America has become unstable. Democracies derive their stability from the fact that power is spread out among the people, through our vote. Our vote is supposed to be a source of power and through elections we exercise our power to decide who will represent our interests in government. Competitive elections ensure that we can vote them out if they are disregarding the well-being of their constituents. But our votes have lost the power they once had; an increasing number of people live in districts where there are no challenges to the incumbent or where such challenges require massive amounts of money to launch, and even then are unlikely to succeed.
Over the last 10 years we have accelerated down a path away from democracy and toward one party rule. Money in politics has corrupted both parties and aggressive gerrymandering has insulated politicians from accountability. Only 8% of Congressional seats and 14% of state legislative seats are competitive. Is a democracy still a democracy if the election outcomes are almost always assured?
Donald Trump and this Congress are symptoms of a much deeper problem, a fundamental crack in the foundation of our political system: we are losing our democracy.
In 2010, the Republicans instituted the program REDMAP, short for the “Redistricting Majority Project.” They were very candid about their purpose; Karl Rove wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal. The purpose was to take over state legislatures and governorships, which control congressional redistricting, and then gerrymander congressional districts to ensure perpetual Republican control. Even now the website, www.RedistrictingMajority.com, is optimistic about the Republicans’ ability to make their majority in the House of Representatives even more lopsided. At the top of the website a 2010 message brags that over the next 5 election cycles (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020) they can “create 20-25 new Republican Congressional Districts through the redistricting process…solidifying a Republican House majority.” Note the use of the word “create” not “win.” This is not about inspiring people to vote for them because of their ideas; they are unable to win elections that way. It’s about rigging the system, and they are very good at it.
The 2018 elections will decide the future of this country. 33 Senate seats are up. All 435 seats of the House of Representatives. 36 governor seats. 46 state legislatures. The people who win those seats will get to redraw the state and federal redistricting lines in 2021 and will decide whether our country continues as a democracy or whether we accelerate the dangerous slide toward uncompetitive elections and one party rule.
Since the election, I have worked to connect with leaders from other grassroots organizations in NJ, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people about what direction they believe we should move in, and I’ve given a lot of thought about the different paths we, the people, can take to reclaim our democracy and, thereby, our government.
I’ve come to the conclusion that The Resistance must be 3 movements working in concert. 1) We need a Defense: The Watchdogs and Emergency Response. 2) We need our elected officials fighting at their stations in the government: The Garrison. 3) We need an Offense: winning elections. Everyone has a role to play. Coming next week: The Defense.