seven presidents owned slaves. And today a California senator (always a Democrat) represents almost twenty million people while a Wyoming senator (always a Republican) represents less than three hundred and fifty thousand. In a sense this gives tiny (in population) Wyoming almost sixty times the Senate voting power of California, our largest state. This unbalanced scheme was devised over 220 years ago when state populations were more equal.
Democratic candidates have won the popular vote in most presidential elections since 1988 and have outpolled the GOP in the popular vote in most congressional elections as well. But despite this clear majority Republicans dominate American politics more strongly today than at any time since Reconstruction. Although the minority party, the GOP controls all three branches of the federal government today and holds two-thirds of the state governorships and legislatures. Through the years our population has steadily expanded and shifted geographically without our even once amending the Constitution to accommodate changing demographic realities. We have the means to rectify these inequities, but due to extreme partisanship and “unholy” alliances the same political powers are still basically in charge that were running things 150 years ago. But can anything be done?
In 2016 42% (90 million) of America’s eligible voters stayed home. Voter ID (voter suppression) laws were a small part of it, but disillusionment and plain old voter apathy were the major causes. The remedy is obvious: get people registered and get them to the polls on election day. I’ve participated in some of this in the past and all it requires is some work and a few of tanks of gas. Also essential is remobilizing the African American community. They defeated Jim Crow mostly through their own grass roots efforts, and now it’s time to take on Jim’s disenfranchising stepchildren.
Today over 80 percent of Americans express dissatisfaction with their congressional representation and 60 percent favor a third party. But third parties tend to organize around single issues which can be self-defeating. This nation needs a revitalized Democratic Party with a broader, more inclusive vision and members who will work, not just talk. Folks are fed up with single-issue, extremist ideologues and have indicated as much. But so far opposition leadership has been mostly passive.
The Democrats have some smart, dedicated young people running for office in Georgia today, but they lack financing, organization and exposure. Money doesn’t grow on trees and there’s no tooth fairy. But if every Democrat would donate just $10 a year and a little effort to their country’s recovery they could send those right-wing Tea Party bozos home this November; or at least enough of them to unclog the current legislative gridlock. But do enough people any longer care? I sometimes wonder.
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at email@example.com.