For as long as I can remember, I have believed in democracy. I remember really paying close attention for the first time when I was in eighth grade. My West Virginia History class was studying how our representatives were elected, and the girls in our class questioned why there were no women among our elected officials. My teacher, Mr. Cozort, seemed a bit surprised by our questions, but he allowed us to ask them. He even allowed a group of us girls to write up a Declaration of Women’s Rights for his classroom, and he signed it, trying to look serious in spite of the grin that played at one corner of his mouth.
When I scored the highest score on the county assessment, he proudly took me to the state capital to represent our county in the Golden Horseshoe Contest. As we visited each of the branches of our state government that day, Mr. Cozort pointed out to me the real people and the real chambers of government that I’d only known so far from what he’d told us about them in class. Vaughn Cozort believed in democracy, and he did his best to see that his students understood that ours is a country where majority rules.
I thought about Mr. Cohort as I read the article in today’s Washington Post explaining the concept of districts that are deliberately realigned to take away any possibility of majority rule. I wonder what Mr. Cozort would think, if he were alive today, of the ways in which numerous states have gerrymandered their voting districts to ensure that their party will maintain power, whether or not it is the will of the majority. I suspect he would tell us to do the same thing we did in his class all those years ago—to make our feelings known about the injustices in our world.
Our democracy was founded on checks and balances that would ultimately result in majority rule. How can anyone, in either political party, believe that deliberately organizing a district so that the party in power can stay in power is just and democratic?
The problem is that there is no incentive for those in power in the states that have these districts to do anything to change them. They are not thinking of democracy—of the common good. They think they have the answers, and they have found a way not to have their views challenged.
Change in Washington has to begin with getting our country to a place where everyone has an equal voice and where we protect majority rule whether or not the party in power is the one we support. And that begins by rising up and demanding that these districts be redrawn.
We need to get politicians out of the business of drawing their own districts to suit themselves. I’m not sure how. But I do know that we’re doomed as a democracy if we don’t.
So where do we begin?