Now It’s Up to the People to End Gerrymandering

The High Court decided to do nothing about a practice that, in the words of dissenting Justice Elena Kagan, “beats democracy,” writes Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

The Supreme Court has abdicated its responsibility to strike down partisan gerrymandering. This occurs when one party intentionally manipulates district boundaries to skew its voting power, notwithstanding the will of the voters. Although both parties engage in partisan gerrymandering, Republicans benefit from it far more than Democrats.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the conservative 5-4 majority in Rucho v. Common Cause, admitted that excessive partisan gerrymandering is “incompatible with democratic principles” and “leads to results that reasonably seem unjust.” But, the High Court held, challenges to the practice “present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.”

Kagan: Citizens deprived of their most fundamental  constitutional right. (Harvard Law Record via Flickr)

In her passionate dissent, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan noted that extreme partisan gerrymanders “deprive citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights” — the rights of equal participation in the political process, “to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives.” Kagan wrote, “For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”

The Court consolidated two partisan gerrymandering cases for its decision in Rucho. The North Carolina case involved gerrymandering by Republicans. In the Maryland case, it was Democrats who engaged in gerrymandering.

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leadership drew a congressional map to entrench long-term Republican majorities. Although they won roughly 50 percent of the popular vote, Republicans picked up a majority of available seats in the 2018 Midterm elections by the extreme margin of 10-3.

In Maryland, Democrats used voters’ histories and party affiliations to move 70,000 Republican voters out of a district and 24,000 Democratic voters in.

Federal district courts in both North Carolina and Maryland struck down the partisan gerrymanders. The High Court reversed the district court decisions and concluded there are no standards for federal courts to use in gauging the constitutionality of partisan gerrymanders.

People outside Supreme Court building. (Joe Lauria)

Federal Courts Have Formulas

But federal courts have actually devised formulas to strike them down. “The majority’s abdication comes just when courts across the country … have coalesced around manageable judicial standards to resolve partisan gerrymandering claims,” Kagan pointed out. These courts used “neutral and manageable — and eminently legal — standards.”

Kagan cited the three-part test the federal district courts in North Carolina and Maryland, and other courts around the country, used to decide vote dilution claims. The test examines intent, effects and causation. First, plaintiffs must show that the state officials’ “predominant purpose” in drawing district lines was to “entrench [their party] in power” by diluting the votes of the rival party. Second, plaintiffs must establish that the lines drawn “substantially” diluted their votes. Third, the burden shifts to the state to posit a “legitimate, non-partisan justification to save its map.”

Applying that test to the North Carolina and Maryland cases, Kagan determined that illegal partisan gerrymandering had occurred in both. “By substantially diluting the votes of citizens favoring their rivals, the politicians of one party had succeeded in entrenching themselves in office,” she wrote. “They had beat democracy.”

But the majority was willing to sacrifice democracy on the altar of partisanship. There is no case more impactful than this one, and it’s no accident that it was the right-wing Republicans who upheld partisan gerrymandering.

In a 2004 concurrence, Justice Anthony Kennedy signaled his openness to striking down extreme partisan gerrymanders, which amount to “rigging elections.” He wrote in Vieth v. Jubelirer, “It is not in our tradition to foreclose the judicial process from the attempt to define standards and remedies where it is alleged that a constitutional right is burdened or denied.”

Kennedy’s retirement and Mitch McConnell’s replacement of Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland with Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch all but foreclosed the possibility that the Court would review partisan gerrymandering.

Kagan ended her powerful dissent by warning that this is not the moment for the Court to back down. “Of all times to abandon the Court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one,” she wrote. “The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections. With respect but deep sadness, I dissent.”

Looking Ahead

Gerrymandering mural in Raleigh, North Carolina. (chucka_nc via Flickr)

Partisan gerrymandering is “far more effective and durable” now than in the past, Kagan observed, because advances in technology provide mapmakers with “more granular data about party preference and voting behavior than ever before.” They can utilize it “with unprecedented efficiency and precision.”

