Every day world politics gets a little more insane. And so every day I write. Writing has always been a means for me to release my anger, but it has the added benefit of forcing me to put things in neat little boxes and try to come up with facts and solutions. When I’m writing something that matters it even forces me to go check my facts. And sometimes I find that I was wrong.
I have to give you a little backstory here or it won’t make any sense. This will be where I fit into all of these weird silly politics things and why they matter so intensely to me. I’m American. In the 2008 primary I voted for Hillary Clinton and in the general I voted for Barrack Obama. In 2012 I voted again for Obama. In 2016 I voted for Hillary. But my voting history isn’t all that important. What is important — at least in context — is where I was when I made these votes. In 2008 I was in Moffitt Library cafe on the Berkeley campus half watching the returns come in and half working on some project for my first Masters degree. That’s right, I have a Masters degree from UC Berkeley. I ostensibly can translate classical Japanese. Don’t ask me to though. It’s been some time.
In 2012 I was already in Northern Britain. I know I voted for Obama via absentee ballot, but I don’t think I went to any election night party or anything. By that point I had finished my second Masters, this time an MSc at Durham University. I was also taking my first steps into a PhD at that same institution. My plan had been to get what British students refer to as a “first,” so that I could continue my studies at Cambridge. Cambridge does truly have a remarkable Archaeology program, but they don’t have the collection of human remains that Durham has. After I realized that Cambridge fell off the map for me. I stayed in the North. At least for awhile.
Any PhD is fraught, and hopefully I’ll talk about that later. Mine was a disaster in slow motion. My mother — and I’ll tell you now, you may have a lovely mother and she may be a paragon of strength and unconditional love, but my mom could totally beat up your mom — has always been more excited about my education than anything else. When I was about five years old she took me aside and made me swear to her that I’d never let a man get between me and my studies. That may sound incongruous, but my mom wanted to be an astronaut. When she was discouraged from that by a rather sexist letter from NASA she had decided to be a nurse. But when my father had an opportunity to do his own PhD at Stanford she ended her BSc just a few classes away from graduating to move out to California to support him. He ended up not attending Stanford. So when my mother saw that I not only had the ability but the will to earn a doctorate she did everything in her power to support me in it.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Mom wanted to fund the entirety of my education. Mom at the time however worked at the Pentagon writing regulations. The government promoted her up through the ranks until she was the civilian equivalent of a full bird Colonel, but the pay was pretty pathetic. She could not fund my super swanky, “Doxbridge,” education. She could barely pay her own bills. I had to find a way to pay for everything I needed myself. I took out loans, I got myself a residence scholarship, and I worked part time. For several months I also did not eat …. or rather I cut back on food to keep myself alive but such that I could limit my grocery bills to the equivalent of $20 a week. It was the only way I could make ends meet.
There were other tribulations; difficulty getting access to equipment, maintaining a balance between employment and studies, flatmate disagreements, and of course all the issues which come with being a doctoral candidate. But by early 2016 the end was in sight. Except for one little tiny problem. My sample size was too small. I had already done my statistical analysis, run my algorithms and written it all up, but my supervisors — correctly — noted that I had not included enough individuals due to preservation issues and all my individuals were from cemeteries in Britain. So they helped me get access to a beautifully preserved collection of medieval Sudanese skeletons housed at the British Museum in London during July of 2016. These individuals were excavated in what’s called a rescue excavation just before the planned flooding of the Church cemetery where they were buried. They were not Coptic Christians, but they practiced a form of Christianity which was recognized in Jerusalem by the Templars and Hospitallers as Coptic Christianity. Some of them were partially mummified so I was able to quite quickly flesh out my sample size (pun not intended).
