Jon Oliver Explains What Gerrymandering Means

Submitted by: normalfreak2 1 month ago in News & Politics


Couple Oliver's anaylsis with this Cook political report. Basic conclusions are, Democratic districts have become more Democratic, and Republican districts have grown more Republican.  If we allow this to continue expect nothing but more gridlock.  
There are 28 comments:
256
"The uploader has not made this video available in your country"

Gerrymandering, indeed!

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Male 531
Obligatory reminder: We are not a democracy.  We are a representative republic/ psephrocacy.
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Male 2,360
faustsshadow I really need to create a boilerplate response for this sophomoric statement of yours because it is made so frequently on IAB.

Your statement is categorically wrong. The United States is a democracy (or at least purports to be, but that's another topic). When speaking generally, as in this video, the term democracy refers to any government where people participate on an equal basis, either directly or indirectly. This is why, when discussing the United States, you so often hear expressions such as democratic institutions, democratic principles, and more generally, American democracy.

Only when you enter into a more wonky discussion of the various forms of government is it necessary to pick apart exactly what kind of democracy the United States is (or at least purports to be). And it's here that you're getting tripped up. No, we are most certainly not an Athenian democracy, a classical democracy, or any other form of direct democracy.

Rather, we are a representative democracy; more specifically, a constitutional federal republic. If you want to define it as a psephrocracy, I think that works provided you include some reference to the constitution, which is a major part of the equation, e.g. constitutional psephrocracy.

But please: No more assertions that the United States is not, by design, a democracy. We are. Frankly, the assertion "The United States is not a democracy!" is the kind of dopey statement an 8th grade history teacher makes to wake up the class.
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Male 531
squrlz4ever The distinction matters here, though.  Complaints are made in these types of discussions about the percentages of people voting for certain parties/ candidates vs. the ones actually elected.  We have districts because of the representational side of things.  If someone wants to argue that the entire system should be changed, fine - but complaints about popular votes don't really apply because that is not the system we have.  
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Male 2,360
faustsshadow If you want to argue the details relative to the type of political system we have, do so by all means. I'll join you. But commence that discussion correctly by stating that our system is a representative democracy, not a direct one. Not by erroneously declaring, "We are not a democracy."

Honestly, this isn't that hard. If I'm short here, my apologies, but this dopey-ass discussion comes up at least once a month around here.

Understanding that, as Americans, we live in a democracy is such a fundamental aspect of citizenship I almost think that citizenship should be stripped from those Americans who haven't figured it out yet.
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Male 903
squrlz4ever Sorry, Squrlz, but Faust is correct. The US is a republic. The basic definition of a democracy is government "of the people, by the people, for the people". Our government is "of the people, by the representatives, (supposedly) for the people". A true democracy is ruled by the people that make it up, while a republic is ruled by "representatives". You yourself said it: "more specifically, a constitutional federal republic."
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Male 6,632
whosaidwhat Why do you see the US as not a democracy?
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Male 903
normalfreak2 I've already said. A democracy is ruled by the people, while we are ruled by representatives. Yes, its an issue of semantics, but I still stand by my argument.
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Male 2,360
whosaidwhat No: A classical democracy or Athenian democracy is directly ruled by the people. Those are direct democracies, also known as non-representational democracies. You live in a representational democracy, more specifically a constitutional federal republic.

You stated: "A democracy is ruled by the people, while we are ruled by representatives." We are not "ruled by" representatives. Who do you think puts those representatives into office, or throws them out of office? That's right: the people. Our representatives represent us; they don't rule us.

Seriously: You've been living in the United States all this time and you never understood that we have a democratic form of goverment? If your answer is "yes," I don't even know what to say to that.
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Male 903
squrlz4ever Yes, I realize that we aren't "ruled" by the representatives; I guess that you could call it an expression. And yes, I also realize that the representatives are put there by the voters. However, as the post that started this discussion points out, the representatives gerrymandering practices mean that they are pretty much voted in and out of office as they choose to be. Ever notice how many representatives have horrible approval ratings, but still get re-elected, time and time again? They alter the voting districts, and the districts that the representatives serve, to ensure that the votes go there
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Male 2,360
whosaidwhat Honestly, I'm pretty dispirited by the conversation with you and faustsshadow. Neither of you are actually responding to any of the points I've made; neither of you are responding to any of the links I've posted; and you've actually looked up the word democracy in Merriam-Websters and are choosing to ignore the definition you've found.