The Rucho decision “is almost guaranteed to facilitate massive election rigging in the future,” Ari Melber, senior writer at Mother Jones, told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!. We can no longer look to the federal courts, to which the disenfranchised have traditionally turned for relief, he said.

Now that the High Court has denied judicial review of partisan gerrymandering in federal courts, it is up to the people in the several states to remedy it.

Independent citizen-led commissions in states such as Michigan, Colorado, Utah and Missouri draw fair and representative district maps. But in most states, “the party that controls the legislature draws districts for both the U.S. House of Representatives and the state legislature,” Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “They inevitably do so in a way to maximize their political control.”

The Supreme Court has struck down racial gerrymandering as violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. But after Rucho, claims of partisan gerrymandering will no longer be reviewed by federal courts.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by Eric Holder, attorney general in the Obama administration, plans to file racial gerrymandering claims in federal court and partisan gerrymandering claims in state courts. The organization is also considering support of constitutional amendments to establish independent redistricting commissions in Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Hampshire.

The House has passed H.R. 1 — the For the People Act — that would require states to draw congressional districts utilizing independent redistricting commissions. Members of these commissions would “represent diverse communities across the state, by establishing fair redistricting criteria, and by mandating greater transparency for the redistricting process,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) has introduced the Fair Maps Act, which would establish baseline criteria for map-drawing and provide a private legal cause of action for voters to challenge skewed maps in court.

But, as Kagan noted, “The politicians who benefit from partisan gerrymandering are unlikely to change partisan gerrymandering. And because those politicians maintain themselves in office through partisan gerrymandering, the chances for legislative reform are slight.”

The remedy for partisan gerrymandering lies with the people. “The Supreme Court’s decision has made one thing clear,” Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said. “The only way we’ll end partisan gerrymandering is by voting Republicans out of power in state legislatures.”

One-half of the states allow voter ballot initiatives. Voter advocates can organize campaigns to put measures on the ballot that require independent redistricting commissions rather than politicians to draw the maps. It is up to the people to make the voting system fair.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.”

This article is from Truthoutand reprinted with permission.

35 comments for “Now It’s Up to the People to End Gerrymandering

  1. robert e williamson jr
    July 18, 2019 at 10:19

    My hand is up!

    True story: A local republican ran for state rep, he and I have had words more than once. When I inquired if he was an ALEC disciple he claimed he had no idea of who or what ALEC was.

    Now he is a democrat. That this speaks volumes drives me crazy!

  2. robert e williamson jr
    July 18, 2019 at 10:11

    Surly Ms Cohn is not talking about the same people who bow to a defunct two party system who cannot elect a functional president.

  3. Robert Mayer
    July 15, 2019 at 13:06

    Tnx CN, Marjorie…
    Of course Gerrymander negates pub mandate… & in Cal x-Gov Arnie tried2 pass initiative GOPpin up process… But Voters rejected his proposal… Ergo IMO:
    1. Mitch switch Gorsuch4 Garland = Symptom not Problem… Cheat2 Win= prob!
    Sad2 say B.Kav (baggage & all) result from current GOP Cheat2Win vote tec. Towit:
    A. Electoral college alters popular stats
    B. In Cal vote count/ regs ofc called Sec of State… name may differ from state2 st… But… That Authority COUNTS RESULTS SECRETLY… often thru Hackable Computers!
    So…consider: This ELECTED official’s Party is Responsible4 outcome!

    If you’ve heard of ALEC… raise yer hand! Don’t need2 be a weatherman2 know which way the wind blows!

  4. robert e williamson jr
    July 12, 2019 at 15:27

    The cruise liner that is the U.S. Ship of State is sinking and “We the People” are all below decks having a drink and playing the slots.

    The American people, “We the People”?, may end up solving the problems created and facilitated by the Deep State, by way of CIA and DOJ but it will not happen until it must be done at the business end of a pitch fork, hoe, shovel or scythe.

