Sunday, December 03, 2006

Incumbent protection racket

An Ohio paper asks why it is that if 53 percent of the voters cast votes for Democrats for Congress that only 39 percent will be represented by a Democrat. They note that Franklin County cast 10,000 more votes for Democrats than for Republicans but all three Congressman elected are Republicans.

Well the answer for Franklin County is easy. It’s the way the district lines were drawn up to stop Democrats from winning. They simply divided the county into three different districts and merged each of these areas with outlying Republican areas. I’ve covered how this process, gerrymandering is done.

One of the Republicans who helped draw up district lines to favor his party admits that they do this. “Your goal in redistricting is not only to be fair and follow the law, but it’s to maximize seats. There’s no doubt there is a partisan factor in redistricting. But a lot of it is not just flat-out partisan, it’s also incumbent protection.” And that is correct.

Congress doesn’t change this practice because at any one time the process protects the incumbents. That is the sitting Congressmen benefit from the system.

Now the local Democratic head in Franklin County whined loudly about the unfair results. But Democrats practice gerrymandering as much as do Republicans. For instance in Iowa more voters supported Republicans than Democrats yet Democrats won the majority of the Congressional seats.

The problem in politics is that even “reform” is bogus. Consider another incumbent protection racket which was called “campaign finance reform”. If there is a limit on spending that is applied equally between all candidates the incumbent will tend to win. The incumbent has access to valuable resources that his opponents don’t have including being able to send out “mail” to constituents on the issues at taxpayer expense. He has name recognition. He can use pork to get attention in the district.

All along the way incumbents have advantages. One way for an opponent to undo some of that advantage is to out spend the incumbent. But if you restrict spending so that the opponent can’t do that then you help guarantee seats for incumbents.