Monday, May 15, 2006

Gerrymandering causes gridlock

In the midst of this Washington Post report about the growing acrimony between Republicans I found this particular snippet interesting:

But recent redistricting has exacerbated those natural tensions, said a member of the House leadership, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to not heighten the strain. House districts have grown increasingly partisan, more liberal in Democratic districts and more conservative in Republican districts. So when Senate Republicans tack to the center to placate their broader spectrum of voters, conservatives concentrated in Republican House districts are quick to anger.

Gerrymandering can lock partisans (both Democratic and Republican) into their House seats. But it can also increase the partisanship of the constituencies in those districts. Blue districts become bluer. Red districts become redder. This results in Representatives who are more extreme in their policy positions.

Senate seats can't be gerrymandered. Their constituencies are defined by state borders. Therefore, Senators (unless they come from truly partisan states), have to adopt a more moderate tone in order to win re-election.

The final result of gerrymandering is a growing divide between the more moderate and collegial Senate and the more partisan and bickering House. Gridlock rules the day and the people grow increasingly frustrated with a do-nothing Congress.

This will continue to be the case after the elections, especially if the House goes Dem but the Senate stays Republican. But it will also be the case even if the Democrats manage to take both houses because Senate Dems and House Dems have the same inherent conflict.


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