The issue though was not with their number or beautiful preservation or the cute little curls of hair that still clung to some of their skulls. The issue was that I had to include them, rerun my statistical tests and algorithms, rewrite my discussion and conclusion and turn it all in by September of 2016. The race was on. I had it all sorted out. In the morning I would have a quick breakfast and fill up my coffee thermos. On the underground I would read as much material on the Sudanese individuals as I could and prepare to slot that into the early chapters of my thesis. At the British Museum I would set up my scans and examine the skeletons sometimes ahead of time and sometimes leaving the scans to process while helping to transport the skeletons to and from the lab. During breaks when I had finished examination I read more background and prepared more notes. When I returned home I would clean up the scans, landmark them and process them into the programs I had set up to run my little calculations. The process was exhausting and although the Museum closes entirely at 5pm I continued to work on the statistical aspect often until midnight.
Once that was finished I spent August digitally processing the cortical information and rewriting almost every word of my thesis to include and contextualize the new question. In September I edited. Finally, just a few days before it was due I took my monster of a PhD thesis replete with its red cover and the word, “populations” misspelled due to my exhaustion when I ordered it printed on a train back up to Durham. I turned it in and promptly had an ear infection, because that is how one deals with stress. As my mother put it, “you’re your mother’s daughter.” She frequently had ear infections particularly in extremely stressful times.
Not to be too corny, but during my race to turn in my PhD another arguably more fateful race was going on, that being the race for the US Presidency. Hillary Clinton was my candidate from the beginning. In the early days of the race before Bernie Sanders — her primary challenger — started showing his true colors I posted on Facebook a short note about how I wished the Democratic party would focus less on its divisiveness as we had — I believed at the time — two good candidates. (By that time young white American men who supported Bernie Sanders were already calling me “shill,” “c*nt,” “dumb b*tch,” “elitist,” and accusing me of “voting with [my] vagina,” and taking money for my vote simply because I had expressed my interest in Hillary Clinton and her proposed policies and openly stated my support for her.) When Sanders was effectively barred from the nomination in late March or early April and mathematically barred from it just a few weeks later I breathed a sigh of relief erroneously believing that the young men harassing me online would subside as Sanders pivoted to support Clinton.
You all know this story. Sanders never pivoted. He never supported Clinton. He sulked when she was formally nominated at the Democratic National Convention and at least one of his aides switched not to her campaign but to Trump’s in an effort to defeat her. Clinton herself writes a very emotive and flattering picture of Sanders casting his vote for her at the Convention because she had once been in that position herself. But the difference was that Clinton stopped campaigning in 2008 well before she was mathematically barred from the nomination, pivoted to support Obama, and brought her voters into the fold. I know. I was one of them. Sanders did not do her the same courtesy despite losing by far more and far earlier than she did in 2008. He also did not ask his supporters to behave themselves. Throughout 2016 while I was desperately trying to finish my PhD American men were sending me insults and threats regarding how they thought I might vote. In only one case did those messages come from a Trump supporter. I would take pauses when I was burned out from my thesis to look at the news or look at Facebook and I would be inundated with messages from men calling me and all the women I knew “worthless,” “harpies,” “vote whores,” and threatening to call our schools or employers and get us fired or expelled. News articles on Benghazi appeared next to pictures of Sanders supporters screeching and gesturing angrily at women of color exiting Clinton events and Trump supporters wearing lewd misspelled t-shirts and pulling faces. Several of them threatened to cause violence at polling places and I took time to report those last to the FBI.
I had barely enough money to cover groceries despite putting away as much as I could and working up to the legal limit, but I endured it all knowing I’d have my PhD and believing that for the first time in my life — the first time in American history — a woman would ascend the Presidency. I thought of the stories I could tell my future daughters and how much that would open the world for them. I spent my youth being called stupid by men who knew less than me and scrapping for every ounce of recognition and respect, but my daughters wouldn’t have to. No one would be surprised addressing me as “Dr. Schulz,” and people would be more interested in what I had to say than the length of my skirt. That is what kept me going. I had my fears, and even with a woman in the Oval Office I knew that gender equality still had a lot of obstacles to overcome, but in my mind I thought I just had to hold my breath a little longer.
