Louis Menand on Democracy

We don’t have Wyoming because people living within the territory felt a special affinity, a belief that they shared a “Wyoming way of life,” and somebody said, “These folks should have their own state.” To the extent that Wyoming residents feel stately solidarity, it’s because the federal government created Wyoming (and two more Republican senators), not the other way around.–Louis Menand

In the Aug. 22nd issue of The New Yorker, Louis Menand explains how American Democracy was never designed to be democratic. Here is a list of a few of his points:

  • The Electoral College, which in two of the past elections chose a president who did not win the popular vote.
  • The Senate, which gives Wyoming’s residents the same voting power as California’s.
  • The House, where in 2012 Democrats got more votes but Republicans elected more representatives.
  • Prison gerrymandering — in most states prisoners can’t vote, but are counted for reapportionment.

Menand explains “cracking” and “packing.”

You crack a district when you break up a solid voting bloc for one party and distribute those voters across several adjacent districts, where they are likely to be in the minority. Once it’s cracked, the formerly solid district becomes competitive. This is sometimes called “dispersal gerrymandering.”

When you pack, on the other hand, you put as many voters of the other party as possible into the same district. This arrangement means that their candidate will usually get a seat, but it weakens that party’s power in other districts. 

Louis Menand’s article is a good read; I recommend it.


About whungerford

* Contributor at NewNY23rd.com where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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