For some odd reason, both of you, who I assume are both Americans, seem dead-set against admitting that America is a democracy.

But understanding that America is a democracy is important. Per your Franklin anecdote, this form of government is more tenuous than any other. The placement of power in the hands of the people is going to come under unceasing attacks. Undemocratic forces will try to usurp that power, either all at once in the form of a coup, or bit by bit, in the forms of subterfuges, erosions of liberty, disinformation, propaganda, bad legislation, trickery, and corruption.

If American citizens are making the erroneous statement, "America isn't a democracy," it's a bit like waving the white flag before the battle's even started.

And you know what's really dispiriting? How many words have I expended on this topic over the past two evenings? 2,000? Something like that?

And yet sometime within the next three or four weeks, when a post goes up that contains references to democracy, some IAB'er--probably a male, 20-something years old, who thinks he's very clever--will declare, "America isn't a democracy!"

Great. Remind me again what our boys died for on the beaches of Normandy.
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Male 2,360
whosaidwhat Everything in your comment after the second sentence is an attempt to change the subject at paw, namely the question, Is America a democracy (at least by design)? Answer: Emphatically yes.

If you want to change the question to, Is America now functioning as a democracy?, the answer becomes: Marginally.
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Male 2,360
whosaidwhat Holy moley! You better get to work on editing out the terms democracy, democratic ideals, democratic institutions, and American democracy from tens of thousands of textbooks. You'll also need to visit all of America's presidential libraries and revise out all the references to democracy in 200 years of presidential speeches. Similarly, you'll need to revise countless articles online that describe American government as a form of democracy. (You can start here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and most especially, here.)

While you're at it, you'll also need to inform Austria, Norway, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Canada, Australia, and about 60 other countries that, contrary to their own self-identities, they are not democracies.

Or you could come to your senses, reread what I wrote, and recognize that the term democracy comprises both direct representation types of government and indirect representation types of government, with the key criteria being that the government derives its power from the people, people participate in their government on an equal basis, and there exists a rule of law.

I'm willing to debate some topics on IAB, but this isn't one of them. If you somehow haven't grasped the fact that the United States is a democracy, even after what I've written in this post and the preceding one, I can't help you. That's dismissive of me, yes, but time is finite and I'm not willing to expend it in repeatedly explaining the obvious.
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Male 903
squrlz4ever Squrlz, you yourself said it, we are a "constitutional federal republic". That is a direct quote from you. Also, check out Mirriam-Webster's definitions. While the definition for "democracy" does, indeed, cover the type of government we have in the US, the definition for "republic" BETTER covers the type of government that we have. Also, Benjamin Franklin himself, when asked what type of government had just been set up for the fledgling country, replied, "A republic, if you can keep it”. Are you trying to say that one of the founding members of the US government didn't know what kind of governmental system was being enacted?
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Male 2,360
whosaidwhat Oh, for heaven's sake. Have you no conception of sets and subsets?! Representative democracies and non-representative democracries are subsets of the type of government known as a democracy. And the constitutional monarchy (what the UK has) and the constitional federal republic (what America has) are two variants within that subset of representative democracies.

Do I have to draw you a picture? If you really need it, I will. I thought all of this was addressed many hours ago when I linked to this explanation of the topic, written by a law professor who's as tired of explaining this as I am.
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Male 3,436
squrlz4ever so long as trump is your president, american democracy sounds like an oxymoron.
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Male 2,360
robthelurker Point taken. But if Americans are going to have any hope of preserving what's left of our democracy, they need to start by first understanding that it is one. I am, in a word, appalled at how few Americans do.

