Donald Trump bellowed last year about an election system he said was “rigged” against him, even though he won both his adopted Republican Party’s nomination for president and then the presidential election.
If American democracy is a rigged system, as the New York billionaire who had never run for election claimed it is, who was it rigged for at the end of the day? After all, he defied the odds by beating each of his rivals in turn, from his closest intramural combatant, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, to his personal nemesis and political archenemy, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
While Trump won the Electoral Collage vote at the same time he lost the popular vote to Clinton by three million votes, Republicans could boast about taking back the Senate (albeit by a two-seat margin), maintaining their strong majority caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, and continuing their occupation of a majority of governorships and statehouses.
The message for Democrats focused on how much political capital, as counted in statehouse legislative seats and governor’s chairs, had been lost over the two presidential terms for Barack Obama. How can you expect to win enough seats to be in control again if your message and messengers are old and tired?
Is the Republican brand dominate today because the party is the better party, or are the wins since 2010 the result of elections rigged in other ways, like drawing districts your candidate would have to jump the shark to lose in?
One answer to the degree of rigging in operation today was reveled when the Associated Press studied election cycles for all 435 House seats and found that, “Ohio provided Republicans with 1.6 extra U.S. House seats, the fifth highest nationally among pro-GOP states, and 5.23 extra seats in the Ohio House, the 12th highest nationally.”
In its analysis of all 435 House seats in DC going back to 1972, the AP discovered, “GOP candidates won 56 percent of the votes in Ohio House races yet 66 percent of the seats, while Republican candidates for Ohio’s U.S. House seats won 58 percent of the votes but 75 percent of the state’s 16 congressional seats.”
When all 435 House seats were reviewed using a statistical method designed to calculate partisan advantage, the AP learned that the “GOP may have won as many as 22 additional congressional seats than expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country.”
What was significant about the report, is that it was based on a formula developed by two researchers whose model was cited last fall as “corroborative evidence” by a federal appeals court panel that disagreed with how Wisconsin’s Republican-led legislature drew districts, citing them as an”intentional partisan gerrymander in violation of Democratic voters’ rights to representation.”
This case is now at the Supreme Court, with its newest ninth member, Neil Gorsuch, nominated by the president.
After 40 years of congressional and state House races, the researchers concluded that “the pro-Republican maps enacted after the 2010 Census resulted in ‘the most extreme gerrymanders in modern history.'”
Recall 2010. It was a so-called “wave election” year wherein Republicans took back the House in Washington, and Ohio Congressman John Boehner, who became House speaker in the process, became a thorn in President Obama’s side thereafter and forever.
Debt ceilings, “fiscal crisis,” Obamacare, taxes and spending were rage issues that delivered for Republicans, who swept all statewide races in Ohio that year. John Kasich was a Fox News paid pundit and Lehman Brothers banker who got raptured governor in ashes the Great Recession left behind, which provided the perfect economic narrative to drive Democrats from their perches of power in Columbus and the District of Columbia.
Short of the Ohio Democratic nominee in 2018 taking the state by storm – including a baseline message that registers with remorseful Trump voters and independents harboring unease about a president who has shown himself to be the most unfit person to handle the awesome powers of the office – the only way Ohio’s election system can be returned to the public is through a statewide ballot campaign.
Only then can citizens retake control of a government that right now is motivated by partisan political gain. When political parties pick their voters instead of the other way around, it’s a sign the system is rigged because it’s so broken and in need of repair.
America does democracy on the cheap, and in Ohio, where local BOEs fight county commissioners for funding, it’s little wonder the problems rampant throughout the system can be remedied by those who created them in the first place.
Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio is now circulating petitions aimed at changing Ohio’s constitution to eliminate gerrymandering, or creating districts that advantage one political party over another.
Reform Ohio Now made a reasonable and thoughtful case in 2005 for some key reforms (campaign finance reform, independent redistricting, election reform) that would have made massive civic strides forward, but voters were told how bad it would be if RON passed and they soundly defeated it.
If voters are unmotivated or just plain apathetic when it comes to choosing their political leaders – and ample evidence exists to make that case – is it a dream too good to come true that a grassroots political movement can build up enough to wrest control of drawing legislative districts from partisans to civic neutrals?