Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Why Americans elect partisan politicians

I was wondering why the American people continue to elect politicians from the two major parties who do not seem to do anything to benefit the public, but who take up a few issues that are unimportant to most people and who pander to special interests, and why the American electorate does not instead put into office law makers or executives who are above the hotly contested political issues, who have no loyalty to moneyed interests, and who might actually govern in a fashion that would be to the advantage of the people. Jeffrey Rosen’s article in The New York Times Magazine provides a possible answer to these questions.

How did we get to this odd moment in American history, when unelected Supreme Court justices are expressing the views of popular majorities more faithfully than the people’s elected representatives? The most obvious culprit is partisan gerrymandering. In the 2000 elections, 98.5 percent of Congressional incumbents won their races definitively (75 percent of them by more than 20 percentage points), thanks to increasingly sophisticated computer technology that makes it possible to draw House districts in which incumbents are guaranteed easy re-election simply by catering to their ideological bases. As a result, Democrats and Republicans in Congress no longer have an incentive to court the moderate center in general elections. This, in turn, has created parties that are more polarized than at any other point in the past 50 years.

Jeffrey Rosen, “Center Court; Unelected judges aren’t thwarting the will of the people – they’re channeling it. Which is a blessing and a problem,” The New York Times Magazine, June 12, 2005 at 17.

[T]he conservative interest groups have it exactly backward. Their standard charge is that unelected judges are thwarting the will of the people by overturning laws passed by elected representatives. But in our new topsy-turvyworld, it’s the elected representatives who are thwarting the will of the people, which is being channeled instead by unelected judges.


Id. at 18. Rosen concludes, “If Congressional Republicans and Democrats repeatedly put the wishes of their bases above the wishes of the public, a provoked national majority may eventually try to throw them out.” Id.

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