Again you all know this story. November 8, 2016 was the largest foreign attack on the United States since September 11, 2001. Hillary Clinton did win the election and she won it by about 2.9 million votes. But the Electoral College kept her out of the Oval Office. The US is still piecing together exactly what happened, but even before the election itself it was clear that there was Russian interference. I myself had reported numerous profiles when I realized the only English posts they had were about the American election and those appeared to be canned. Even if the Russians did not lay a finger on the voting machines themselves, they helped suppress the vote, confuse the population, and elevate particularly the misogyny which so characterized the entirety of the 2016 election. The GOP may have started the War on Women, but Russia struck one of the greatest blows. And all because Putin was and remains utterly terrified of one Hillary Clinton. She quite literally unmans him.
After recovering from my ear infection I spent October trying to mentally recover. I have many max level ESO characters. No, I do. That’s actually not a joke. I also spent October writing and arguing on Facebook to get out the vote specifically for Hillary Clinton. This subjected me to more attacks and harassment, but fortunately by that point my thesis was in. It’s never nice to have some weird guy try to tell you that your life’s work is “fraud,” simply because he disagrees with you, but I had more time to dedicate to explaining to such men in small simple words how remarkably stupid they were being. I also had the added benefit of living in London by that time. Several of those men did try to doxx me, but had they been successful they would have had to convince random British men to come at me or spend several hundred dollars to be arrested in a foreign country. Britain, for all its problems, does not tolerate hate crimes or politically motivated violence …. mostly. Despite the October “surprise” plural to the power of one billion I was worried as my go-to stats machine was 538, but I had faith that the American people would do the right thing.
Like I said, I had no money. I am a night owl so to earn my keep I volunteered as a ticket-taker in the wee hours at the Democrats Abroad election night party. My plan was to watch the votes come in and have a nice celebratory glass of wine or a cocktail when Clinton started winning. I never did have that drink. And I could have used it. The Guardian has a picture of me covering my mouth when the Florida panhandle results were announced and flipped Florida red. That was the moment I knew. (In keeping with the theme of appearances not meeting reality which seems to be our curse in this age, even that photo is somewhat staged. I genuinely did put my hand to my mouth in disappointment and shock, but the photographer was too slow to catch it. When I saw him as I lowered my hand, I resumed my position and let him take the picture knowing that my palpable disappointment and sadness needed to be captured and transmitted.) Keep in mind, London is in a time zone several hours ahead of New York. When John Podesta sent the Clinton supporters home at about 2am in New York it was 5am for me. It wasn’t just late: it was legitimately the next day.
I remember waiting for the underground to open and then going home. When I got home, my partner was awake. He seemed a little concerned about me but seemed to understand the shock. I had in fact prepared for this. I was one of the handful of people who was trying to get people to vote and vote specifically along party lines because of a fear of exactly what happened. Preparation aside I was furious, betrayed, exhausted, and I felt like I personally had caused it by not campaigning hard enough.
You may remember just a month or so prior another Russian influenced election had rocked the EU with Britain declaring by a slim margin that they would prefer to leave. As an American living in London that decision by Brits felt like a very personal insult. I did have contact with at least one rather xenophobic British woman at the time and Brexit ended our contact. I at the time had posted about how absurdly stupid the Brexit vote had been. (Virtually the entire world including Britain knows this now, but Britain’s current economy is based almost entirely on its connection with the EU. Not only does Britain owe almost all of its trade agreements to treaties negotiated with the EU but Britain doesn’t really have any industry or export or skill that isn’t primarily or entirely dependent on the EU. Brexit won’t hurt the British economy just due to uncertainty, there are numerous laws, treaties, and regulations that must be rewritten and entire industries that need to be home grown before Britain will have a working economy again. The country is headed for economic collapse.) With this all said although I was shocked at Britain for the pure self-destructive racism which characterized their vote I was at least doubly angry with Americans.