    Why? We the People” will eventually run out of tokens to play the slots.

    Go through a parking lot at a gambling boat and note the number of Trump / Pence bumper stickers there.

  5. Jeff Harrison
    July 11, 2019 at 12:06

    It has always been within our power to put an end to this undemocratic problem. In most other countries, gerrymandering is illegal (but, of course, we’re exceptional). Congress has it within its power to put a stop to gerrymandering which is one of the root causes for why we have a government that doesn’t represent the people. But, as Ben Franklin said, yes, you have your republic, if you can keep it. Clearly, we can’t.

    • Jeff Harrison
      July 13, 2019 at 10:46

      It is also misleading to say that it is now up to the people to make law to make gerrymandering illegal. This is not correct. It is up to the people’s representatives in the hallowed halls of Congress to do so. Don’t hold your breath.

  6. Garrett Connelly
    July 11, 2019 at 06:45

    Write a computer program that divides a political jurisdiction into a specified number of parts with minimum average boundary line lengths.

    Ask a math whiz to improve this design criteria, first.

  7. Tiu
    July 11, 2019 at 04:56

    Electoral boundaries are the least of the problems. The entire two-horse-race “democratic” “system” is completely corrupt and out of touch with the population they are supposed to represent. The “system” has been corrupted in pretty much every “developed” country so it’s not just a US problem.
    Democracy needs to be re-established. What we have now is not democracy as it does not represent the will of the people.

    • Garrett Connelly
      July 11, 2019 at 07:12

      Exactly correct, Tiu. Representative democracy mainly represents capital, it is designed that way. Now we are in the information-age and capitalist privatization of Earth has resulted in near-term extinction.

      I suggest a seven facet system that retains some aspects of representatives and have posted a diagram on

    • Anarcissie
      July 11, 2019 at 13:19

      Maybe the people don’t want democracy. Certainly their representatives in the legislatures don’t, if it threatens their jobs and income. It is definitely possible to construct fairer electoral systems, but why would your average legislator want to vote for one? It’s not a Republican (or Democratic) thing. It’s a simple matter of personal interest.

      • Tiu
        July 11, 2019 at 23:24

        I’d say most people in the west do want democracy, although I’d concede that the pigs with their snouts in the trough (purportedly our “representatives”) like the corruption and endless possibilities for graft.
        My Dad fought in WW2 and he always told me he fought for freedom and democracy and against fascism. His entire generation were deceived by their “representatives” too.
        Democracy and government shouldn’t be “a simple matter of personal interest” – if that’s what a person wants they should go into business not the government. Government should be a simple matter of the nation and it’s citizens interests.

    • Arthur
      July 13, 2019 at 04:24

      Perhaps the problem is much deeper: democracy itself.

      The will of the half-educated, low-information massed is what you want?

      • Tiu
        July 14, 2019 at 02:02

        The “half-educated, low-information masses” are a direct result of the Rockerfeller & Co (Milners Kindergarten/Oxford in the UK, et. al.) take over of the “education” system. Nothing to do with democracy, but everything to do with anti-democracy.
        It is sad and frustrating though just how stupid and dim many of the people who have been through the “education” system are, but on the bright side there are a great many who went through the same system and weren’t turned into brain-dead consumer vegetables.

  8. Joe Wallace
    July 11, 2019 at 02:37

    So this is the election system that must be protected from Russian interference?

  9. July 10, 2019 at 23:53

    None of this is a coincidence. Gerrymandering and voter suppression are keys to pulling off a scam decades in the making by the likes of John Calhoun, Milton Friedman, and James Buchanan. In a nutshell, oligarchs such as the Kochs rig the systems – yes, plural – in such a way as to break them on purpose. Universities, judiciaries, congress, all at the state level too, not just federal Supreme Court but in your town, your state, your city. Monkey wrench everything so nothing works.

