As a staunch libertarian who works at a libertarian think tank, it is not too often that I agree with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on political matters.
However, I am in full agreement with AOC, as she is known, when it comes to her disenchantment with career politicians entrenched in party-friendly gerrymandered districts.
When not spouting socialist policies, even AOC (every once in a while) stumbles upon a good political idea. Such is why I adamantly support her recent call for robust primary elections in districts overwhelmingly controlled by either Republican or Democratic constituencies.
In essence, AOC is defying her party leaders by refusing to hand over $250,000 in “party dues” to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. According to AOC, “I’m happy to support some incumbents, but it’s not just a blanket rule.” On that note, I could not agree more.
Although gerrymandering has a very long and sordid history in American politics, the problem sure seems to be getting worse than ever. In case you don’t know, the term gerrymander dates back to 1812, when then-Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry redrew the Bay State’s congressional districts to overwhelmingly favor his political party over the rival Federalists. Gerry’s districts were so contorted and crooked that his political opponents remarked that one actually resembled the mythological beast known as a salamander. Hence, the (dirty) word Gerry-mander was born.
Unfortunately, more than 200 years after Gerry’s redistricting folly, the tactic has become much more the norm than the exception. If you need confirmation, just take a quick peek at the most recent U.S. congressional district map. I don’t know about you, but that map looks more like a jigsaw puzzle than a map designating common sense and simple congressional districts. Believe it or not, state election maps are even worse. In some wild examples, district lines can even cut through a home or apartment building — figuratively speaking, of course.
And I think this is, at least in part, the frustration that AOC is venting with the current system. I do not believe AOC is advocating for a total district drawing reform by any means. However, at least she is calling attention to the corrupt status quo, in which both parties engage in trickery to maintain and expand their power base.
Whether this partisan political power grab occurs via friendly redistricting maps or favoring incumbents over primary contenders is wrong and needs to stop. Bravo to AOC and others who dare defy party bigwigs — those in smoke-filled rooms who make the “big” decisions and pull the political strings from afar.
Ironically, AOC’s pledge to withhold her party “dues” and spur more robust primary elections within her own party is something even the Founding Fathers would likely support. Although unknown to most Americans, the Founding Fathers feared political partisanship almost as much as they feared career politicians.
In the minds of the men who wrote our Constitution and created our federal republic, most public servants were supposed to serve for a brief time, before returning home to other endeavors. If the Founding Fathers were alive today, I think it is safe to say they would be shocked at the fact that the vast majority of representatives at the state and local level face almost no real competition for their seat at the table of government.
I also think they would be horrified by the sheer number of career politicians that have served in the same seats for decades and decades. Suffice to say, the citizen/politician model that they envisioned has not exactly come to fruition.
But, if hope springs eternal, maybe AOC’s refusal to pay party bribes that fund incumbents over primary challengers will cause more of her colleagues to follow suit. If so, we would all be better off because we would all have a more powerful political platform in which to hold politicians accountable — at the voting booth.