I had been writing lengthy posts on Facebook explaining, usually with no small amount of rancor, how politics worked and why adult women and in particular women of color are in fact entitled to representation and their own vote. November 9, 2016 I joined several facebook groups, I founded one of my own (that one’s basically dead so worry not about it), I compiled lists of phone numbers and emails, I sent about the names of groups which would protect people in danger from the Trump Administration …. I even toyed with the idea of setting up an NGO to help in particular LGBTQs escape persecution. That was November 9th. Yes. I did that in a day. I was mad. Really, really mad. Since then I have continued to write like a madwoman. And I started to notice something rather horrifying.
People were asking me really simple questions about civics. Between November and that awful, sparse Inauguration spectacle in January the chief question on most people’s minds was “how can we undo this.” Even as the tallies mounted and finalized showing Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote and accumulating more votes than any white man had ever won there were still some of the more sexist dark corners of the internet screaming, “Bernie woulda,” and conveniently ignoring that he had lost the primary by more votes than Hillary won the election. But for the most part the big question on people’s mind was how such a significant disparity between the general election and Electoral College vote could occur and how it could be reversed.
The Electoral College if you all remember was an issue back in the election of 2000. Bush v. Gore. I was pretty gutted then too, but Gore’s popular win was considerably smaller than Hillary’s. Gore was robbed but Hillary was burglarized. The issue though was by the time of Gore the GOP was already engaged in what one might characterize as “dirty tricks.” There was already mass voter suppression particularly of people of color (although to be fair that specifically dates back to 1866), propaganda, and a bit of redistricting tomfoolery. I don’t think George W. Bush or the GOP set out to steal that election, but after they mostly accidentally did, I do think the GOP got some rather nefarious ideas in its head.
I’m skipping about quite a bit, so please bear with me. I promise it will make sense in the end. We’re going to skip forward now to the 2018 midterms, and then back eight years. The 2018 midterms were truly a blue wave. Democrats won a greater percentage of the vote than Republicans had won in one of their biggest midterms — those of 2010. Obama characterized the 2010 elections as a “shellacking,” and he wasn’t wrong. The Republicans gained over 60 seats in the House clinching the majority. It is relatively typical for the President’s party to lose the House in the first midterm but this was dramatic. And the timing was fateful. Censuses are held every ten years after which, where necessary, districts are redrawn by state legislatures except where the state constitution or previous court cases stipulate otherwise. The GOP has for some time promoted states’ rights and aggressively campaigned in local elections. Obama was actually a bit of a unicorn as a Democrat as he rose to the Presidency from local, “grassroots” origins. That’s usually a more GOP technique. In 2010 the GOP did not just take over the Federal Legislature: they took many of the state legislatures as well. And because they did it in 2010 they were able to redraw districts across the country in 2011.
The next elections in 2012 and 2014 did not raise many alarm bells although in places suits were brought as it was shown that there was increasing voter suppression and the gerrymandered districts were creating more than a few rather unrepresentative legislatures. It really was 2016 when the wheels came off. So in 2018 when Democrats and liberal independents fully recognized the threat and the form it took they turned out in droves. While the Republican party was trying to purge voter rolls the Democrats were registering voters regardless of party and disseminating information on voting rights. The ACLU and NAACP moved to protect voting rights particularly in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas but realistically extended their protective reach across the country. As a result 2018 was a tsunami to make Hokusai proud. As I said Democrats secured a larger share of the vote in 2018 than Republicans had in their landmark 2010 victory. But Democrats only won about 40 new House seats and had only small gains in state governments. This is due to intentionally unresponsive or “gerrymandered” maps drawn to benefit primarily the Republican party in 2011. (I do need to make the caveat that Democrats did severely gerrymander the state of Maryland in their own favor. That said, the Republican response to a lawsuit alleging a “racial gerrymander” in North Carolina was to redraw it in almost exactly the same way and simply claim they had fixed it by making it a “political gerrymander.”)
