The Gerrymander

Elbridge Gerry (July 17, 1744 – November 23, 1814) “was a Founding Father: signer of the Declaration of Independence, reluctant framer of the Constitution, congressman, diplomat, and the fifth vice-president” (Trickey, 2017).  Gerry is obviously an important figure in the United States; however this was all news to me when I read about it. I had no idea about Gerry or his history when I started researching this idea for a blog post. What I did know is that the gerrymander originated from the political hijinks of a person named Gerry.

Wikipedia (2018) defines “Gerrymandering [as] a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander.” Trickey (2017) notes that the first gerrymander was a result of a redistricting bill that Gerry signed as Governor of Massachusetts in February of 1812. Trickey further elaborates on the origin of the word:

The word “gerrymander” was coined at a Boston dinner party hosted by a prominent Federalist in March 1812, according to an 1892 article by historian John Ward Dean. As talk turned to the hated redistricting bill, illustrator Elkanah Tisdale drew a picture map of the district as if it were a monster, with claws and a snake-like head on its long neck. It looked like a salamander, another dinner guest noted. No, a “Gerry-mander,” offered poet Richard Alsop, who often collaborated with Tisdale.

The end result of a gerrymander is to provide a structural advantage for the party that draws the boundary lines. Therein lies the problem: in advantaging one party over another a gerrymander effectively strips any semblance of democracy from the process of voting. A gerrymander effectively nullifies the vote of the opposing party.

Democracy in the United States in complicated. Challenging an incumbent politician is difficult. Incumbents typically hold an advantage in fundraising. An incumbent in a gerrymandered district is near unbeatable. If an incumbent’s constituents tire of that him or her, it could be near impossible to get rid of them.

Recall that this problem is structural. When an incumbent retires, their party still controls the seat. I can think of few things that are more anti-democratic than this.

References

Trickey, E. (2017, July 20). Where did the term gerrymander come from?: Elbridge Gerry was a powerful voice in the founding of the nation, but today he’s best known for the political practice with an amphibious origin. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/where-did-term-gerrymander-come-180964118/

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, October 24). Gerrymandering. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:56, October 31, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gerrymandering&oldid=865588091

Justice as a passion

I had a conversation with a cousin of mine, a little over a year ago. We were discussing politics, as we often have over the years. Though we don’t actively disagree, we don’t necessarily agree either. What was notable about this particular conversation was that his acknowledgement that I have “a passion for politics.”

This description did not sit well with me. I was not offended; it is accurate to an extent. However, it did not really fit. I was uncomfortable with the idea that he would define my politicism as a passion for politics.

I am, at least, somewhat politically aware. I have a long history of political activism: I have participated in campaigns and protests. I have lobbied in Sacramento on numerous occasions. However, I do not consider myself a political junky; I have numerous other passions that take up more of my time than politics.

It took me a few weeks to figure out what the problem was. It occurred to me when I was going through some of my writing. I started to recognize a pattern of concern.

The next time I spoke to my cousin I was able to correct him. I informed that my true passion is for justice and explained that the reason it looks like a passion for politics is that politics is often the arena where fights for justice take place. This explanation was apparently good enough for my cousin; he did not quibble.

So, one might then ask what is a passion for justice? I can only answer for myself. I am angered that through a quirk of geography and class some people are doomed to lives of misery and failure while others can live their life without ever facing any real consequences. I am angered that laws are designed to favor the interests of the powerful over the lives of the vast majority of the people.

I have been thinking about this because I like to write. My problem has been that I have not, to this point, thought that I had a good subject to write about on an ongoing basis. I have decided that justice and dignity will be the overarching subjects of my writing. In my opinion, dignity goes hand in hand with justice. There can be no justice without recognizing the dignity of every human being.

Anyway, I think this is somewhat reflected in my previous blog posts. Not completely, but close enough to recognize a pattern of concern. I am sure I will often digress into the genre of horror, because it is something I enjoy, and I am almost 30,000 words into a horror novel I am writing (it will be my first novel of any genre). I am sure I will digress in other ways, too; but that is half of the fun. I intend to define dignity and justice as I go along.

I hope I can make some friends along the way.

Trump and Hyper-Gremlinzation

I have mentioned my intense dislike for the sitting President of the United States before. Watching the antics of this administration has seriously deepened my dislike of trump. I have struggled to find a way to accurately describe the chaos and destruction that is daily presented by this administration.

One description that I have liked until now came from Kate Brannen. Writing for Foreign Policy magazine, she described the trump administration as “Game of Thrones for morons.” Though I like this description, I think it implies far too much credit to the administration. Associating this administration with Game of Thrones implies that there is far more thought and strategy going on than I think is possible for trump and his cronies.

Then, recently, I found out about The Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies. It started here with an article on the AV Club. That article has a link to this interview at MEL magazine. I devoured each article, as well as the links associated with the articles, and then did some independent research on the gremlins of the Gremlins’ movie series.

I have since spent some time reading the tweets on @G2Institute. What I found seems like a perfect description of what is happening in modern politics. It describes not only the stupidity and chaos coming out of the White House, but also the perfidy and collusion of the Republican congress. Taken a step further, it could also describe the Democratic party’s current status as bewildered bystander.

The Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies has a pinned tweet describing a process called Hyper-Gremlinization. This is defined as “a future where the film is increasingly inseparable from reality.” I easily found evidence of this. The interview in MEL magazine suggests that character Daniel Clamp, the real estate developer who’s building the gremlins wreak havoc in, is at least partially based on trump. They point to this Wired magazine article to underscore the point.

This would seem to imply that trump himself is not a gremlin, but an enabler of their antics; this does seem somewhat apt. “The Gremlins go beyond the acceptable transgressions: They very much threaten the system represented by Clamp Center.” In an eerie analog to the President, it seems that while Clamp is ostensibly in charge of the mess that is his building, it is also hopelessly out of his control.

The Villains Wiki page on Gremlins describes them as “ monsters … notable for being mischievous and chaotic, obsessed with destruction and cruel practical jokes.” The only part of this that does not make obvious sense in describing the trump administration is the part about being obsessed with cruel practical jokes; though we have no way of knowing or proving that administration members are joking, there is no evidence that precludes this.

It is my opinion the Hyper-Gremlinization is the best description of the current state of politics in the United States today. A figurehead president hopelessly out of his depth, overseeing a set of actors within the administration and the Republican Congress who are seemingly intent on the destruction of everything within their grasp for their own amusement. Meanwhile, the Democratic Congress stands by as a powerless observer.

Perhaps not the best possible description, but it is the best I have at the moment. Further inquiry will prove it apt, or not. However, I think the theory of Hyper-Gremlinization, in stating that reality will increasingly conform to the actics of the gremlins in the movie, is exemplified by the trump administration.