    You see, if nothing works right, then there is no one left to stop the oligarchs from doing whatever the hell they want whenever they want to whomever they want. It isn’t only the Trump family grifters. He’s just a monkey with the hand grenade. The aristocrat families with names we all know – Trump, Bush, Clinton – they benefit, as do the ones we don’t hear so much about, such as the Mercers.

    Their big trick is to distract everyone with baloney wrassling matches featuring the likes of Obama and Trump, meanwhile, Rome burns and they like it that way. With castles and houses all over the world, why should the kingmakers care about America itself and its people?We just get in their way…

  10. Riva Enteen
    July 10, 2019 at 18:55

    No democrat presidential candidate raising the issue? That speaks volumes. Of course the dems stole the primary from Bernie, so they have their own shenanigans.

    • AnneR
      July 11, 2019 at 09:19

      Indeed, Riva, as the Bernie business in 2016 made absolutely clear (so long as one wasn’t side-tracked by the “Russia” did it to HRC mindlessness), there is more than one way to cook the goose. But all forms of gerrymandering should have been made illegal decades ago…

  11. Sam F
    July 10, 2019 at 17:02

    It is important to point out the political corruption of the Supreme Court.
    It is wrong to assume that the judiciary are Santa Clauses waiting to rescue you from wrongs.
    In fact political corruption extends throughout state and federal judiciaries. Not even one percent are not corrupt.
    This decision would likely have been bipartisan but for a temporary lesser ability of Dems to exploit gerrymandering.
    Try such cases under the next Dem administration and see whether the judges reverse positions.

    Judicial corruption has far worse implications:
    1. No one has constitutional rights any more unless a donor to the Reps;
    2. No claims against the US for real damages are fairly settled as required by Amendment V;
    3. No case is settled by law – only by bribes and perjuries as to the law, the facts, and course of proceedings;
    4. The pretty landmark cases are reserved for those of the ruling tribe, and ignored for all others.

    Elections have much worse corruptions:
    1. It is very unlikely that we will ever again have honest elections with electronic voting;
    2. Money power buys election campaigns and installs oligarchy tyrants without exception;
    3. Money power buys mass media and installs whomever serves money power.

  12. Drew Hunkins
    July 10, 2019 at 16:16

    Cohn’s written some nice pieces of late, but I simply cannot let her off the hook since she was a staunch Russiagater during the height of the hysteria. (And of course one could argue that the “height of the hysteria” is still with us today).

    • AnneR
      July 11, 2019 at 09:22

      Yes, Drew, I stopped reading her items (along with those of others also tapping into the obfuscatory nonsense) for quite a while. This and the one from the other day are more readable, if steeped in the Dem head of the Janus party.

      • Drew Hunkins
        July 11, 2019 at 10:47

        Exactly AnneR. Great post.

        Someday we should come up with a list and post it on CN, listing all the liberal minded folks, who I thought would know better, peddling the Russiagate “Putin is a monster” baloney.

        Off the top of my head:
        David Corn
        Rachel Maddow (obvious)
        Micheal Moore
        Robert Reich
        Joshua Frank
        Paul Street
        Jeff St. Clair
        myriad Dem congresspersons
        and some others I’m forgetting at the moment. Feel free to add to the list.

        • AnneR
          July 11, 2019 at 14:11

          Yes, Drew H. The way CP has become (revealed?) neo-liberal and supportive, generally, of the Russiagate garbage since Alexander Cockburn died is sadly apparent. I check it out daily, but read only the occasional piece (usually by such as Rob Urie). Can’t stomach most of it now. (And the fact that it doesn’t support comments is, perhaps, telling?)

          • Drew Hunkins
            July 11, 2019 at 15:47

            Tragic to see what happened to CP. For roughly the last 20 years I would check three websites religiously: ConsortiumNews, InformationClearingHouse and Counterpunch. I’m now down to two.