The response, particularly among my own generation to both the 2016 election and the failure to make more gains in 2018 was shock and bewilderment. In recognition of this in 2016 I wrote a short piece trying to explain the Electoral College to my peers. In 2017 when I was viva’d and working on my thesis corrections it became increasingly clear that my peers were not just having issues with the Electoral College. Most Americans did not seem to have a grasp on their own political system. The American system is ostensibly democratic so having a citizenry which does not understand it and is not interested in engaging with it is a massive problem. Indifference is the death of democracy.
While I was working on my corrections I was also working at that museum where I had collected data earlier and so it was my hope and belief that the world would sort itself out and I could continue building myself professionally as an archaeologist with only the occasional foray into politics. While I was finishing and preparing to write a book cataloguing one of the aforementioned museum’s more impressive collections (of which they have many) world politics changed my life in several deeply unruly and unalterable ways. My mother whose one wish was to see me in my doctoral robes was diagnosed with stage four cancer in late June of 2017. I had just received my corrections a few months before and had no hope of completing and submitting for summer graduation. I flew home to be with her for the last few days of her life. I arrived on 4 July 2017 and my mother passed in the early morning of 11 July 2017 before seeing either one of her children married, or meeting my children, or seeing me graduate. When I did graduate finally in the early summer of 2018, I made sure to wear her jewelry and put her wedding ring on a gold chain under my dress. As I was repairing my life having buried my mother in the family plot in Northern Wisconsin my student visa was creeping ever closer to its end. I applied for a partner visa, but was denied. The Home Office kept my documents and did not even inform me of their decision. The museum could not keep me on nor was I allowed to work in any capacity while my visa was in limbo. I also could not leave the country. As it turned out this was a technique employed by the Home Office on individuals without representation to remove non-British citizens from Britain.
All of a sudden, I had no job, no career prospects and as this was before my corrections had been approved I did not even know if I would have my doctorate after all. And of course, I also had nowhere to viably return if I needed to go back to the US because my mother was deceased and my father who came into the US via Argentina with a Spanish first name could easily become an ICE target in spite of his naturalization decades ago. Every now and then life backs you into a corner and tells you to fight or die. My grandparents fled across a minefield to escape Hungary in 1956, a great-great-grandfather of mine fled Denmark to avoid being an officer in the wars of the mid 19th century, my mother gave up on her dreams to have me and my now well over six-foot-tall little brother. (Every girl wants a big brother, but my little brother had the most adorable laugh when he was small and he inherited my maternal grandmother’s arched eyebrows which gave him the look of a mischievous elf.) I didn’t have to bicycle across a minefield with my two-year-old son in the basket of my bicycle as my grandmother did, no one wants me to wage a war, and my dreams are still largely intact, but January 2018 forced me to look at my country and my generation with clear eyes.
I was in a rough place. I couldn’t earn money and I couldn’t leave the UK so I was entirely dependent upon my French partner. I also had no project. At about this same time a video which had originated just after the 2016 election in regards to the Electoral College resurfaced and started making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook. I won’t link this video because its presence is what made me realize my country needs help, but it essentially promotes the the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) and hails it as the only meaningful antidote to the Electoral College. It should be clear by now I have feelings on this subject.
The Electoral College is not evil, but it is no longer a valid part of our system and we do need to abolish it. That much is true. At this point I do however advise copious fire-hoses full of caution because the Electoral College is detailed in the Constitution and to abolish it we would need a Constitutional Amendment. That in and of itself is not a problem except for the fact that the GOP and groups like the NRA and several groups looking to limit women’s bodily autonomy have been educating particularly representatives in state legislatures (remember? those things controlled by mostly Republicans?) on Constitutional Amendments and both the original Constitutional Convention and future ones we could potentially have. This means that with the current political landscape if there was a concerted move to abolish the EC via Constitutional means those groups and whatever legislators they have convinced, cajoled, or corrupted could use the opportunity to do really awful things including but not limited to repealing the First Amendment, repealing the 14th and 19th Amendments or other Amendments which pertain to the right to vote, strengthening the Second Amendment to make any and all gun control impossible, or adding language to deny women healthcare. Trying to repeal the EC before the Ship of State is in calmer waters is the equivalent of just punching a hole in the hull. (I do apologize for that extended metaphor.)
