You’ve probably heard of gerrymandering, but do you understand just how horrible it is for democracy? Not enough light has been shined on this concerning topic as of late, which is why John Oliver has taken it upon himself to explain the evils of gerrymandering on his show, Last Week Tonight.
As Oliver explains, gerrymandering is “the practice of drawing voting districts in a way that creates unfair advantages for whoever happens to be drawing the lines.” He jokingly refers to gerrymandering as the greatest threat to our democracy outside whatever Donald Trump decides to tweet on Cinco de Mayo.
According to Oliver, gerrymandering has a long and disturbing history in the United States. Politicians have long understood that they have a lot to gain when they have a hand in determining congressional districts.
Gerrymandering certainly benefited Republicans during the last few congressional elections, when, despite often winning nearly half of the state-based popular vote, Democrats lost nearly all districts in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In light of the gerrymandering issue, Republicans’ boastful maps of a nearly red country don’t seem as impressive; of course these maps are red — politicians artificially engineered them to be that way.
It’s not surprising that the GOP put a great deal of effort into securing a red congressional map. The real surprise is just how targeted that effort was. In what Oliver refers to as “elevating gerrymandering to an art form,” Republicans engaged in a redistricting operation known as REDMAP, which has also been referred to as “gerrymandering on steroids.”
This all can be summed up by the following Karl Rove quote, which explains a lot about the GOP’s recent success: “He who controls redistricting can control Congress.”
Now, to be fair, Republicans are not alone in their gerrymandering affinity. Democrats have frequently turned to the tactic in the past and will likely continue to do long into the future. If there’s one thing that unites politicians on both sides, it’s sheer ruthlessness in their effort to retain currently held political positions, often to the point of complete hypocrisy.
Gerrymandering is an alarming problem, and we’re glad that John Oliver is doing his part to get the word out. With awareness and the determination to do what’s right, we can make major changes and ensure that future congressional elections actually reflect the will of the people.