What does America ‘look like’?
Imagine us sweeping into a dressing room for a fitting. How shall we ‘dress’ going forward (through the door of the next election — there, that’s the whole metaphor)?
Turns out we have the whole world’s attention as we twirl in the mirror. They all see us how they see us — like friends and rivals, each with a history and an attitude toward us. Can’t do much about that right now. History is history.
But, as we twirl, we catch our own reflection. And what we see staring back… It confounds us. We know what we are in our heads. Why doesn’t our body look like it?
Welcome to Gerrymandering.
Quick example (drawn from Lawrence Wright’s wonderful piece in the New Yorker from a few months back about the effects of gerrymandering on Texas). Austin, Texas has a largely progressive voter population. And yet — of the SEVEN voting districts into which Austin has been carved, as of the time Wright was writing, only ONE was represented by a Democrat. The rest of Austin’s six — predominantly progressive — districts were represented by conservatives (and in several districts, ARCH conservatives).
The (intended) result — A MAJORITY Progressive voting population is represented as a MINORITY Conservative population — the Will of the People has been completely CIRCUMVENTED. The intended result isn’t just an electoral win for the MINORITY candidate but the creation of a Juggernaut of electoral invincibility that will keep the conservative white, Christian minority in power over a progressive, diverse majority. In heavily gerrymandered districts all over the country, Democrats must, in essence, generate at least twice the voter turnout just to achieve ‘parity’ that overcomes the distorting effect of the gerrymandering.
Because that’s what gerrymandering does (aside from circumvent the will of the people) — it creates a distortion — exactly like dysmorphia — to take root in our brains. The News Media — glomming onto the numbers (like it was our weight expressed down to the atom) — doesn’t see or acknowledge the context that gerrymandering presents, that the numbers, without that context, tell, in fact, a very false narrative about a district that doesn’t exist.
If you’ve ever experienced body dysmorphia — or know someone who has — a dysmorphic’s body image does not match reality. They desperately need a meal but their dysmorphic mind says ‘Go on a diet’. The diet could kill them.
That is us — America. A progressive-by-nature country (that’s what diversity does — it’s why diversity COMES in the first place because progressive places welcome while regressive places turn away) being run by arch conservative people NOT because the progressive population ‘wants’ to be governed that way but because the arch conservative people figured out how to HOLD ONTO POWER despite the fact that they were no longer the majority entitled to hold onto power.
And they did that through GERRYMANDERING.
When America looks in the mirror, it sees THIS —
It sees diversity. It sees every color in the rainbow and every variation on the theme of being human. It sees America staring back at it.
When Conservative America look in that same mirror, this apparently is what it sees staring back —
THEY look like that, yes. They do. And they’re proud of it. But it’s not what WE look like. It’s not what America looks like.
When we start to get healthy again — soon, I hope — we’ll see it.