Democracy At Its Not-So-Finest in Gerrymandering


Jeff Reichert’s Gerrymandering complements Inside Job, the recent indictment of the U.S. financial system, in two key ways: In giving a close and measured reading of the country’s gonzo voting district zoning practices, Reichert confirms Charles Ferguson’s bleak conclusion that we have, for all intents and purposes, allowed a permanent, monarchic system of government to take hold. Gerrymandering, however, allows a sliver of life-sustaining light to sneak through in the form of a scrappy nonpartisan California campaign in support of redistricting legislation. For that reason, I recommend watching Gerrymandering second, lest you immediately begin planning your exile to Sweden. The California campaign lends a slender structure to a doc that roves country- and history-wide in its attempt to explain how dirty politics have perverted the ideal of representation by population. Case studies in Brooklyn, Texas, and New Orleans illustrate the art of contorting neighborhoods into districts determined by race, class, and partisanship, essentially rigging elections before the ballots are cast. It gets complicated: Re-districting in Chicago gave Obama a clear advantage in his Senate election, an inconvenient truth that Reichert leaves open to debate. A clearer example of gerrymandering’s mendacity is offered by Tom DeLay, who rides his black heart into yet another political documentary and fills, as ever, the role of the indisputable villain.

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