I am a Democrat running for the Republican nomination in my Democratic district. I am running because I want to listen to rather than disparage others’ views. I am running to find new engaging approaches to bringing the public, and my disenfranchised Republican neighbors, into meaningful political discourse.
Most state legislatures effectively disenfranchising their state’s minority party when they gerrymander their state’s Congressional districts. Maryland is gerrymandered to favor Democrats: 32% of Maryland’s 2018 vote was Republican but only 12.5% of the state’s Congressional delegation is Republican. The numbers are just as stark in the other direction in states gerrymandered to favor Republicans.
Gerrymandered disenfranchisement is a national problem, not a partisan problem.
The election process in gerrymandered districts yields three irrelevant elections. The general election is irrelevant because the incumbent will almost certainly win. The same power of incumbency typically makes the majority party primary election an irrelevant precursor to the general election. And the minority party primary election amounts to an irrelevant selection of an electoral sacrificial lamb.
The ideas put forth by our candidates matter, and so do the ideas of the voters. We as a nation, as a state, as a district must make our voices and our ideas heard. Instead, in most districts throughout the country, we’re just going through the motions of campaigning for foreordained election outcomes. The lone election with any potential impact, the majority party primary, serves not to promote a meaningful exchange of ideas, but rather to push the parties to their extremes.
The tragedy of pro forma elections is particularly acute the Maryland 4th – an absurdly-shaped district that engulfs the eastern border of DC, backflips through a 1500 foot wide strip of land in a public park near Beltsville and heads to the edge of Annapolis. It is the only US Congressional district that abuts its state capitol as well as DC, and it is closer to Capitol Hill than any other in the country.
In any district, there are enough politically engaged people on both sides of the aisle to support insightful discussion of national issues and of the district’s long-term political interests. All the more so in MD-04, which may have the richest concentration of politically engaged people working in and around government. Nevertheless, our district’s considered position on every issue is “Whatever the Democrats want”.
We have to get back to nuanced politics – speaking reasonably and listening to each other — without suffering knee-jerk outrage from one or both sides. Unfortunately, rage is a profit center in our industrialized politics. It also locks gerrymandering in place, while gerrymandering fuels the rage.
The minority party primary is a weak link in this system and the best place to make progress. While the majority party constituents will resist change, the minority party voters are hungry for meaningful representation. The minority party primaries are the best place for sponsoring media outlets to test the market for new, profitable approaches to covering issues. It is also advantageous that no monied interests will be threatened by experimentation in these elections.
So, I am campaigning on a platform of bringing our district together to examine national issues from all sides. With the backdrop of suspicion that accompanies our elections, the offer to bring 50k Republicans into a fair forum with 200k Democrats is most plausible if it comes from a Democrat who first brought this proposal to the Republicans.
It will be a long road, but one way out of the mess we’re in is to find ways to make substantive political discourse interesting and profitable.