Congressman Jim Greenwood — Why Government’s Broken — Gerrymandering


I left Congress undefeated and unindicted. People say to me all the time what is wrong with
our country. What is wrong with our democracy. Why has it deteriorated
to this. The thing that most threatens our democracy is gerrymandering and it’s all
about, you’ve heard this phrase, it’s about whether the people pick their
representative or the representative picks the people. The principle is that politicians and
candidates and political parties want to win because they think they’re right
they think they’re better than the opposition they think their ideas are I
think their parties and so it’s not surprising it’s not just your craven
self-interest but it is a political process that people who the parties
think they’re they need to win because they like their ideas better than the
opposite party the point of the story is you can’t trust politicians to draw the
boundaries right myself included Congress says you may have noticed it’s
not very popular there are some things that people like more than cars 48% of
people like head lice over Congress Brussels sprouts by 46% colonoscopies
are more popular 27% more popular used-car salesmen root canals traffic
tram jams and Donald Trump is 2 percent favored over Congress I would be tying
him with cockroaches so despite the fact that Congress is so unpopular if you
look at the left the elections in 2016 98% of house incumbents and 93% of
Senate incumbents in 80% of governors were reelected so what does that tell
you it has to tell you something with a body full of people who are so detested
are so successful in being reelected and I would suggest I think it’s beyond a
doubt that it has everything to do with gerrymandering districts to make so many
of them safe so they almost can lose if they
and many of them seem to try very hard this is an astonishing thing I think
last year there were all 435 seats in the United States House of
Representatives were up for election and I could have told you six months before
the election now 400 of those dishes elections were
going to turnout because there are very very few seats anymore where the general
election is really contestant it’s all over in the primary and the incumbents
know for the 400 out of 435 cases roughly that they’re going to win we’re
going to win because their districts are safe so what is that what what what does
that mean it means that in a time when our our culture of our media our
politics is getting increasingly polarized there’s very little penalty
anymore for being on the extremes of the right or the left because if you’re in a
safe district you can do as rocky things is what you can say wacky things you can
be an extremist you can refuse to compromise you can spend term after term
after term of getting practically nothing done for the country you’re
probably going to get reelected anyway and so no surprise that our democracy is
not working no surprise that we’re not compromising anymore because nobody
wants to compromise and compromise has become a dirty word if you compromise
your primary challenger is going to use that against you because anymore
Democrats can’t be left enough and Republicans can’t be right enough
because there’s always somebody to the extreme of them who will try to take
them out in the primary when the vote turnout is low and the people who
turnout tend to be more of the special interest in more to the extremes of the
of the little spectrum and the result of that is nothing gets done because our
form of government was designed for comfort
compromises it was designed that way and when you say I can’t compromise because
if I do I’ll be taken out in primary or it can’t compromise because my my
leaders my majority term I mean our leader will punish me if I do if I can’t
compromise because Rush Limbaugh or Rico motto or somebody will chastise me
publicly then there’s no compromise and when there’s no compromise
nothing good it’s done and you can see pick your issue and not much of value is
coming out of their conversation the gap is wide the gap is real and the gap is
very very harmful so there are two things that are important in politics
the first is money and they can’t remember what the second is I did
something that was either really brave or really stupid of when I was first in
Congress within my first month or so I said I’m not going to take any PAC money
at all I remembered Newt Gingrich said why did
I put you in the Energy and Commerce Committee I could have put somebody
there for one and all that PAC money and my my proudly thought I was a fool and
my campaign manager thought I was a fool now I made the argument that I can buy
more trust for my constituents without taking any PAC money then I could buy
evolve attack money in the world and I think I was right and it worked
and I’ve been defeated as I said so in 2016
51% of all of the money raised came from special interest groups and very wealthy
donors with very very usually very radical ideas so the total federal tax
spending in 1992 was 188 million in 2016 ten times that one point eight billion
dollars of special interest money when I was in Congress there were maybe five of
us that refused to take PAC money I don’t think I could I don’t know that I
could be elected today reelected today if I wasn’t if I
which not only ensures the incumbents the safety of reelection but it also
tends to buy their votes and so when you’re getting money from the heart
right you’re getting money from the hard left getting money from valued special
interests your unand to break with them toward a compromise
and again political paralysis if you’re a kamut community of culture of color of
common interest and your debt and your community can be divided up and split up
among a multitude of ditch of congressional districts then you lose
powers and of course in many places in the country that is one of the prime
motivations if you have a let’s say a congressional district I’m not sure what
the numbers are today but it’s probably something 750,000 people that a
congressional district if you have a city that has roughly that number of
minorities of African Americans say you can have your own district and the left
one of your own but if you take that group of 750,000 black people and you
put them in seven different districts so now there are a hundred thousand in each
of the districts and they’re outnumbered seven to one guess who’s better without
election right so if that’s another pernicious abuse of redistricting
it’s just bad for business because it produces uncertainty in every business
your investors need to know what has some reasonable sense of what the future
holds in terms of public policy so you can decide whether it’s better to invest
in this or that or open up this business or continue this business or borrow
money for your business but if you don’t know what’s what the future holds and
you and that’s because you have an inert Congress that can’t figure out how to
create a future for us create a sensible public policy future for us that
industry and business small business and more spacious businesses don’t do nearly
as well yeah we have a legislative body that can’t agree what day it is let
alone pass a a budget a spending plan at this point is there
any other leverage that we have other than postcards and phone calls to try to
push this effort any harder than than that
I suggest all of the time that you actually go sit down with your
representative people tend to think that that’s not collecting to have it um I
almost guarantee you that if you call your state representative of your state
center somebody shaving their head in the back now well I believe it is a duty of every
elected official to take every meaning that they possibly can with their
constituents the constituents you know that’s really they look for they work
for you not the other way around and you know if you ask for a meeting and they
don’t give you a meeting I would write a letter to the editor and I would say I
would call the reporter and say why is it that you know I tried to get a
meeting with my representative and he or she refused to do that I think it’s a
story in and of itself if five or six or ten of you asked your representative for
a meeting it’s a little harder to say no to isn’t so that’s one way you can call
us you can figure out from the membership of the organization I’m sure
they can find out who in their municipality do in their district right
is it is interested in this issue and a member of this organization and you can
get together and contact each other and say let’s write a letter and all sign it
and hand you know hand-delivered walk into the district office and say here’s
a letter from ten people in your district we’ve got a meeting on this
subject please tell us when we can have it I like comment on this notion that we
can’t hold a public hearing because there’s a lawsuit think about that
imagine if the chairman of a committee is really wanted to hold a hearing
really really wouldn’t want to hear somebody filed a lawsuit that has
something to do with this subject do you think that legislature goes yeah well
they’ve never really wanted that so if you couldn’t hold a hearing because
there was a lawsuit somewhere on the same issue no hearings health whatsoever
okay so that’s that is in all due respect to
the chairs of those committees that is just an excuse
where our glory was growing up my wife and I which are glory
require that she do a time out and that meant going to her room the phone the
computer TV not what I’ve done once and it effectively is written to my
representative that I voted for you in the past but this issue is so
fundamental to our democracy it’s bigger than most anything else we’re dealing
with and no matter how many good things you’ve done for us next time I’m going
to give you a time now I’m not going to vote for you no matter what now me doing
that alone got me nowhere and I bet you there was a couple of couples and
representatives office but if a lot of people would say you got to sit one out
and come back maybe the next time around but unless you work towards getting this
past not going for you next time that way the only expression I like which is
if you can’t change their mind change the faces thank you for being here thank
you for caring thank you for here

Maurice Vega

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