Naturally, politically astute people have looked for viable alternatives. In the past seven Presidential elections Republican Presidential candidates have won the popular vote only once (2004 Bush vs. Kerry) and yet they’ve had three Presidential terms. This is not right. If you lose the popular vote you shouldn’t win the Presidency. It is natural that anyone with a truly democratic bone in their body should look for a solution to this problem. The NPVIC is one of the proposed solutions. I’ll explain how it works and why I’m not a fan.
The idea of the NPVIC is that states will vow that regardless of the results in their particular state, they will pledge their EC votes to whichever candidate won the popular vote regardless of party. In theory that’s lovely. It would mean that the EC would not be regional or proportional, but it would honor the will of the people. If everyone was honorable it would be just fine. Even if everyone just didn’t have ulterior motives it would be just fine. But neither of these things reflects our actual situation. One of the major selling points of the NPVIC is that they have already secured 172 EC votes and that there are 69 more pending. That sounds really great because that’s already 32% of the vote guaranteed and if they get all the pending it’s a whole 44.8%. Almost 45%, y’all. So that SOUNDS amazing, right? I’ll explain where it falls apart. Of those 172 guaranteed votes 55 come from California aka Democrat Central and 29 come from New York aka Democrat Central East Coast Edition. Almost half of the guaranteed EC votes come from the two biggest centers of Democrats in the US. If we add in Illinois with its 20 votes and long history of supporting Democrats especially in Chicago that brings us to 60% of the current 172. The other states or districts which have signed on are in order of number of EC votes, New Jersey, Washington, Maine, Maryland, Connecticut, Hawaii, Rhode Island, DC, and Vermont all of which are basically liberal dens of purportedly not inequity. The reason that is important goes back to how many times Democrats have won the Presidential popular vote in the past seven elections. Those states were already basically sworn to the winner of the popular vote because they are largely Democrat states and because Democrats do well in Presidential elections.
So then we need to look at the potential 69 that could get the NPVIC count up to 45%. States where legislation has been proposed to dedicate EC votes to the winner of the popular vote are — once again in order of EC votes — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina. If I’m being entirely realistic the only one of those I expect to pass it and join the NPVIC is Michigan. Pennsylvania would be my runner-up for likelihood of passing the legislation, but it would not be in Ohio’s interest to sign on and I’m honestly not even sure how it was proposed in North Carolina.
The reason I don’t see those states or really any additional states signing on is basically the modified inverse of why the NPVIC got 172 votes in the first place. If Democrats win most Presidential popular elections it makes sense for a state which is largely Democratic to sign onto a pledge where they sign their votes over to the popular winner. They were probably going to vote for that person anyway. But for states where the state government is largely Republican or in a state which is called a “purple” state meaning it could flip either way this is a really bad plan. It’s great for the nation as a whole, but it’s an utter disaster for the state.
If for example a deep red state like Alabama let’s say signed onto this and swore their EC votes to the popular winner they would almost definitely have a situation where the state’s own vote went red, but the EC votes went blue. Trump won Alabama by roughly 62%. I don’t like Trump, and I have some rather choice words for those voters, but I would understand their frustration if they did that and then their state’s votes went to the candidate they did not vote for. That is the sort of thing that can lead to rioting. Given the history it would be unwise for any red state to sign onto the NPVIC.