            A somewhat related aside: CommonDreams kicked me off their comments section a few years ago b/c — from what I can gather — I was too hostile toward Zionism and wasn’t afraid to bemoan the dead end of identity politics. Off I was sent to the guillotine.

            We have to support CN and ICH; two websites that have never touched anything I’ve posted and what other genuine free-thinkers have posted.

          • Sam F
            July 11, 2019 at 19:45

            Moon Of Alabama is always good. TruthDig, Ron Paul Institute, and Unz Review are usually worthwhile. RT is good for divergence and fresh news in the early morning.

  13. Rob
    July 10, 2019 at 15:18

    With its decisions on Citizens United, the Voting Rights Act and now gerrymandering, the Supreme Court has torn asunder the principle of one person, one vote. Clearly, not all people will be allowed to vote, and not all votes will carry the same weight. I agree with Justice Kagan that it will be very hard to reverse the shift towards greater inequality in voting rights and power than already exists. Democracy is indeed defeated. Yes, citizen action is a worthy endeavor, but I think that we all have to accept the fact that our so-called “democracy” is a sham.

    • CitizenOne
      July 11, 2019 at 00:42

      I do not think the argument that inequality once enshrined by the political powers of today spells doom for democracy. It is surely true that it does if those most affected by the laws that enshrine inequality resign to their newly minted fate.

      It was not long ago that women were denied the right to vote essentially eliminating an entire class of citizens from participatory representative democracy. Surely the laws of the day were seemingly insurmountable and many women just accepted the law as insurmountable obstacles and chose to accept the status quo. Many believed that their lack of standing was the morally, ethically and religiously proscribed reality. But a few brave women risked persecution, prosecution, imprisonment, assault and terrible treatment undeserving of citizens by merely seeking to obtain the right to vote, a constitutional right of citizens. In the end they were victorious and won the right to exercise their constitutional rights.

      Another American history story began with an acceptance that black people (African slaves) were merely property to be bought and sold as slaves by citizens of the Nation. These people surely faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to gain their freedom let alone any other rights. Deep divisions between the parties and the states over this one issue led to a constitutional crisis in which the nation faced division on a scale that makes divisions today seem small by comparison. An attempt by southern states to secede and form a separate union or confederacy created the crisis and Washington was faced with a choice to allow the United States to dissolve or to use military force in order to preserve the nation. After a bloody civil war a new era was heralded in where the now freed slaves faced injustice at the hands of politicians who rigged the system in order to prevent free black people from exercising their rights. The Jim Crow era of laws designed to disenfranchise, marginalize and minimize any effect of black voters became the law of that era in the South. Segregation and separate but equal laws were also practices that continued into our present era which were finally struck down and civil rights finally were bestowed on the black people who had long suffered under the yoke of inequality. The history of black people in America was also filled with those that accepted the laws of the land. A handful of passionate people fought for freedom and equality during the civil rights era. These are the leaders that are enshrined in our modern history as giants in the struggle to win justice for those people who suffered under an unfair system of government .

      This leads to the present day where once again Jim Crow type laws have been allowed to exist by The Supreme Court which affect every citizen with the right to vote. Gerrymandering is one of the tools that politicians use to preserve their unfair representation in government in order to perpetuate a class system which favors the ruling party and cracks and packs election districts in order to create advantage at the polls. No longer is it racially biased alone but redistricting affects all voters either by magnifying or minimizing the chances for election victories of one party.

      When you look at the history of the attempts of the ruling class in America to preserve their power through manipulating their odds of maintaining control the true depth and struggle for equality over centuries shows that the struggle for equal representation is a constant battle. In fact it is an eternal battle.

      The history of Americans who fought hard for equality also reveals that in the end they made huge strides forward after decades of struggle to win their battles for equal representation and equal rights. Today most people cannot even imagine an America where minorities or women had their right to vote or become citizens thwarted by the laws of the land.

