One of the common term thrown around in our political sphere is “Gerrymandering”. Many are aware of its presence, but either don’t know what it means or don’t care. However, it has recently gained traction in the media and with the public due to its upcoming Supreme Court hearing. Some say this is a long overdue look at an unconstitutional practice, others say it’s just “politics”.
For the many who don’t exactly know what gerrymandering entails, here is a brief overview1. When a political party comes to power in all branches of government (executive/legislative/judicial) they control the redrawing of the lines of voting districts every 10 years in accordance with the U.S. Census. This can allow them to gain the upper hand in subsequent elections. For example, in current news the Republican Party has come under fire for abusing power this way in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina, although Democrats have done it in the past as well. This unconstitutional use of power can be done by splitting a heavily partisan area so that it is distributed among many districts of the other party, this practice is known as “cracking”. Another practice, “packing” helps the party in power to redraw districts so that the opposing party’s voters are all quarantined in one district, thus only giving them one representative. This allows the party in power to have more representation, despite having fewer voters. When it comes time to vote the weaker party is under represented, systematically eliminating their vote and their voice in government. That is the case in Ashville, North Carolina.
Regularly-scheduled redistricting began in the 1960’s when the Supreme Court ruled that each state should re-allocate the number of representatives to the population to allow for fair voting rights to all. However, it now has a bad reputation.
The term itself (and the negative connotations associated with gerrymandering) come from the new electorate district map of South Essex, Massachusetts in 1812. Then-Governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry redrew the district lines in favor of the Democratic-Republican Party, against the Federalist Party. Many newspapers found the shape and boundaries of the new district bizarre. Federalist papers of the time likened the shape of the district to that of a salamander. This, along with the governor’s last name, Gerry, created the term. In that instant partisan gerrymandering was identified.
Ever since its inception it has been silencing citizens’ voices. Political parties use it to their advantage to collect the population into different groups to do the exact opposite of the fair vote that was first intended in the 1964 Supreme Court ruling on redistricting.
There are other possible alternatives to gerrymandering and redistricting which still allow for a fair vote2. One of them being the Fair Representation Act proposed by Don Beyer, a U.S. Representative for the 8th District of Virginia. His plan is to increase district size or get rid of them altogether in states which have fewer than five congressional districts to begin with, without changing the number or representatives from that state. In this scenario a state that has four districts would collectively pick those four representatives, diminishing the chance for diluting and concentrating certain political demographics of the state. Beyer says this overhaul in the way we nominate our congressional leaders would also increase the diversity in the Senate and House of Representatives. He claims it would broaden opportunities for women and people of color, rather than the stereotypical middle-aged white man that we think of when we think of Congress. However Representative Beyer knows his drive for fair representation isn’t shared across the board, and knows his plan is optimistic in various aspects, admitting it “won’t be an easy sell and may not pass for decades”. Instead he hopes that it will start a conversation in congress and start the process of removing gerrymandering from our political spheres.
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The Center for the Study of Citizenship has been holding conferences since 2002 on a wide variety of topics relating to citizenship, such as Boundaries, Gender, Definitions, Governance, Age, and Violence. This year’s conference takes place April 12 – 14, 2018 in Detroit, MI and focuses on the role of Religion in Citizenship.
The Call for Papers is available at http://www.clas.wayne.edu/Citizenship/Call-for-Papers; information about the conference is available at http://www.clas.wayne.edu/Citizenship/15th-Annual-Conference-on-Citizenship—General-Information.
We look forward to hearing from you –
This post was written in response to David Leonhardt’s Op-Ed column in the New York Times on July 18th, “A Summer Project to Nourish Your Political Soul”.
In today’s paper, you make the wise suggestion that each of us recognize that we don’t possess the Truth and should be open to changing our mind about the “wicked” problems that we face today. You have identified several of those important and difficult issues. And you propose a kind of personal inoculation against “the coarsening of Trump-era discourse.” The disease, though, infects the body politic and needs to be contained by robust conversation across ideological divides. Please consider the effort to nourish the body politic and not only our individual political souls.
I believe that your prescription against the ills of contemporary political discourse does not go far enough. The coarsening that you refer to is the culmination of at least two decades of growing partisan polarization and intolerance. In 2010, James Leach, then Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former Iowa Republican congressman, spoke at the Center for the Study of Citizenship at Wayne State University to argue for “Civility in a Fractured Society.” Civic discourse, then at a depressing low, has become increasingly uncivil, and public conversations across partisan divides have become rare. I mention this not because you are unaware of it because it reveals a deeply entrenched view of the world that requires more than individual reflection.
