The Dirty Little Secret That Destroyed US Politics

PrintbookFinal8Most Americans are sick of hearing about “Polarization in Washington.” Voters are angry, and they demand change. However, neither party has been able to get much accomplished in the past ten years. Cable news channels have built an industry by exploiting the vast and growing gap between Liberals and Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats as the defining feature of politics in Washington.

What has created this apparent hatred that causes elected officials to refuse cooperation with one another? Pundits, retired officials, and long-time journalists all decry the situation and opine different potential causes. Most agree that the complete failure to cooperate with each other is a relatively new phenomenon. Some blame it on specific events, like the impeachment of President Clinton, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Affordable Care Act, Racial tensions, lies or misleading statements by years of White House occupants.

Others blame ideologies, including more than the simple liberal versus conservative beliefs. There are also libertarian, progressive, evangelical and mainstream voters. Each of these has advocates in Congress.

Though any of the cited issues may have had some part in the destruction of our political system, few people realize that one single event was the major driver of government incompetence. Technically it wasn’t a single one-day event like an election. It was an ongoing process that went under the radar. Very few Americans knew it was happening or understood how it would affect us.

The event, occurring primarily in 2010, was Redistricting. At first view, it seems to be a boring, technical, and benign process, but it created the havoc we see in Washington.

What is redistricting and how does it work?

Redistricting is a process of changing district borders in each state, to compensate for demographic changes. Theoretically, every state examines the borders of each of its districts and may make some changes, every 10 years. Some districts may become larger, some may become smaller, some may maintain the same amount of geography but may change shape. Any of these changes may affect demographics in any district. New district outlines typically reflect changes in population size, area ethnic population, average income level, average age, and (most important) voting registration history.

The change of a district’s shape, therefore, may determine which parties and candidates are most likely to win. Either party may gain or lose, according to the newly included and excluded areas.

A key tactic in changing a district is called gerrymandering. It is a process of making changes, usually for political reasons, that are not logical extensions or reductions. To visualize the result of gerrymandering,  consider a district map that was previously nearly round in shape, and changing it by adding a larger oblong area to the east and subtracting half of its previous boundaries from the west.

Though the redistricting process is supposed to be nonpartisan, it’s different in each state. It is almost impossible to detect specific reasons for many changes, but each party seems to have an overall strategy for affecting changes in each district.

In 2010 redistricting, the Republicans apparently wanted to become dominant in the state legislatures by bringing new winning candidates into many small districts.

Democrat strategy was apparently a combination of two things. One piece was to strengthen the voting majority for existing elected seats in the House. The other was to take advantage of immigration and re-shape districts in which they could grow their base by appealing to minority voters.

Both parties got their wishes. Democrats got firm control of the states with the largest voting populations, like California and New York. They made inroads in Texas and Florida, largely by creating immigrant blocs, though not enough to win electoral majorities.

The Republicans won the majority of the governorships, state legislatures, and congressional seats. To the dismay of their mainstream leaders, however, most of their additions on the congressional  level were aligned with the so-called “Tea Party.” This group now dominates a separate group known as the House Freedom Caucus. Though this group publically defines itself as conservative Republicans, it operates much like a “fifth column,” covertly operating against programs supported by moderate Republicans.

How did those results affect Washington? 

Democrat leaders in the House found themselves in conflict with the so-called “progressives,” composed of disaffected young voters, millennial female voters who don’t subscribe to the traditional Democrat talking points of women’s issues, and followers of Senator Bernie Sanders.

House Republican leaders found themselves between two groups that are virtually irreconcilable: far-right conservatives and moderate mainstream members. Every proposed bill is either too conservative or too expensive for one group or the other.

The overall result is that few bills can move through the House since a majority vote depends on support from progressives, mainstream Democrats, far right Freedom Caucus members, and mainstream Republicans.

In the Senate, these splits haven’t had as much of an effect as in the House, because senators are elected for six-year terms, while House members serve only two-year terms before a turnover can take place. If advocates of term limits succeed, however, the Senate will soon face conflicts with newly elected members. 

The Ugliest Result of Redistricting

Finding themselves unable to pass meaningful legislation, both parties have fallen back to name-calling, negative hyperbole, anonymous leaks to the media, and other tactics to block success by either party. This is likely to go on, until the rise of a third party, or the virtual death of one of the existing two.

