To end government shutdowns, end partisan gerrymandering | Al Jazeera America:
by Sanford Levinson //University of Texas Law School
The U.S. government shutdown — not to mention the fear of a debt-default crisis — has caused analysts to work overtime offering reasons to explain the dysfunction. Blame is regularly placed on the increasing polarization of the two parties; the roles played in setting the conversational agenda by talk radio and cable news; and, of course, the truly "American exceptional" way that we finance our election campaigns.All these explanations have some weight, but far more important are basic structural features of the American political system established by the U.S. Constitution in 1787. In fact, the current impasse is exactly how a system of representation based on partisan gerrymandering functions.We are now seeing an especially vivid example of the costs that can emerge in a system of bicameralism in which each house — one of them (the Senate) distorted by a system that gives grotesquely excessive power to small states, the other (the House) equally distorted by the degree to which partisan gerrymandering has served to render general elections near-irrelevant because only the primaries really matter in most districts — possesses a veto over the other. Although it is sometimes said, falsely, that Americans in general prefer divided government, one look at the current approval rates of Congress —recent polls range from 5 to 11 percent— suggest that nearly all Americans today regard with contempt how such a government governs, or actually shuts itself down.
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