Unless we abolish gerrymandering America will look like a hypocrite when promoting democracy abroad
For the first time I witnessed the corruption of an election in my village. My friends and I were walking to the back of the school building to smoke, away from the voters strolling to the ballot. As we turned into the driveway, a drunkard sat on the low fence that formed a portion of our school’s perimeter. We asked him how much booze he sold his vote for. Although the question made us lough, we knew it was a fair one. Too many a politician in our country had bribed poor communities with bags of groceries before an election.
So I won’t blame him for his apathy. That day, he had been a fraction as opportunistic as the the self-proclaimed politicians who stole 12% of Moldova’s GDP or $1 billion in 3 days, 10 years later. Compared to bonding with us, corrupt politics was worth nothing to him. He told us the truth. He got 100 leis or $5 for his vote.
I tell you this story because at 18, I thought the manipulation of an election happens only in poor countries like Moldova. After all, to help its readership locate it, the foreign media has been calling us the poorest country in Europe for as long as I remember. But I was wrong, my friends. Rigged elections is common and so entrenched in the richest country, that my birth country—as poor as it is—should be a model for America at respecting people’s right to vote. Its politics aside, Moldova doesn’t disenfranchise en masse. In fact, America likes to think of itself as the promoter of democracy, yet works to destroy its most important principle at home.
This is so disturbing. Even the Supreme Court—the last resort for tackling injustice—had failed to protect the right to vote, even if it was such an elementary decision. The 5 Republican judges somehow ruled that gerrymandering is legal. WOW, my friends. However unbelievable, that’s the reality: They legalized cheating in America. In their robes behind the bench in the courtroom, each 5 of them raised the middle finger to 327 million people. They did that even if they know so well that gerrymandering is the number one tactic of stealing votes. It is also the number one tactic Republicans use to maintain their criminal party in power. Big words? You be the judge (a fair one), but let me explain.
To understand garrymandering and grasp the magnitude of its toxicity for democracy, let’s look at some election results. Although in 2018 election 50% of the people in North Carolina voted for Republicans, these got 10 out of 13 seats in the U.S. House. What the? How is that democracy, my friends? And what do we call a country where politicians fool the population to gain power? We call them fascists, authoritarians, and demagogues. Oh lord, and the Supreme Court vindicated them; it told them that it’s OK to be a fascist. But beside this striking fact, what is more worrisome is that this shameless theft of seats in Congress isn’t some plot; it had been happening in plain sight for too long.
Yes, both Republicans and Democrats steal votes this way; after all, they fight for power and none concedes to being noble—to refuse gerrymandering. To do so as long as gerrymandering is legal, would be a political folly. In 2016 elections 37% people in Maryland voted for Republicans, yet these got only one of the 8 seats in the U.S. House. But even so my friends, the gerrymander benefits Republicans. If politics were football and Democrats committed hard tackles to win the ball, Republicans would punch players in the face with knuckle dusters. In spite of winning a mere 1% more of the people’s vote, Republicans seized 10% more seats in Congress after the 2016 election. The ball is theirs while the Democrats bleed from the nose. They must work harder to get a majority in Congress to compensate for unfairness.
You might think this is a small number, my friends. But this small number is everything. It enables Republicans to maintain a fake majority—or at least a fake 50/50—that cripples the Congress to pass meaningful laws. Fake because the majority of Americans are not divided on commonsense issues like the Congress chooses to be: 60% want the government to guarantee healthcare instead of letting it at the improbable mercy of the free market. 56% want the Congress to protect our environment. 59% republicans and 76% democrats want abortion to be legal.
Indeed, we ought to look no farther than at the Republicans who mock the Green New Deal and deny climate change, even if further of it means certain doom. But what do we call those who not only deny reality, but also advance our collective doom by serving the Big Oil rather than the constituency? We call them lunatics, we call them traitors. This sole inaction is a crime against humanity. A crime way worse than 9/11.
But above partisan politics, this loophole means that however sacrosanct, the First Amendment is still a myth for many. How many? 4 million democrats were disenfranchised across 7 Republican-controlled states because of gerrymandering after the 2012 election. In modern America this is an outrageous number of people who think their vote has worth. But I’m not counting the extent of disenfranchisement in other states due to gerrymandering. These are intentional mass disenfranchisement campaigns.
No wonder the Congress is in deadlock and fails to fulfill people’s needs. And the mockery is that it fails with basic ones the Western world has been taking for granted. Yes, you might say that many countries struggle to reduce CO2 emissions. Yes, climate change is a monstrosity of a problem, but what’s the argument for spending over $1000 for merely calling an ambulance? No argument, my friends. Yet republicans are against passing the bill on universal healthcare, even if 40% of people lack savings to cover a $400 emergency. The hypocrisy is that America boasts to be the wealthiest. But however poor, calling an ambulance in Moldova is free. This is moment of shame for America.
With his nonchalant attitude on gerrymandering, John Roberts showed America he doesn’t care about us. Yet, he has no problem using the courtroom to protect the so-called freedom of speech of corporate America. After all, you can’t bite the hand that feeds you. And that’s another reason the Republicans are the biggest criminal organization. Their primary constituency isn’t us my friends—it’s corporate America. So immoral the Republican Party had become that it is okay with accepting money from the prison industrial complex whose business is the concentration camps on the Mexican border and the mass incarceration of latino and black males. Of course republicans are afraid to ban gerrymandering. Without it they know they will loose. Without drawing districts that favor them in the election, Republicans lack the power to serve the corporate America.
But I wish this was all of it on voter disenfranchisement. Because of the grand fail of the so-called war on drugs from the 80s onwards, 6.1 million felons lost their right to vote. This is an unprecedented number of African-Americans whose country doesn’t represent them as they cannot vote for representation in Congress. The last time I checked the facts, only slavery precedes this ominous level of discrimination. Today about 400,000 people are behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses.
And we cannot forget about the ID laws that are spreading across the U.S. America and the media had spent so much energy on a conspiracy theory like Russiagate. Now Republicans push for another conspiracy: Voter ID laws. Why is it a conspiracy? Well, my friends, why would somebody want to solve an inexistent problem? We know that voter fraud doesn’t happen in the US, with 31 attempts at impersonation fraud from 2000 to 2014 out of 1 billion votes. 31 my friends. Yet we find ourselves again distracted by a conspiracy that no only drains invaluable energy we ought to spend on systemic issues, but also creates unnecessary burden for minorities to vote democrat.
Of course, we ought to remember Puerto Rico. The Congress still cannot agree to give Puerto Ricans the right to vote. But 3.7 million American citizens live there, my friends; 3.7 million citizens that feel disempowered and offended because of a corrupt Congress. What kind of country excludes such a great number of people from its democracy? In 2019? Puerto Rico has more people than 21 other U.S. states after all.
But without our votes, how are we going to expunge the Republican Party from power so it won’t kill us all? How are we going to end gerrymandering if a republican Supreme Court favors corruption over democracy? How are we going to end the Citizen United that twisted free speech to apply to corporate America so it can bribe our representatives in the open? Without our votes, how are we going to abolish the electoral college that forced upon us an idiotic president who lost the popular vote? How are we going to persuade our people that their vote counts? How are we going to squash cynicism in politics and promote grassroots organizing? Tough questions I know, but necessary ones. With our most basic constitutional right unfulfilled and even under intentional threat, how can other countries want to be like America? How are we not going to be looking like hypocrites whenever we utter the word democracy?