      The new strategy by the ruling class is to deny Americans equal standing by rigging elections and for that we all have a dog in the fight. The new targeted citizens are the Americans in the lower tiers of wealth. “lower” refers to the majority of American citizens.

      Wealth inequality in America is growing by leaps and bounds. 50% of Americans have a combined wealth less than that of three men; Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. The richest 5% of Americans own two thirds of the wealth of the nation. Globally, the richest 1% owns more than half the wealth on the Planet. In an era where campaign contributions have been deregulated with no limits on donations for candidates up for election, the richest or the donor class has the ability to exercise an unfair advantage over our political system in order to get elected those politicians that will do their best to preserve the economic advantages that the wealthy enjoy. The hand picked and well funded elected politicians in turn rig elections via gerrymandering to increase the likelihood that those who serve the interests of the super rich will remain in office despite popular opposition to their policies and rule making which favor the rich at the expense of the not so rich.

      We have unfair practices like gerrymandering to thank for the growing shift of government away from acting in the public interest and increasingly favoring wealthy special interests. Politicians will risk passing unpopular laws as the potential backlash from voters is minimized at the polls via gerrymandering. In a very real way the votes of the majority can be diluted and defeated by gerrymandering resulting in unrepresentative and unfair elections for all but the richest donor class people be they real actual people or corporations granted the status of people who have all the rights of a citizen and can influence elections in a highly distorted and unfair way.

      Of course the wealthy do not see it that way. They view wealth as a prerequisite for engagement in government affairs. They view the less wealthy as undeserving of representation under the laws of our democracy. They absolutely feel a mandate to bend the government to their will with their hard earned cash and to elect politicians who will support redistricting as an effective way to ensure that the will of the government will be on the side of the rich whether we like the laws they pass or not. Closer to home these efforts at rigging the vote will also affect our children as they come of voting age in a system where their votes don’t count anymore.

      The Supreme Court has been stacked in favor of the wealth of the Nation. It is no wonder why the republicans fought so hard to prevent nominations to the Supreme Court by democrats and also why they rushed to confirm Supreme Court Justice candidates nominated by Trump. The conservative majority of justices appointed to the highest court in the land is not a reality because of abortion laws, gay rights laws, immigration laws or any such nonsense. The courts ruling demonstrates the inevitable outcome of a conservative majority Supreme Court when faced with the question should elections be fair. In this case they decided to not support fair elections in favor of the rich and the donor class which currently also controls Congress and the President and the administration.

      We are facing a similar situation today that has occurred in our political history many times. We are facing a government that passes laws to enhance and preserve the interests of the wealthy at the expense of the rights of voters who according to the Constitution should have equal power in a democracy under one person one vote. We are facing Jim Crow tactics today affecting all of us.

      So what is the solution? I agree with the author that only we the people can change the system and the status quo. We must endeavor to fight the new inequality of wealth just as citizens fought for the right to vote in the first place or non-citizens (slaves) to win their freedom and be granted all of the privileges and rights of citizens. Each of these struggles boils down to a fight for equality between the rich and powerful and the people who have their rights for representation blocked by the laws enacted by the ruling class.

      Does the current Supreme Court ruling mean it is time to surrender to the will of the donor class because there are large obstacles in the way of progressing on these goals? I think the opposite is true. It is time for Americans from all walks to stand up and vote with their future status as lesser citizens in the balance. If we do not fight this movement we will continue to face a continuous strategy to coalesce all of the power in the hands of a few and we will have a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

      Abraham Lincoln foresaw current events and found them deeply troubling. In a letter to Col. William F. Elkins on Nov. 21, 1864. Lincoln wrote:

      “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

      U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (letter to Col. William F. Elkins)

      Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia: The Spoken and Written Words of A. Lincoln
      Arranged for Ready Reference, Archer H. Shaw (NY, NY: Macmillan, 1950)

      • AnneR
        July 11, 2019 at 09:53

        The establishment of this country, from its beginnings as an independent nation state, never intended that the hoi polloi, the “bewildered herd” (I forget which of the FFs used this term to encapsulate all of their non-property owning country-folk) be in sufficient power as to determine the political, economic direction of the USA.

