The Problem With Gerrymandering Isn't What Most People Think It Is
If you’re a Democrat and you know very little about gerrymandering, you still know two things: 1) It makes super weirdly-shaped voting districts that are very bad, and 2) it’s a Republican policy that is very bad. There’s about 40 percent truth in those statements, and like a well gerrymandered district, it’s representing significantly less than that.
The truth about gerrymandering is a little more complicated, and, more importantly, is now at the full-blown “They Did It First” stage of life. As Oliver points out in the story, the controlling party usually gets to redraw the voting district lines. Meaning that in reality, Democrats are gerrymandering as often as Republicans are. Or at least they would be if Democrats would get to the polls more often. Which is the reason that the simple solution (have an objective third party draw the district lines) isn’t working yet. Simply put: We Democrats want ours.
Some will argue that the driving force behind all life is the inherent instinct to reproduce and protect offspring. This is incorrect. It is actually the never-ending mental tab we all hold about who’s getting more shit than we are. Siblings, coworkers, significant others, friends. You have a list somewhere in the back of your head that totals all the debits and credits of that relationship, and decides if you’re getting fucked over in some way. And when we do find we’ve been fucked over, we can’t just accept fixing the broken problem. You can’t, for instance, explain to your spouse that you’ve been loading and unloading the dishwasher twice as often, and therefore they need to pick up the pace. They would need to actually load and unload the dishwasher twice as often for the same amount of time to really be even. We can’t only accept equality going forward; we need to be made whole from previous damages.
Democrats have spent the last seven years getting our asses handed to us in Congressional and state elections. So while handing off responsibility for the district lines to a disinterested body would be the right answer, it feels like a slight against us. They got away with bad behavior for eight years, and now we have to be the adults? To which I can only respond, “Well, yeah.”
And that sucks, but being that adult always sucks. You know what doesn’t suck? Having a morally defensible position. Was gerrymandering a bad thing when Republicans did it? Yes. Then it’s bad for us, too. Was it shitty for Mitch McConnell (who holds the least morally defensible position in all of Congress) to declare the nuclear option to get Gorsuch confirmed? Then it was equally shitty for Harry Reid. Did Trump make the wrong decision when he ordered the missile strike on Syria? Then Obama’s decision was wrong, too, right?
Now, before you jump to the comments to explain why all of these situations are slightly different, I know. Much like the oft-maligned, weirdly-shaped voting district, these situations can’t be judged only on appearance. You could easily argue that Obama was right to strike Syria because it was a larger operation fighting ISIS, that he’d remained mostly consistent on Syria (and didn’t drastically change positions based on things like, I don’t know, learning what the fuck was going on in Syria before Tweeting uninformed shit all over the place), and that Obama attempted to garner Congressional support for the strike before authorizing it. There’s no question that nuance and circumstance can add to the discussion. But if that discussion still boils down to “They did it first,” you’re probably not looking to solve the actual problem.