Birthday Wishes…

Today is our nation’s birthday, and birthdays are a time to take stock.

If the 4th is a day to focus on America and its government “of the people,” it may also be a day for considering the sources of our various dysfunctions.

Like gerrymandering. (Yes, I know I talk about that a lot. But it’s more important than most of us realize.)

While I was on vacation, I read a book with a title that cannot be fully shared: “Ratf***cked” tells how operatives of the Republican party raised money, gathered experts and manipulated the redistricting process across the nation after the last census–totally outsmarting Democrats. (Democrats emerge from this story as disorganized and feckless, at best.)

The book is worth reading; it was written by a political reporter who interviewed most of the central “players” and followed the process in the most gerrymandered states (including Indiana). The obvious moral of the story is that in politics, attention to process matters hugely–and that the disinterest of most citizens in our democratic processes enables the sorts of chicanery that the book documents.

But there is a rosier side to this story, at least for those of us who are into irony, and it falls under the heading of be careful what you wish for.

The Congressional representatives elected from the large numbers of “safe forever” seats have made it impossible for their enablers to govern. They have no party loyalty; they are not team players in the appropriate sense of that term. They know that the only threat to their continued electoral success comes from their right flank back home–not from the party, not from the Speaker, not even from the party’s big donors.

If you don’t believe me, ask John Boehner. Or Paul Ryan. Or closer to home, Brian Bosma. Those oh-so-safe districts created by mapmaking whiz kids have given each of them a group of wholly intransigent lunatics to deal with, officeholders accountable to no one but the most rabid members of the party base in their home districts. Those zealots have made it nearly impossible to pursue the party’s legislative goals.

The success of the GOP’s “ratf**cking” (otherwise known as redistricting) is why most political observers do not think the Democrats can retake the House in 2016, even if they win the Presidency resoundingly. As one of the effort’s technicians put it, it would take a Democratic sweep of 5 or 6 points to reclaim the House, and victories of that scope are highly unlikely.

Of course, the party operative making that observation didn’t anticipate Donald Trump…

Happy birthday, America! Maybe your citizens can get you a reformed redistricting system for your next one…


  1. Dear Common Cause Indiana supporter,

    Are you free on Thursday, July 7 at 1 pm?

    If so, I really need you to join me at the State House for the 3rd meeting of the Special Interim Committee on Redistricting. This is the group of citizens and legislators that have been put in charge of studying those states with independent redistricting commissions and perhaps proposing reform for Indiana.

    WHAT: Meeting of the Special Interim Committee on Redistricting
    WHERE: Indiana State House, 200 West Washington Street, House Chambers, 3rd Floor
    WHEN: Thursday, July 7 at 1 p.m.
    MORE INFO: Contact Julia Vaughn at

    We have been leading the fight for redistricting reform and the study committee is an important tool to get us to reform before the next round of map-drawing in 2021. Both major political parties have engaged in gerrymandering and its impact is obvious: too many uncompetitive districts, too many ideologues getting elected and too many voters who feel disenfranchised. indiana redistricting2

    While a more independent redistricting process won’t solve all our election problems in Indiana, it is an extremely important piece of the puzzle. And it’s exciting that more and more Hoosiers have figured that out, and have joined our fight for fair redistricting.

    The previous two study committee meetings have attracted standing room only crowds which has sent a great message. It is clear to committee members and the State House leadership that Hoosiers are paying attention and that we want real reform.

    We can’t let up now.

    The July 7 meeting will be held inside the House Chamber – a room three times as large as the one where the previous meetings were held.

    Let’s fill the Chamber and send the committee another clear message: it’s time for redistricting reform in Indiana!

    Thanks for all that you do for our democracy,

    Julia Vaughn, Policy Director
    Common Cause Indiana

  2. Public comments will be heard at a Summer Study Committee hearing on Thursday, July 7th. It would be a great time for those of us who are “represented” by someone that was not elected but appointed, or someone who continually gets re-elected because they run opposed.

  3. Feckless at best… well said… those who are not Republican in drag.

  4. I was thinking before getting on line and reading this blog that, this should be a day of celebrating our independence, a day of pride at being Americans, a day of sharing our ability to improve our lot in life by honesty and hard work – by the sweat of our brow. Instead we are further apart than any other time in our history than the actual Civil War. We are splitting not only our loyalty to America and Americans but our families, friends, neighbors, political constituents, et al, are being torn apart and are tearing the country apart.

    We live with the specter of racism, sexism, bigotry, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, shattered Christianity, hatred and losing basic civil and human rights hanging over our heads. We live in fear of losing not only our rights but our homes, our health, our jobs, all that we have worked for due to the selling out of Congress to the highest bidder – the 1% who control more than the money in this country. And we live with the fear that one man, who has been a National Fool for years, stands a good chance of being elected president. Those five “Trump” yard signs I see every time I look out my front door are reminders of my precarious position, and that of millions of Americans, threatening our existence. Gerrymandering IS the tap root, deeply buried and staunching guarded by the GOP; once a respectable, humanitarian political body, now a privately owned corporation.

    Happy Birthday America!

  5. I am still planning on attending the meeting Thursday and hope many others in this group will be there too.

  6. Here in Florida, we have a constitutional amendment that requires non-partisan redistricting. So far, it hasn’t had much impact. The courts have required some changes, but the Republicans still got their way with most of the districts. We need to try to sop crazy shapes for districts. Perhaps they should be either square or geograpically bounded by things like rivers.