        Initially, until Jackson saw benefits (racist ones, ethnic-cleansing ones) in broadening the franchise to include all European-American males over 21, the electorate consisted, as it did in Britain, of those males (of European descent) who were property-holders.

        The senate was not a (male) publicly elected body until 1913.

        The Electoral College was deliberately devised to prevent that “bewildered herd” having a complete voice in who their president would be – again the result of the fears of the property-holding ruling elites held sway. It still exists.

        Why is it that aside from the president, their “cabinet” is composed completely of un-elected people? How, in a nation that constantly proclaims itself as the (democratic) beacon to the world, a body of un-elected people can have such political sway, determinative power?

        Yes African-Americans (and Native Americans? they were prevented from voting because, conveniently for the European- Americans) not “accepted” as US citizens for a long time) fought long and hard and won the right to vote. But as Michelle Alexander makes apparent in her book The New Jim Crow, this right to vote (let alone live, work, not be penalized post completing a sentence) is all too often denied those who have served a prison sentence, on top of the racially distorted number of African-American males who end up in prison with longer sentences in greater proportions than their European American counterparts. Thus a disproportionate number of African American males are denied their full citizenship, their right to participate in this so-called democracy.

        ALEC and AIPAC and their ilk have far more – indeed one might say they have total – say in the legislation drawn up and enacted by Congress than do the population at large. Thus in what real way is this a democracy, no matter where the district lines are drawn?

        Then there is the fact that the populace at large in any state does not have much, if any, say in who their potential candidates for the US Congress will be. We are presented with choices made by the RNA and DNC, so far as I can tell. And they are all, with the occasional exception, beholden not to us, the hoi polloi, but to the Kochs, AIPAC, ALEC, the MIC et al. It is perhaps the most corrupt of “democratic” governments – all “legal,” of course.

      • Rob
        July 11, 2019 at 14:29

        Thanks so much for the history lesson.

        Sadly, despite the expansion of the voting franchise and other civil rights, it is undeniable that real power (political, economic and social) remains in the hands of a privileged few. Moreover, the current trend is heading in the wrong direction. It will take a revolution (the peaceful kind, hopefully) to change it.

        I stand by my statement: American democracy is a sham.

        • AnneR
          July 11, 2019 at 15:18

          Rob – I don’t think my comment above would counter your view that democracy as it is practised – American in this instance- is a “sham.”

        • CitizenOne
          July 12, 2019 at 00:35

          That history was filled with bloodshed and the strife of those who risked and lost their lives in order to gain their rights under the best form of democracy that enabled them to do so albeit their deaths were often the price.

          Until we as a nation of people come to grips with the reality that modern technology will enable those in power to increasingly hold sway in any forum in order to give the rich the winning edge and that the only power we have is to use the guaranteed legal protections of the Constitution granted us by our founding fathers however flawed they might have been in their conception to our advantages.

          It does absolutely no good to acquiesce and resign to a fate determined by the money powers. The only examples in recent history that have stood up to power are those who have been willing to confront it and to call it out for what it is. They have also been the very people that the Constitution meant to protect. If you give that up as lost ground then you will be defeated. Not only that you will ignore the people that changed history. It is no good to resign ones fate to a corrupt system while simultaneously failing to take advantage of the legal protections afforded by that system that still exist and has left us citizens legal options protected by Constitutional protections over two hundred years that have granted us legal and constitutional protections under the law.

          Take a clue from the NRA which has devoted decades of efforts to cling to the second amendment to the Constitution in order to advance their agenda for gun rights. Are we supposed to be willing to let go of an opportunity to advance voting rights which are also protected by the Constitution unlike the NRA which has continuously used the Constitution to justify their Constitutional rights to own guns? Are we so accepting of the status quo that we merely label the fabric of laws as a sham and go home to watch TV as it unfolds the unraveling ?