The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. They fought a revolution against a monarchy, only to have, 200 years later, a nation of dolts who don't understand they live in a democratic form of government (to judge by some of the remarks in this thread).
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Male 531
squrlz4ever The word "democracy" is used in different ways, as is obvious by this thread.  Sure, my initial post was flippant, but if it sounds like I am trying to wake up a class of bored 8th graders, it is because that is what it feels like.  That we are a representative democracy matters in these discussions.  However, "democracy" is often viewed as being a 1 person 1 vote system, which is not really what we have.  Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election because all of her supporters live in just a few areas, compared to the vastness of the area covered by her opponents.  

The popular vote doesn't really mean anything, though, because we are a representative republic.  I know, this topic has been hashed out again and again here, so I won't bring this up again.  Respond or not, I am done.  It is a pointless argument - as we are just splitting hairs on semantics now.
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Male 2,360
faustsshadow Please, answer me this: Have you learned anything? I hope? Are you now aware that you live in a country with a democratic form of government?

If you've known all along that you live in a country with a democratic form of government, what have you been thinking? That yes, it's a democratic form of government but it's somehow not a form of democracy?

This is not just splitting hairs and it is not pointless. Maintaining a democratic form of government is difficult. It requires engagement and vigilance on the part of the citizens because any number of forces have an interest in taking the power away from the people. Thus Franklin's response to the lady's question: "A republic, if you can keep it." Franklin had been asked if the new government was a monarchy or a republic, and Franklin knew that any form of democracy would be difficult to maintain.

If today's Americans don't start with an understanding that they live in a democracy--with all the responsibilities and risks that entails--then I have little hope that we'll be able to maintain what's left of it in the years ahead.
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Male 531
squrlz4ever I said I was done, but fine.  I learned that you are at least as much of a condescending ass at times as myself and anyone else here.  In the future, if I feel the need to say something like my original post again (which I won't), I will remind people that we are not a direct democracy, but rather a representative democracy.  
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Male 903
squrlz4ever So Franklin was wrong, when he referred to the newly-formed government as a republic? Who's opinion are you really going to go on; a "modern" law professor, or one of the people who DESIGNED the American government? Franklin has my vote. You go with your "professor", if you'd like. Either way, its pretty clear that none of us are going to budge on this, so why don't we all amicably agree to disagree, and move on. I do appreciate the genuine, open discussion on this, with no flaming or name-calling (although you were starting to dance on the edge a bit, Squirlz, but no worries). So, Squrlz, how about a few cashews? <offers a handful of cashews in Squrlz's direction>
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Male 8,132
whosaidwhat So if I say something is a banana then it means it is not a fruit? If I say something is square then it means it is not a quadrilateral? If I say something is a dog then it means it is not a a mammal?

They are overlapping concepts that do not negate each other. grow up.
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Male 6,632
whosaidwhat I don't see your position as defencible whosaidwhat  I don't believe any of our founding father's have said America is not a democratically inspired nation or democratic practicing nation.  We sure as hell elect Democratically at the State level.  
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Male 2,360
whosaidwhat I think I'll go with Franklin and the law professor, both of whom understood that a republic is a democratic form of government, (i.e., a type of democracy).

At any rate, I'm never one to say no to cashews, so thanks.
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Male 6,632
One thing I learned from the Cook Political report is we seem to be self sorting.  Liberals/Moderates tend to live in the cities, Conservatives in the Country, now that's not true everywhere but our system of voting puts land over people.  If this continues we are going to have a Congress held by Republicans forever  Could be a set up for something disastrous or it could be something good who knows at this point.
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Male 37,732
As bad a gerrymandering is?
  1. It is done equally by both parties 
  2. You cannot create one 'fortress' without giving one to the other side

Clearly some common sense is required to get rid of this nonsense, but I doubt anything will ever get fixed.
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Male 1,394
Skipping the video, I learned this in civics class.  The fact remains that even lines should be drawn around cities and towns to represent the population, not get drawn to benefit one party or the other.
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Male 6,632
insaneai Agreed!
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