So then the next question is in regards to purple states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and I guess now Wisconsin and Michigan. (And in a few years Texas. Weirdly enough, the NRA is turning that state blue. You read it first here.) These states don’t need to worry so much about people taking to the streets and governor being impeached over it and so on, but they do have some pretty legitimate concerns. If a person wants to be President they sally forth the the Ohio state fair and have their picture taken eating a corn dog. How no one has noted the irony of a bunch of straight white guys openly chowing down on something that phallic in such a bottled up society as our own boggles the mind but it’s what we Americans do for *sigh* reasons. The people of Ohio are then hounded within an inch of their lives for their opinions on the various candidates. To me that sounds incredibly annoying, but when reporters and candidates and candidates’ teams descend upon the now quite suspecting Ohio they bring money and recognition. Presidential campaigns are great for swing states because if one wishes to win a Presidential election one must win the swing states. Ohio and Florida are cornerstones in any Presidential election and pundits will often say things like, “no Republican President has won an election without Florida since [year],” or “this all really comes down to the votes in Ohio. That’s the clincher.” Being swing states puts the spotlight on these states and bolsters them economically, socially, and politically every Presidential cycle.
I’m not saying Ohio would be utterly bereft without the constant influx of Presidential hopefuls, but the corn dog sales would definitely decline. Some voters from swing states might be perfectly fine seeing their EC votes go towards the winner of the popular vote rather than whoever won their states, but joining such a pact would decrease the impact of their state on the nation. For the legislatures who might be trying to raise their status nationally, it is the wrong choice.
And all this means that the NPVIC is likely going to be stuck just shy of 35–45% for the foreseeable future. Without a massive change in the legislatures of red and swing states it will not be successful. And of course if all those legislatures go left it will then be possible to safely try for a Constitutional Amendment.
But, I need to give you a solution. I’ve explained what won’t work so it’s only fair that I tell you what will. We need to fix those district maps. No, I’m serious, that will do it. If districts are redrawn to create a responsive map then the EC will roughly approximate the popular vote. The added benefit is while it is unlikely that a plan like the NPVIC can be implemented by 2020 or even 2024 maps can be redrawn nearly immediately. I shall explain.
Under normal circumstances redistricting only occurs after censuses which are held every ten years. However, when maps are shown to disenfranchise groups of voters then those groups can sue to have the maps redrawn. (A state can also implement a state Constitutional Amendment to redraw districts as with California’s Prop 11. The reason I’m not arguing for that is that it takes slightly longer than the method I am proposing and time is of the essence.) The suit can be thrown out, but there have been cases where it was upheld and the districts more fairly redrawn. Texas redistricting does not constituted a win at all, but it does show that these suits can be effective even against near insurmountable odds. In 2011 the GOP controlled legislature redrew the districts to prevent Democrats from winning more than about eleven of the thirty-six seats (33% of the seats) without winning over 45% of the vote. This was achieved largely by “cracking” (separating voters into different districts to dilute their impact) minority voters in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Latino and African-American voters took issue with this and proposed a revised map which would better match the percentage of the vote to seats won. The state legislature rejected their proposal and were upheld by the US Supreme Court but did slightly revise their map.
In Virginia a similar gerrymandering case saw better results. In this state minority voters had been “packed” or put in high concentrations into just a few districts so that while those districts would definitely vote Democrat, all the others were safely Republican. When the Virginia maps were redrawn by a special master, they became more responsive. Similarly, in Pennsylvania a court ordered redistricting created a map where if a party wins 50% of the statewide vote they can expect to win eight or nine of the eighteen seats. With the previous map Democrats could only win up to five seats (27%) unless they broke 55% of the vote.
In the case of Pennsylvania the gerrymandered map was in effect for the 2016 election and the corrected map was ready and implemented for the 2018 election. This demonstrates that these maps can be corrected quite quickly. Normally I argue for incrementalism, but in this case we can have responsive maps across the country by 2020. We need not wait for the NPVIC or a Constitutional Amendment. We can have a responsive and representative government in two years. Since we don’t have to wait, why should we? (By the way, much of the information I am providing here comes directly from here: https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/extreme-gerrymandering-2018-midterm. Particularly, if you would like more details or charts I highly recommend reading this and really everything the Brennan Center for Justice divulges.)
