None of you are naive or think government works exactly the way you learned it in elementary school. We all know there are backroom deals and bribes and blackmail and probably, like, orgies and shit behind the scenes.
But what many people don't realize is that the most unfair and outright broken parts of the system we have in the USA aren't a result of people breaking the law. No, the craziest, most overtly bullshit practices are perfectly legal. That's why ...
5 Your Congressional Representative Has Already Been Chosen for You
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Here's how neatly the House of Representatives works on paper: For every certain number of U.S. citizens, there is a congressional district. The people in each congressional district elect a representative. If you didn't know any better, you might think that these districts were arranged in a simple grid or something -- small squares in areas with dense populations, large ones for sparsely populated rural areas. But instead, it looks like this:
General Services Administration
District borders are even more ridiculous than state borders.
Yes, these districts are an insane tangle of convoluted shapes that resembles the last game of Tetris you see right before your Game Boy's circuit board dies. So is this all just really sloppy mapmaking? Was the district map drawn by a man with a Sharpie clenched between his butt cheeks?
Nope. Some of you who know this politics stuff recognize this as gerrymandering -- the trick by which parties game the system to keep their people in power. What you may not realize is how profoundly this utterly thwarts everything the system is supposed to be.
As a result of this border fuckery, U.S. congressional elections are among the most uncompetitive in the world. In 2000, a whopping 98 percent of congressional seats were held by incumbents. That makes congressional races roughly as competitive (and fair) as rigged dictatorial elections.
That's because these tangled districts are all about making sure it is nearly impossible for most congressional seats to change parties. See, nowhere in the rulebook does it say exactly how the districts must be drawn, as long as they're connected. So, the party in power simply finds all of the most loyal voters on the map and draws the district around them. That's how we wind up with the complete madness that is Illinois District 4:
Yes, all of the green is one single district.
That Rorschach Test of a district was formed by grabbing a group of housing units in the north, snaking its way through some abandoned freight yards and along the highway, and finally snagging another populated area in the south. The result of this gerrymandering is that the district is one of the most reliably Democratic in the nation.
In Texas, Republicans have rigged the district system to their favor so efficiently that the state government openly and freely brags about the fact that Democrats are screwed if they ever want to get elected there. The same goes for Florida, where the party vote is virtually split down the middle, yet Republicans hold the vast majority of congressional seats. Here, just gaze into the mouth of madness that now passes for the U.S. congressional district map:
Count how many districts aren't deep red or deep blue. We'll wait; it won't take long.
Now let's take it a step further: If you're a congressman and you and your colleagues are supporting a piece of legislation that is deeply unpopular even in your home state, well, who gives a shit? You don't have to watch the polls, because you know you're going to get re-elected anyway -- you're from a district that has been drawn to only include people who always vote for your party, no matter what. So why worry about what the rest of the population thinks? And more importantly, why ever compromise or cooperate in order to actually get things passed?
4The Two Controlling Parties Actively Sabotage Their Competition
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In Italy, there are 13 different parties in the parliament. In France, 14. And in the country that frequently toots its horn as the land of freedom and democracy, there are ... the Democrats and the Republicans. Everyone else is on the fringe and can barely win a race for small town mayor.
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Another year, another loss for Candidate Smith and the Viable Solutions Party.
What's up with that shit? Wouldn't a 10-plus party system give a much more diverse set of choices to represent what the people want, as opposed to forcing everyone into a binary system where being against abortion means you have to vote for a party that is also against labor unions (or vice versa)? Well, see, here's the problem ...
Guess who gets to decide if you can have a third party. That would be the existing two parties, who, as you can imagine, really don't want the competition.
That's because, along with everything else, the current two parties in the USA are also in charge of setting the rules for ballot access for third parties. As such, these rules are roughly as fair as a cage match between a toddler with particularly large ears and a hungry Mike Tyson. Take Carl Romanelli of Pennsylvania. He wanted to run for a congressional seat as a member of the Green Party. Under the rules enforced by the major parties, Republicans and Democrats needed 2,000 signatures to attain ballot access and be allowed into the election. Romanelli, on the other hand, was cheerfully informed he would need slightly more. How slightly? Try 67,000. Shockingly, he didn't make it.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, a third-party candidate must attain 5 percent of all registered voters' signatures just to be allowed to run. Although that might not sound like a lot, if a third party wants to run for, say, governor, that's approximately 250,000 signatures. As a result, a grand total of zero third-party candidates have managed to make it on the ballot for the House of Representatives since the law was changed to its current form in 1943.
However, the taker of the "Fuck you, third parties" cake is without a doubt Oklahoma, a state that doesn't even bother listing third-party presidential candidates. Why would they? They've already got all the candidates they need, sonny boy.