. . . Monday June 13, 2005

Looking for the Middle

Jeffrey Rosen has a very interesting piece in the NYT Sunday Magazine in which he argues that (for better or possibly worse) the courts may be the last institution in America that is speaking with the same voice as citizens.

On why our representatives (or representatives of something) have moved to the extremes:

How did we get to this odd moment in American history, when unelected Supreme Court justices are expressing the views of popular majorities more faithfully than the people’s elected representatives? The most obvious culprit is partisan gerrymandering. In the 2000 elections, 98.5 percent of Congressional incumbents won their races definitively (75 percent of them by more than 20 percentage points), thanks to increasingly sophisticated computer technology that makes it possible to draw House districts in which incumbents are guaranteed easy re-election simply by catering to their ideological bases. As a result, Democrats and Republicans in Congress no longer have an incentive to court the moderate center in general elections. This, in turn, has created parties that are more polarized than at any other point in the past 50 years. And since more than half of the current senators previously served as representatives, the radically partisan culture of the House is now contaminating the Senate.

Think about that for a second. 98.5% of the time we know who’s going to win. And yet we watch, we fund, we blog, we argue, we obsess. Pretty neat trick, eh?

On those activist judges:

… The conservative interest groups have it exactly backward. Their standard charge is that unelected judges are thwarting the will of the people by overturning laws passed by elected representatives. But in our new topsy-turvy world, it’s the elected representatives who are thwarting the will of the people, which is being channeled instead by unelected judges.

On where this is heading:

If Congressional Republicans and Democrats repeatedly put the wishes of their bases above the wishes of the public, a provoked national majority may eventually try to throw them out. And if unable to do so because of gerrymandered districts, that majority may be mobilized to elect more moderate politicians by popular initiative, as California voters essentially did in choosing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger … Maybe what’s happened in California is the only way to empower the silent majority of Americans to take back their country.

The moderatorinator?

Concentration is important!