Does any­body re­ally care?

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - Ge­orge B. Reed Jr.

A while back I sug­gested a third party might un­clog our grid­locked po­lit­i­cal ma­chin­ery. But on sec­ond thought that would prob­a­bly take too long and prob­a­bly wouldn’t work any­way.

What our body politic needs is a ma­jor over­haul be­gin­ning with the up­com­ing Novem­ber con­gres­sional elec­tions. But we’ll be swim­ming up­stream due to our an­ti­quated, un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive elec­toral col­lege and ger­ry­man­dered con­gres­sional dis­tricts. Only a rel­a­tively few dis­tricts are any longer ac­tu­ally com­pet­i­tive.

Our elec­toral col­lege was rigged from the very be­gin­ning to fa­vor the con­ser­va­tive slave­hold­ing south­ern states. It was no co­in­ci­dence that five of our first seven pres­i­dents owned slaves. And to­day a Cal­i­for­nia se­na­tor (al­ways a Demo­crat) rep­re­sents al­most 20 mil­lion peo­ple while a Wy­oming se­na­tor (al­ways a Repub­li­can) rep­re­sents less than 350,000. In a sense this gives tiny (in pop­u­la­tion) Wy­oming al­most sixty times the Se­nate vot­ing power of Cal­i­for­nia, our largest state. This un­bal­anced scheme was de­vised over 220 years ago when state pop­u­la­tions were more equal.

Demo­cratic can­di­dates have won the pop­u­lar vote in most pres­i­den­tial elec­tions since 1988 and have out­polled the GOP in the pop­u­lar vote in most con­gres­sional elec­tions as well. But de­spite this clear ma­jor­ity Repub­li­cans dom­i­nate Amer­i­can pol­i­tics more strongly to­day than at any time since Re­con­struc­tion. Al­though the mi­nor­ity party, the GOP con­trols all three branches of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to­day and holds two-thirds of the state gov­er­nor­ships and leg­is­la­tures. Through the years our pop­u­la­tion has steadily ex­panded and shifted ge­o­graph­i­cally with­out our even once amend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion to ac­com­mo­date chang­ing de­mo­graphic real­i­ties. We have the means to rec­tify these in­equities, but due to ex­treme par­ti­san­ship and “un­holy” al­liances the same po­lit­i­cal pow­ers are still ba­si­cally in charge that were run­ning things 150 years ago. But can any­thing be done?

In 2016 42% (90 mil­lion) of Amer­ica’s el­i­gi­ble vot­ers stayed home. Voter ID (voter sup­pres­sion) laws were a small part of it, but dis­il­lu­sion­ment and plain old voter ap­a­thy were the ma­jor causes. The rem­edy is ob­vi­ous: get peo­ple reg­is­tered and get them to the polls on elec­tion day. I’ve par­tic­i­pated in some of this in the past and all it re­quires is some work and a few of tanks of gas. Also es­sen­tial is re­mo­bi­liz­ing the African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity. They de­feated Jim Crow mostly through their own grass roots ef­forts, and now it’s time to take on Jim’s dis­en­fran­chis­ing stepchil­dren.

To­day over 80 per­cent of Amer­i­cans express dis­sat­is­fac­tion with their con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion and 60 per­cent fa­vor a third party. But third par­ties tend to or­ga­nize around single is­sues which can be self-de­feat­ing. This na­tion needs a re­vi­tal­ized Demo­cratic Party with a broader, more in­clu­sive vi­sion and mem­bers who will work, not just talk. Folks are fed up with single-is­sue, ex­trem­ist ide­o­logues and have in­di­cated as much. But so far op­po­si­tion lead­er­ship has been mostly pas­sive.

The Democrats have some smart, ded­i­cated young peo­ple run­ning for of­fice in Ge­or­gia

to­day, but they lack financing, or­ga­ni­za­tion and ex­po­sure. Money doesn’t grow on trees and there’s no tooth fairy. But if ev­ery Demo­crat would do­nate just $10 a year and a lit­tle ef­fort to their coun­try’s re­cov­ery they could send those right-wing Tea Party bo­zos home this Novem­ber; or at least enough of them to un­clog the cur­rent leg­isla­tive grid­lock. But do enough peo­ple any longer care? I some­times won­der.

Ge­orge B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bell­south.net.

Rossville res­i­dent

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