But if you have read this far you might be wondering how this loops back into my previous statements about personal revelations and civic engagement. And if you have read this far you deserve a reward or at the very least an explanation. I’m a massive nerd. Demonstrably. One can be a massive nerd and not hold a PhD but one cannot hold a PhD and not be a massive nerd. PhD robes are bright and colorful so you can see us in all our nerdy glory approaching from afar and make good your escape before we start lecturing you on obscure topics. You, my dear reader, either did not see my robes or wished to be so ensnared. But the benefit — or curse — of being a huge nerd is that I read like I breathe. If I stop reading I might die. I don’t know, because I’ve never tried it. And I’m scared. And in PhDs at least in mine, one of the things we’re taught is how to talk to people who don’t have doctorates or other advanced degrees. It’s called “outreach,” and we are advised although not required to do at least a bit of outreach every time we publish. This doesn’t mean that every massive nerd with an advanced degree knows how to talk to normal people who don’t care (you should hear my father talk about nuclear physics; or not). But it does mean we’re at least supposed to try.
So when I realized that I am a massive nerd, a millennial, willing to read things most Americans wouldn’t poke with a stick, absurdly verbose, and a little funny if I do say so myself I decided that my spare time could be put to good use. I’m writing a book for my fellow millennials on politics and the Presidency. It’s not this thing you just read. Sorry, but this is only me saying, “hello.” I told you, I’m verbose. At present I have written some 95,000 words which is about 300–500 pages. As I am verbose a lot of it will not make the final edit and I realized that there are many relevant topics to today’s political landscape that are not necessarily relevant to the book itself. Rather than delete those never to be seen by eyes other than mine and about three of my closest nerdy girlfriends I will post some of those here. I had been posting all of my long rants on Facebook and I will continue to link these there but as several of my posts have gone semi-viral it seems reasonable to give them a more searchable platform
I’m a little ways off from publishing, in fact … I haven’t written a proposal yet or even gotten myself a book agent or publisher. But once I have those people on board I will also be using this area to publish perhaps a few excerpts or supplemental materials. I’m also planning to put myself on youtube — I’ve even done a few recordings — and as those will be shorter I plan to link them back to my more in-depth writings here. My hope is that I can give people enough information that they can better engage with their government and interact more productively on a national and international scale. This is something I can actually do and since I am unemployed until Brexit stops Brexitting I also have time to do it.
(I also realize that this has been frighteningly devoid of citation. Normally you won’t see that with me. But since you’ve gotten this far you must really enjoy reading so let me recommend a few books.
Albright, Madeline. (2018) Fascism: A Warning. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
— Everyone should read this book. Madeline Albright in her earliest years lost family members and watched the rise of fascism first hand. Her warnings should not go unheeded. Aside from that, it’s just a really enjoyable read.
Clinton, Hilary Rodham. (2017) What Happened. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
— This happens to be a very cleansing book if you voted for Clinton. She spends most of it assuring Americans that Democracy is still a safe bet in spite of everything. It’s very personal and Clinton is a faithful woman so there are religious intonations here and there, but at no point is she even angry. She’s informative and hopeful. (There’s quite a few unhinged reviews of this book but having actually read it I can safely tell you those reviews are just written by frightened people.)
Frum, David. (2018) Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of Harper Collin Publishers.
— Frum is conservative so there’s a few places I had difficulty buying into his logic, but his account of the destruction of the GOP is quite well done. Despite the massive chasms we perceive between “progressives” and the “alt-right” it becomes clear in Frum’s book that while there are systemic problems, there’s a great deal more that unites Americans than divides us.
Wolff, Michael. (2018) Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.
— This is just an amusing read. Trump called it a “work of fiction,” but it is clearly pretty accurate. Wolff is clearly milking the spectacle so it’s hardly an inspiring or readily quotable read, but it was fun.
Woodward, Bob. (2018) Fear: Trump in the White House. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
— This is basically a more journalistic approach to Fire and Fury. It’s also equal parts fascinating and horrifying. I do recommend it, but maybe not on a full stomach.)