Please consider the prescriptive imbalance in your newsletter. The first part praises grass-roots resistance to the Republican health care bill, and the second part (and your column) calls for individual open-mindedness. Grass-roots organizing is surely the powerful political force that you describe. The challenge posed by uncivil civic discourse, though, is in some ways a more intractable problem than health care because it is now embedded in the body politic. In my view, we need the same kind of grass-roots activism to advance a civil civic dialogue, giving voice to those who view themselves as voiceless, and giving all the opportunity to listen to those with whom they disagree.
The current political polarization and paralysis contributes not only to citizens’ disenchantment with the political process but also to their disengagement from public life. And the erosion of civic organizations in turn erodes the public entities and spaces that foster civic engagement. The result is a passive, if angry and fearful, electorate at a time in United States and world history when knowledgeable, active citizenship is essential to the well being of communities small, large and global. The Center for the Study of Citizenship proposes both to bridge seemingly unbridgeable divides and spur thoughtful, knowledge-based active citizenship through a series of civil civic dialogues on citizenship issues.
The Center for the Study of Citizenship has begun a program of Citizen Dialogues, which brings together people with passionately different points of view to speak to one another and a diverse audience about difficult issues. Last year, we began the dialogues with a debate about gun rights and gun violence (we decided to take on the easiest issues first!). We brought together the Director of the Michigan Coalition against Gun Violence and the General Counsel of the Michigan Gun Owners and a leader in the open carry movement. The debate itself was informative and civil though tense, but the more important work of the evening was the discussion of the issue at 8-person tables with a facilitator assigned to each table. The discussions were not spontaneous. Each person had the same amount of time to offer an argument, but each person was also listening 7/8th of the time. We followed that dialogue with one on U.S. refugee policy.
We will hold our first dialogue of the next academic year on immigration on October 18th. The moderator for the dialogues is Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press columnist and Deputy Editor of the paper’s editorial page. (Mr. Dickerson moderated both dialogues last year.)
The Citizen Dialogue is not the solution to the problem, but we seek to make it an important step toward nourishing the body politic first through dialogue and ultimately through deliberation. I invite you to Detroit on October 19th to join the discussion of immigration policy—to participate in the discussion as one of the panelists or as one of the citizen participants.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Marc W. Kruman
Director, Center for the Study of Citizenship
A quick reminder:
Per the CfP, “We provide a limited number of scholarships for international scholars. These funds will be distributed on a competitive basis. Scholarships include three nights of lodging and a discounted conference registration rate for the participant, but no transportation. If you wish to be considered for a scholarship, please indicate it in your email.
“For international scholars who submit proposals by September 1, 2017, the program committee will make early decisions about acceptance and scholarships by September 15, 2017.”
Although we will continue to consider abstracts and scholarships after that date, the scholarships available are limited, so send in your abstract ASAP to maximize the likelihood.
If you have sent in an abstract but have not received a response yet, contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Amy B Bloom, JD
I have had the opportunity to work in the public school system in Michigan, as well as in state and federal governments. Over the years, there has been much talk about running schools and governments like businesses. While advocates point to the bottom line, detractors argue that these institutions deal with people and their goals differ (profit motive vs. service). However, there is one way in which schools should run like businesses that would benefit us all.
In order to stay at the top of their game, the most successful businesses support their workers and reward creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. They invest in their workers. They work hard to recruit, support, and grow their talent. Educators and administrators alike value developing students’ creativity and problem-solving skills, yet many schools are not designed to foster these attributes in their teachers. The result is that we all lose.
Great leaders recognize that great ideas can come from anywhere. They inspire and support their workers. Although most of my career has been in the public sector, I have been fortunate to work for great leaders – Rikki Klieman, Judge J. Harold Flannery, Jr., Judge Mel Greenberg, and the Honorable Patti B. Saris. They all shared the following characteristic – they believed in and trusted their employees. They demonstrated this by investing in and encouraging my professional growth. They provided wonderful intellectual challenges and trusted that I would rise to those challenges. They asked great questions, growing my knowledge and perspective. And, they listened to my questions and perspective on issues.
Innovation and creativity needs a certain environment to grow and flourish. Businesses recognize this. A look at Quicken’s “Isms” or a read of Nolan Bushnell’s book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs drives home this point. In this respect, schools and school leaders have much to learn from business.
Yet, our accountability system makes it difficult for school leadership to fully embrace and value the investment in teacher development and creativity out of fear that it might negatively affect the bottom line (as measured by standardized test scores and budgets). If we are going to improve our educational system, school leaders need to move away from a compliance-oriented and budget-centric approach and begin to value and trust employees, support innovation and creativity, and invest in deliberative democratic practices with their staff to develop a collaborative working environment. Google and Facebook clearly did not get to where they are by following outdated methods of leadership and human resource development. As described in the motion picture The Internship, with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, we are not allowing teachers to show their “Googliness”.