          What we need is a democratic candidate that is willing to risk life and limb in order to correct our course. Someone like Martin Luther King Jr. who was completely willing to lay down his life in the peaceful but non compliant pursuit of freedom. This is the only way that citizens or the plebes have ever won a toehold in this democracy.

          The period at the end of the statement is the end of the sentence but what comes next is up to those who choose to exercise their Constitutional rights versus those opining their philosophy that all is lost.

          Such sentiments are no good for winning anything and are also most useful to lose everything.

          I look forward to our solutions to the problems we face as opposed to the resignations posed.

      • Peter Loeb
        July 12, 2019 at 07:48


        A great post which understands the role of history.

        The Post, like Marjorie Cohn, states:

        “…So what is the solution? I agree with the author that only we the people can change the system and the status quo. We must endeavor to fight the new inequality of wealth just as citizens fought for the right to vote in the first place or non-citizens (slaves) to win their freedom and be granted all of the privileges and rights of citizens. Each of these struggles boils down to a fight for equality between the rich and powerful and the people who have their rights for representation blocked by the laws enacted by the ruling class….”

        Like Marx and Engels it wou;ld have been convenient if facts had followed theory. However, “workers of the world
        did NOT unite”. The solution urged in Cohn’s fantasy world with which Citizen One agrees, are simply nonsense.

        As I have pointed out in an earlier comment, “we” (who???O) cannot change a remedy of the Supreme Court. I gave
        Plessy (1896) and Brown I (1954 and Brown II as prime examples. (See Charles Ogeltree, “With all Deliberate Speed”
        for a more profound analysis.

        —Peter Loeb, Bolston, MA

        • CitizenOne
          July 13, 2019 at 01:29

          Now is not the time to cite historical failures of other nations based on different political principles and equate them with the inability of our own government based on our Constitution. You stated: “Like Marx and Engels it wou;ld have been convenient if facts had followed theory. However, “workers of the world did NOT unite”. The solution urged in Cohn’s fantasy world with which Citizen One agrees, are simply nonsense.

          What you have done is to conflate communist leaders and their theories that led to failures of the “workers of the world” which did not unite as an opposition to a fantasy world where citizens of the USA are conflated with leaders of communism which by reference are “simply nonsense”

          Not only does history of the USA not match the history of communist nations led by theories such as “workers of the world” or the theories of Marx or Engels but it conflates these unrelated histories to conclude that efforts to preserve democracy are tantamount to communism.

          We The People and our Constitution provide us protections that allow changes in government via our democratic laws that cannot be found elsewhere and also a history of successful civil actions that have resulted in equal rights and social justice which were not failures as you claim that they were by association with other governments and other leaders like Marx and Engels.

          Conflating the history of other nations and foreign leaders with our path forward in order to explain why we should abandon trying to fix our own system of government based on the failures of other nations and other governments ignores our very unique system of government. It another attempt to paint any movement for change under our system of laws as an insurmountable problem.

          Should we just give up because any attempt to ask the citizens of the nation to use their constitutionally guaranteed rights in our present time to unite will end in failure as exhibited in the history of foreign nations and their own very different systems of government?

          Now is not the time to throw water on any attempts to unite our citizens as just some losing communist wet dream that will ultimately fail.

          We face very real challenges to our democracy here at home and we need for leaders to step up and challenge the status quo such as the historical use of gerrymandering to rig elections and the Supreme Courts recent decision to abdicate any ruling .

          Our current situation is not the making of leaders following down the path of other failed communist nations led by Marx but is directly attributed to our own politicians and the systems of laws they create.

          The post neatly conflates actions by citizens and this articles message with communism since it opposes gerrymandering.

          Do you believe that the reasons that Marxism failed are the same reasons why anyone here at home who attempts to change the current government into a representative government must also fail just like communism? That is basically what you are saying.

          What is the real “simple nonsense” here?

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