Thursday, November 8, 2012

Post Election America...

I have few thoughts on the outcome of the election this week that I thought I'd share. The most interesting to me was one that occurred to me two days before. I was playing around with CNN's clickable electoral map, which if Florida goes blue, I will have accurately called every state, when I noticed that it looked an awful lot like the divided map of the Civil War. (See below)

Of course, the territories are not filled in, but when you look at the states, it's eerie that after all this time, we seem to be returning to a similar geographic divide when it comes to ideology, with a few exceptions, most notably my birth state of Virginia. Of course, it's not as clear cut as that since there are pockets of blue in those red states and pockets of red in the blue ones. Which brings another age-old struggle into play...rural vs. urban. And the always American divider, race. All of this begs the question, have we've really moved very far on these issues in the last 150 years or so, or is it simply a matter of changing demographics causing the once opposition to become the majority? 

Which brings me to the other thing that keeps me shaking my head since the election...

I live in New York's 19th Congressional District. Before redistricting took place for this election, it was formerly the 22nd District, represented by one of the most liberal members of Congress, who ran unopposed in the last election and has since retired. This year, a Republican was elected to represent the new 19th District. Given that this district includes some of the most liberal pockets of the country, I couldn't understand how that could be. 

Then I started looking at all the redrawn districts in New York and found some disturbing things. The way the new lines were drawn, the percentage of white voters went up in ever district upstate. (See here) Now this isn't that surprising given a Republican controlled House. The party in charge is going to draw lines most favorable to keeping them in power. And knowing that Republicans base their entire strategy on winning a large percentage of the white vote, it makes sense that they want to increase their base in each district. 

But the result is that in nearly every district, the percentage of minority voters has gone down and fallen below state averages. As a result, there are many people in the state of New York, and I imagine others, being represented by politicians that actually don't hold the same interests of the people they represent. 

If you look at the number of Democratic senators, elected by state wide vote, and then look at the House with it's overwhelming Republican majority, it simply doesn't make sense. This is nothing new. It's the same dirty politics that happens after every Census. But I think it's important that we are aware of it, because it is simply another tool used to disenfranchise us as voters. There is a huge area of New York currently being represented by someone who does not share our values. A county that goes 60% for Obama is represented by a Republican. I can't help but feel our voices have been absorbed into silence when it comes to the House of Representatives.

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