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Jim McClellan: How gerrymandering bites us in the ass

I don’t really have a representative in Congress. I mean, I do live in Florida’s First Congressional District, and technically Jeff Miller is my guy. I’m just not his. Not one he really needs to care about, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong; he does some things I like. However, even if I hated every position he took, it wouldn’t matter because this is a safe Republican district and I’m registered NPA – no party affiliation. So, yes, I can vote against him in the general election, but given the district’s makeup, it’s doubtful he’ll ever face serious opposition from outside his party.

The same thing would be true if I were living in Florida’s 20th District, whose current owner is Democrat Alcee Hastings. Congressman Hastings might give me a polite handshake, but he wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn how I felt about his voting record. It doesn’t matter because I can’t vote in his primary and the general election is a joke.

One of the obvious problems with such safe seats is that it’s the same asses occupying them year after year. We keep sending them to Washington, and then we wonder why nothing ever changes.

But that’s the best case.

Worse is what happens in these districts when they do change, or if change even becomes a realistic possibility. That’s when they move even farther from the middle and ever closer to the radical right or loony left.

The reason is that it’s not candidates from the opposing parties that will beat a Miller or a Hastings. Instead, they have to worry about more extreme members of their own. If the district is conservative, you beat the incumbent by being more conservative. For liberal districts, it’s the same dynamic in the opposite direction.

You see where this is headed, right?

Hastings isn’t down in Broward County talking with supporters about how the Republicans might have some valid concerns. And Miller isn’t in Chumuckla telling everyone that there are parts of the Affordable Care Act that make sense. Nope, they’re pledging jihad against the infidels on the other side and begging for another chance to fight.

When this gaggle gets back to Washington, there is no patience for conversation, no incentive for cooperation and no room for compromise. Capitol Hill is Hamburger Hill, minus the heroes.

It’s great for the politicians. They gain name recognition, power and campaign cash. As a bonus, they get to keep their jobs while military families go without commissaries, federal employees go without pay and ordinary Americans worry about the future.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Fair and competitive districts at the federal and state level will go a long way toward helping elect statesmen instead of salesmen. In fact, Florida passed the Fair Districts amendment back in 2010 to turn that idea into reality. Let me emphasize: The voters in Florida, you and I, changed our most basic governing document and demanded politicians change the way they create congressional districts.

They responded by doing exactly as we said.

Nah, just kidding. They immediately filed lawsuits to tell us we can’t tell them what to do. Fortunately, the courts didn’t see it that way and ordered them to comply. Yet, three years later, the congressional districts still heavily favor one side or another.

I always give my friends a hard time about getting angry over politics and supporting causes as if  they’re sports teams. However, if you want a great place to direct your outrage that might actually do some good, aim it at the incumbents who have padded their seats at the expense of our nation and our values.

And if you want a meaningful cause to get behind with your heart and soul, check out www.FairDistrictsNow.org,

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