Deliberative democratic practices provide a means to develop a common vision and goals from an understanding of all perspectives involved. Everyone has a voice, and the process moves from discourse to action in support of those vision and goals. If we really want our schools to educate for democracy, these practices are essential. Deliberative democratic practices also support what great business leaders like Nolan Bushnell and Dan Gilbert already know: Great ideas can come from anywhere and by supporting workers and rewarding creativity, innovation, and problem-solving their businesses thrive. It is time for schools to take this page from the business world.
There is a European bibliography on Citizenship available at http://eudo-citizenship.eu/databases/citizenship-bibliography.
Under the guise of keeping America safe from the specter of terrorism, the Trump administration issued an executive order on January 27 that has proven to be one of the most drastic changes in the nation’s immigration policy, its posture toward refugees seeking entry to the United States and of the country’s traditional reputation for being a welcoming destination for those aspiring to a better life, in recent memory. The ambiguity of its language, its scope and its long-term consequences are causing consternation well beyond the false binary of the public debate that frames the issue as one of humanitarian impulse vs the need to keep America safe from the threat of potential terrorism.
The executive order has three basic provisions regarding refugees, immigrants and visitors to the United States. There is a 90-day moratorium on permitting entry of refugees in general, while refugees from Syria specifically are barred indefinitely. In addition, there is a 120-day bar on entry for individuals with non-immigrant visas from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. While each of these nations has a Muslim-majority population, President Trump insists his policy does not constitute a Muslim ban, despite his campaign rhetoric and that of his subordinates to the contrary.
While the text of the executive order appears limit its scope to refugees and non-immigrants seeking entry to the United States, there is considerable confusion as to its actual scope. Lawful permanent residents, i.e. “Green Card” holders had been barred from entry until the US State Department and Department of Homeland Security were compelled to issue statements of clarification that the EO did not apply that category of immigrant visas. At the same time, the exclusion of US citizens from the list of affected groups has not precluded Customs and Border Patrol from treating hundreds of Muslim Americans as second-class citizens as they attempt to return to the country. Many face secondary investigation at immigration control, including hours of additional detention where they are being questioned as to their religious and political views, in clear violation of administrative and constitutional provisions. They are also being coerced into surrendering their passports and their electronic devices for inspection of their email and social media accounts. Such “extreme vetting” appears to be occurring for Muslim US citizens whose national origin is outside the seven countries named in the executive order; irrespective of this fact, even citizens from those countries are to be constitutionally protected form such practices. The de facto impact of the executive order, however, is far different and much broader than the stated de jure scope.
There is an implicit conceit in the justifications for the current immigration related measures that prior policies were ineffective and dangerous to the security and safety of Americans, thus the need for a drastic shift toward refugees. In reality, the refugee vetting policy before Inauguration Day was stringent to say the least. The process takes a minimum of 18-24 months and involves no fewer than a dozen federal agencies and half a dozen international security and intelligence organizations. Regarding the alleged terrorism threat posed by refugees to Americans, no refugee has committed a single act of terror or murder in the United States. The killings in San Bernardino, the Orlando nightclub and the Boston Marathon are commonly invoked to assert the need for the current, restrictive policy as necessary, preventive measures. Again, none of those horrific acts would have been averted by the executive order, as they involved immigrants from countries not currently included in the ban.
Serious questions of constitutional integrity abound in light of the Trump administration’s executive orders regarding immigration and refugees. While the executive branch is perfectly within its rights to issue policy in the interest of national security and is able to exclude non-citizens, its privileging the entry of refugees from one religion and not another may be a violation of the First Amendment. Concomitantly, advocacy groups are vigorously opposing such policies.
As millions of Americans struggle to process the recent actions of the Trump administration and their legal, political and societal ramifications, The immigration-focused executive order is being successfully challenged in court, with five different federal judges imposing stays on the implementation and enforcement of the order. The court injunctions provide a trenchant study in civics literacy to gauge the mechanisms of how the Constitution’s checks-and-balances being exercised between the executive and judicial branches. Along with court challenges, the public reaction to the executive order has been swift and strong. Rallies, protests, marches and public mobilization have been a daily occurrence in a still very young presidency.
For a nation of immigrants, the executive order affecting refugees and others goes beyond mere discussions about terrorism, security, compassion and humanitarian efforts. It strikes at the nation’s pathology and the ontology of its citizens. The demographic shifts, the effects of globalization, the recalibration of America’s economic, military and diplomatic station on the world stage augur a sharp departure from the predictability of the nation’s future trajectory. But insularity and intolerance has never been a sufficient or successful antidote to insecurity, even in the name of security. For a liberal democracy, the consequences of an executive order may prove to extend well beyond its author’s term in office to redefine national policy and philosophy alike.
Saeed Khan is a senior research fellow with the CSC.