Tuesday, November 05, 2002


I just got back from voting. If you are eligible to vote and don't, today, you have no right to gripe about what the politicians do for the next couple of years.

They say that all politics is local, and we have a prime example of that, here in my district. The power of incumbancy in US politics is so strong that any incumbent is essentially unbeatable. The only time you get a real race is when the incumbent retires or dies. Or, in the case of Maryland's eighth district, gets her district rearranged under her.

Redistricting is one of the prime tools of political corruption in the US. Basically, the party in power gets to redraw the district lines however they want after each census. The originator of this was a guy named Eldrige Gerry. When one wag pointed out that a district that he'd drawn looked like a salamander, somebody else said "No, it's a Gerrymander". And thus was a new word born. All over the US, in every state except Iowa, you'll find districts that look like something out of a mathematical paper on fractals. Idea is that They are slightly outnumbered in each district, so that We win every race. Or that They are all in one district, so that They only win one district and are guaranteed to lose all the others.

Maryland's eighth district used to be Montgomery County, including both the close-in suburbs (liberal) and the up-county rural areas (conservative). After the redistricting, we lost a lot of the rural areas. The new district is much more heavily Democratic than before. And our incumbent Congresscritter is a Republican. She's fighting hard to keep her seat.

Connie Morella is one of the last of a dying breed, the Liberal Republican. Design a Congresscritter from the ground up, the way s/he should be, and you'd get Connie. Her staff answers letters. Local concerns get taken care of. She understands what she's doing in Congress.

Unfortunately, she's a Republican. The Republicans control the House, and may take back the Senate this year. The current Republican party is an alliance between right-wing religious bigots and rich folks who care only about their own finances. They take their tiny majority as a total mandate to do whatever they feel like. It would be nice if the Democrats could take back the House and throw a wrench into some of the more brainless policies that the Republicans have come up with ("Faith- based initiatives", Social Security privatization, massive tax breaks for rich people, huge agricultural subsidies, "Star wars").

Unfortunately, again, the Democrat running against Morella (Chris Van Hollen) is a jerk. He's a sometime state legislator, and was in office when the Lege (as Molly Ivins calls it) passed the UCTIA (Uniform Computer Transactions Information Act), which is the most egregiously anti- consumer piece of legislation imaginable. (Subject for another article). He'd of course come in as a freshman, and take several terms in the best case to get to a position of any power. (Morella is chair of the subcommittee on Science and Technology.) His campaign literature emphasizes that he's for Education and Gun Control. Sorry, but those are pretty thin issues. Show me one candidate (or one person, for that matter) who's opposed to education. Gun control is one of those "flag waving" kind of issues that everybody feels very strongly about, but doesn't know squat about. It's a topic for another essay. Far as I'm concerned, any candidate who mentions gun control, one way or the other, is a jerk who doesn't deserve consideration.

My brain insists on parsing "Van Hollen" as "Van Halen", which would certainly have made for a more interesting campaign

Ahh, well. I'm assuming that the Dems wouldn't take the house anyway, so I voted local. Morella. We'll see what happens.

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