The problem: Democratic process distorted; citizens feel disempowered.
The casual discussion: Friend of a friend says campaign finance reform is a really hard problem. An easier problem is unfair redistricting (gerrymandering) . That is, the process whereby elective district maps are drawn in order to favor one faction (or party), and so rig the game. Friend of a friend suggests, why not work on the easier problem?
Friend recounts this conversation to me. I post it here, remembering an excellent article I read during August recall season, Crisis in California, which numbered "Partison reapportionment" among its list of contributing factors.
One significant factor contributing to Capitol gridlock is the bipartisan redistricting adopted in 2001 and based on the 2000 Census. The vast majority of legislative and congressional districts created by that plan are so safe that most lawmakers effectively win their office in partisan primaries rather than in the general election.
The result is a Legislature that is ideologically polarized, said Allen Hoffenblum, a Republican consultant and co-author of "The Target Book," which tracks campaign activity in contested districts. "In primaries," he said, "hardcore liberals and hardcore conservatives dominate the selection process."
That contributes to gridlock because "a lot of what happens in legislatures these days is driven solely by ideology," said Alan Rosenthal, a professor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University and a national expert on state legislatures. Republicans want to curtail government spending, and Democrats want to provide services, said Rosenthal, and "people in safe districts can indulge their ideological positions."
A consequence of the redistricting is the disappearance of the political middle -- the moderate lawmakers who often provide compromise votes on contentious issues. In years past, budgets were passed when majority Democrats peeled off a few moderate Republicans willing to help reach the required two-thirds vote. (emphasis mine) [Read more]
Friend of a friend thinks a ballot measure might be a way to battle bad redistricting. I think that no matter what the solution, the way to go about it is take it to the net via Dean-style politicking (group weblog/ meetup). Weblog to do initial research, gather like-minded to contribute thoughts, research, explore solutions and then get to work implementing same. This post is a start. Thoughts?