  7. As a combat infantryman (draftee type) I must say ever since I came back to the USA from Vietnam in 1971, I have been ashamed of America. Consequently, I do not like to be “thanked” for my service. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution was a bright light on the top of a world that was in essence ruled by Royalty back in 18th Century. Trouble is we did not really mean all men were created equal. Like Orwell’s Animal Farm some animals were more equal.

    Agonizingly slowly we made progress in the arena of Human and Civil rights. Sadly, though African-Americans, Native Americans and Woman had to wait for the same political rights endowed upon the WASP’s. We had a golden opportunity after WW 2, to shine the light of our freedoms through out the world. Instead of helping the people of the world to achieve basic human and civil rights, we imposed and supported dictatorships all over the world. We established and nurtured these de-facto colonies.

    I do not suppose American Exceptionalism will permit us to look at how other countries divide up their political districts. The Democratic Establishment Party has been losing ground at the State and Federal Level since 1992. Gerrymandering plays a part but there is more to the decline of the Democratic Party.

  8. Louie, I know you don’t want to be thanked for serving being a draftee and all but it gave me a thought. I wonder if the Draft was re-instituted, more people would be paying attention to politics. I would imagine that signing the draft documents make men think of it (at least while they are filling it out) but if all Americans had to sign up for a draft, I bet there would be a mass change in the dynamics of politics as it would affect them more personally.

    Happy Independence Day my fellow Americans. It’s just another work day here so just not doing much for that homesickness for me on my favorite holiday. Have a great day everyone, Cheers! 🙂

  9. Louie, it has taken a long time, but I hope that our fellow citizens are becoming aware that, not only are we in danger of losing what passes for democracy in our country, we’re in danger of losing our planet due to the greed of shortsighted oligarchs.

    I have hope that the Sanders revolution has inspired many of the voiceless to see that they can have an impact, and has shown all of us that dedicated activism can succeed.

    Wayne, thanks for sharing the info about the meeting. Sheila’s local readers need to be there in force.

  10. If on a 50 or 60 year earlier year celebration of our birthday someone with magical abilities had shown me the words appearing on this forum today I would have said “not possible” and would not have meant time travel but rather that Americans would ever have to express these thoughts.

    It’s been like watching a sci fi movie over my life time witnessing the collective mind unraveling.

    The question might be which was delusional? That we could have been so positive then that we had the answer or so positive now that democracy is impossible, too easy for conspiracy to defeat?

    We lost it or more accurately gave it away or even more accurately did not repeat in peace what our ancestors accomplished in war which is to drive similar conspiracies from our door. We instead invited them in because in exchange for our democracy they gave us entertainment. BFD.

    I partied yesterday as did many Americans and found myself as often happens engaged in discussion with overwhelming superior in number Republicans in name only who deeply lamented having to make the choice between Trump, who 100% agreed was a bad joke, and Hillary. I woke up this morning smarter than at bedtime last night and thought I should have rejoined this way:

    Hillary is unpopular because the popular girls (think Kardashians) ruined her reputation. They spread awful salacious rumors about her because they realised that some day she would offer something more attractive than their big boobs; a brain, hard work, plans, experience, a life long education, connections. A sad but oh so often repeated by real life story.

    Before anyone else says it let me say that Bernie was similarly attacked. The nerd socialist by the jocks.

    Both stories equally sad but instructive. High school is over. Entertainment is not real life. Grow up America!

  11. AgingLGrl, there is no doubt in my mind (or what is left it) that a universal draft would spur a lot more involvement in politics especially given our continuous war strategy. It would need to be a universal draft, deferments could be given for hardship, mental or physical disabilities.

    Can you imagine the up roar in the gated communities if their Johnny or Jane were drafted and sent off to combat??? The Oligarchs and the Wall Street-Security-Military-Industrial Complex were smart by ending the draft and going to a volunteer force. They saw the up roar against them and learned. We have now an economic draft.

    Side-Bar by the way I had more respect for the Anti-War Demonstrators than I did for the so-called patriotic silent majority that stood by doing nothing.

  12. Interesting birthday side note.

    Woodie Guthrie wrote the song “This Land is Made for You and Me” in 1940 as a retort to endless replaying of Kate Smith’s “God Bless America”.

    Here are his original lyrics.

    “This land is your land, this land is my land
    From the California to the Staten New York Island,
    From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]
    As I went walking that ribbon of highway
    And saw above me that endless skyway,
    And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]
    I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
    To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
    And all around me, a voice was sounding:
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]
    Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
    A sign was painted said: Private Property,
    But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]
    When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
    In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
    The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]
    One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
    By the Relief Office I saw my people —
    As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]”

    This has been coming for a long time.

  13. I spent some time with the Toyota-makers in the South Pacific during WW II and find it peculiarly ironic that a Toyota ad on TV last night played up a “July 4th sale.” I was under the distinct impression on a beach in the South Pacific in 1944 that they were opposed to our democracy, but then what do I know? I dodged the draft by volunteering for service at age 17 and received a draft notice shortly after my 18th birthday while in New Guinea. Needless to say, I was otherwise occupied and unable to attend the draft meeting of those newly-turned 18 males at the county court house. I sometimes wonder who really won WW II, but I suppose we did. I suppose. I have been to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto since the war and saw precious few American-made cars on the street, and if car-count is the test, then while supposing, I suppose we lost. I like to think this July 4 that there are other tests that prove otherwise, such as our spread of democracy to formerly fascist countries. but the jury is still out on the long term survival of democracy elsewhere, and with the rise of oligarchies and their bought stooges, even here.

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