The democratic United States has always been the land of the free and the home of the brave to me. However, with current redistricting efforts underway, I cannot help but view what French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville lovingly described as “The Great Experiment” pessimistically — as something less great and certainly much less radical than what our founding fathers imagined.
With more than two-thirds of all congressional districts redrawn for the next decade, a New York Times analysis found that state mapmakers are on pace to draw a record low of fewer than 40 “politically competitive” congressional seats. Instead, lawmakers across party lines are opting to draw “safer” districts that suppress the views of political and racial minorities to guarantee election results. This suggests that a bipartisan understanding across the aisle has emerged: that eliminating the impact of citizens’ democratically-assured voice in voting is somehow beneficial for American politics.
The problem with this?
Unfair redistricting harms our democracy precisely because it breeds distrust. If the people believe that American democracy is artificial and divides voting factions for the expediency of the political establishment, it reflects negatively on our project of democracy. Instead of representing a great experiment, political gerrymandering suggests to citizens that the democracy Jefferson and Hamilton envisioned being built on the will of the people is instead a politically foregone conclusion of exclusivity and discrimination.
Furthermore, because of the “rigged system,” many new, upcoming, and established voters view the right to vote as a pointless civic duty unworthy of engagement. And although our democracy is far from a great experiment now, less engagement and more distrust are not the solutions to our problems.
By distrusting our civic processes, voters threaten to undermine our democracy by blindly accepting the injustice that, to govern, democracy no longer requires the consent of the governed. Voters who stay silent and apathetic to their less-than-impactful and discriminatory votes lend credence to the gerrymandering initiatives already in New York, Ohio, and Texas.
I too, like many others of my generation and beyond, find it difficult to fully invest in our collective struggle for true democracy because of its failure to represent us. But indeed, the only solution to this political issue requires us to be engaged with our misrepresentative political system. In order to combat unfair redistricting now and in the future, we must recognize our accountability as citizens in this democracy.
Disengaging from elections, refusing to vote and make our voices be heard, and remaining apathetic toward our flawed electoral maps only abets the injustices we face.