The press and pundit narrative of “parties that just don’t like each other” is false. Most honest lawmakers would like the situation to change. Some thought that election of a well-liked President might lead to compromise. But we haven’t had a universally liked President since the 1960s.


Insights from Inside the Bunker July 2, 2016

July 2, 2016

How Does a President Get a Law Passed?

An eight-year-old child, son of a DC attorney, recently asked his dad, “How does the President make laws?”

Searching for age-appropriate terms, the dad replied, “It’s complicated, but let’s use a make-believe example. Suppose that the President wants to stop people from chewing DangerLawSigngrape bubblegum. He begins by having an assistant write the first version of a law that says ‘Effective immediately, manufacture, import or sale of grape bubblegum will be prohibited.’

“But that’s just the beginning. White House staff members make changes. Prohibiting grapes would insult the memory of labor leader and civil rights hero Cesar Chavez, who organized the grape pickers. The staff changes the word ‘grape’ to ‘purple,’ but notes that Prince fans may object. They also change the word ‘bubblegum’ because some companies use the term in their product names. So the proposed law now says, ‘purple confections’ instead of grape bubblegum.

“The President’s staff then sends his request to the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, most of the congresspeople and senators contact lobbyist friends to learn how they should vote.”

“What’s a lobbyist,”asked the boy.

“ Lobbyists are rich people who make money representing companies or organizations, that want laws that help them make more money. Some companies want to kill the law because bubblegum is important to them. Others want Congress to approve the law with changes that make more money for their companies. Congresspeople and Senators listen to all of the offers and figure out how to make more money for themselves, without committing crimes that send them to prison.

“The proposed law is now called a bill and changes its name. The new name might be, ‘The Advanced Middle-Class Protections Against Purple Confections Act.’ Then the Senators and Congresspeople play games with it.”

“What kind of games, Daddy?” asked the little boy. “Video games like “Grand Theft-Auto?”

“No, these games are like Dodge Ball. The score doesn’t matter. The objective is to hurt each other.

“They send the bill to committees that argue. Then congressional staffs add thousands of new words to be sure no one will ever read or understand the law. After a few months, the leaders decide whether they have made enough side money, and may bring the bill to the full House and Senate to make speeches. This move provides the time when members can pretend to be experts and give interviews to cable news reporters.

“Then the Senate votes and passes the bill, with 46 members of one party voting ‘Yes’ and 44 members of the other party voting ‘No.’ The bill then goes to the President, who signs it into law in a big ceremony, with fifty people chewing or blowing bubbles with orange gum, signifying that purple is bad.”

“So then it’s a real law?” inquired the little boy.

“Well not exactly,” his dad responded. “Some states don’t like it and sue the government in court. No matter what the court decides, however, the losing side takes the lawsuit to a more important court. But that court’s decision doesn’t count either. The decision has to go to the Supreme Court. After years in all of the courts, four Supreme Court justices who hate purple bubblegum vote for the law, and four others vote against it. Then one 79-year-old man decides for the whole country. Insiders know that he often chews grape bubblegum, and loves it. So the law is soon dead, after seven years of effort.

“What did you learn from this, son?”
“I want to be a lobbyist when I grow up,” replied the boy.


Are Conservatives Real, or Urban Legends?

“Conservative” is a word used sparingly, except during presidential election years. Then every Republican tells the world that he or she is a ‘Proud Conservative.’ Though we have heard the word daily in 2016, no one seems sure of its meaning.

Apparently, the word represents few consistent beliefs. Some ‘Conservatives’ only care about abortion laws. Others are evangelicals; voting according to religious teachings. Some wear the Conservative label only because they favor military action. Some others favor isolationism and oppose military action. And others are only concerned about government spending. Due to their wide range of interests and beliefs, Republicans often disagree with each other on virtually ever issue, yet all call themselves ‘Conservatives.’

To learn the actual meaning of Conservative, we contacted RNC Chairperson Reince Priebus, who seemed puzzled. “I’ve never questioned it. I thought it was only an expression, like ‘Vote Republican’ or ‘I hate Democrats.’ I’m afraid I can’t help you. I suggest that you contact Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor. He claims to speak for all Conservatives.”

Following the RNC chairperson’s advice, we traveled to Washington, DC to the office of The Weekly Standard, a magazine read by very few people, though often prescribed by Mag-in-Trashdoctors to cure insomnia. Though Kristol refused to speak with us at first, we reminded him of his ringing endorsement of waterboarding during Operation Iraqi Freedom and offered to provide a demonstration. He then reluctantly agreed to speak to us.

“When you ask about the meaning of Conservative, you’re asking about my personal journey,” he began. “As cable-news viewers know, it’s ‘all about me.’ Always!

“I create Conservative opinions, and the entire world reads them in the Weekly Standard. To understand the meaning of Conservative thought, you need to start with my childhood in New York. As you might have guessed, no one liked me. I was even more insufferable as a kid than I am now. Boys competed for the right to beat me up, and girls all laughed at me. I was only an average student, had no athletic skill, and couldn’t play the violin. I needed something else to be ‘my thing’ just to survive high school. Then I read books by Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, Jr., and began creating my brand of Conservatism. But I had a problem. I knew the ‘talk’ but didn’t have the ‘walk.’ I had the language, but no content. Then I met a man named Bernie Madoff who counseled me, saying ‘if you pretend that you have riches, people will pay for your secrets, even if there’s nothing else there.’ Once I understood that, I had invented modern Conservative thought.

“The following summer, I had a few beers with my chubby cousin Gladys from New Jersey. She was a sorority girl at Columbia and a bit mischievous. We hatched a sorority prank Kristol2that Gladys would play. All of her sorority sisters were part of it. Every girl would choose a target at every party and ask him, “What are you?” His answer would earn him some specific reward, like a kiss on the cheek. But if he said, ‘I’m a Conservative,’ he would immediately earn an evening of carnal bliss. Guys throughout the campus and neighboring colleges heard about what had happened, and soon told every girl, I’m a Conservative.’ The ritual became a national sensation. Without my modern Conservatism, millions of bad marriages might never have happened. I’m quite proud of that.”

Somewhat astonished to learn the true meaning of Conservative, we asked Kristol whether this Conservative ritual still existed. He answered, “I tested that a week ago, at Liberty University. I walked up to a young woman and declared, “I’m a Conservative!” “No, you’re not. You’re a dirty old man!” she replied, before kicking me in the most Conservative area of the male anatomy.”


Trump’s Shocking New White House Plan

Growing more confident of becoming President, Donald J. Trump spoke recently to a group of his financial donors, to discuss plans for his first days in office. Meeting with approximately 50 very wealthy people, he spoke casually, with a hand-held microphone, wandering around the room like a lecturing professor.

Trump startled his audience by announcing a plan to move the entire White House staff to New York City. “There’s no reason for Melania and me to move to a lower quality home in a backwater city, Trump proclaimed. With a few alterations, Trump Tower will be a far better location for the Executive Branch.

“We have already begun redesigning the exterior of the first two floors, and ordered New-Towerbeautiful sheets of white Alabama marble as facing. That will automatically make Trump Tower a White House, actually the Whitest House.

“When our staff move is complete, the building currently called the White House will become the “Diversity House.” Using Embedded LEDs, the Diversity House will feature various beige tones on its exterior walls. Once a month the walls will project a rainbow of colors to honor the LGBT community.

“Here in the Big Apple, the Whitest House will offer luxury suites to each Whitest House staffer, and special rooms with hidden exits for Secret Service people who entertain guests beyond the eyes of the media.

“To make this project profitable, I have arranged to sublet Washington’s former White House, to Mitt Romney, who spent nearly a billion dollars trying to live there in 2012. Mitt has already sublet some key attractions. For example, George Soros will occupy the Lincoln Bedroom for $5-million a year.

FullFinal“The White House grounds will add a nine-hole pitch and putt golf course, which will draw wealthy golfers to pay greens fees of $10,000 per round.

“Most profitable of all will be upscale business franchises on the lower floors. Bill Clinton has contracted to run a Hooters franchise, where he will personally interview all waitress candidates. John McCain will operate an indoor paintball franchise, specially equipped with live Iranian prisoners. Al Gore is negotiating for a laboratory where he will invent the world’s first Climate Change Control via Internet. His supporters have already notified the Nobel Prize judges in Oslo to ready another trophy.”

Pausing for dramatic effect, the billionaire exclaimed, “There’s something here for everyone, especially people who always wanted to live in the White House.”


Dropping the mike, Trump departed, to the sound of thunderous applause.