Kudos to Ari Berman for “American Democracy Besieged” [July 31/Aug. 7]. His article clearly and concisely demonstrates not just the foreign electoral interference from Russia (which dominates the headlines) but also the ongoing and equally troubling domestic voter-suppression efforts by the GOP. The red/blue-state resistance to Trump’s commission on “election integrity” is a start, but we need to begin entertaining real solutions that may help correct a dysfunctional system.
John Nichols’s “How to Revive Democracy,” in the same issue, recommends the Fair Representation Act inspired by FairVote’s Rob Richie and embraced by Representative Don Beyer as a possibility. These two articles should be reprinted side by side whenever The Nation decides to put out a compendium of the most powerful recent articles.
Sal R. Pauciello
Re “American Democracy Besieged”: Voter suppression almost certainly had more influence on the outcome of the 2016 election than did Russian hacking. President John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Politicians who actively prevent Americans from voting against them would be well advised to remember Kennedy’s words.
state college, pa.
Make America Democratic
John Nichols’s editorial “How to Revive Democracy” is a real boon to democracy. Representative Don Beyer’s bill, HR 3057, titled the
Fair Representation Act, was introduced on June 26 and has been co-sponsored by Maryland’s Jaime Raskin, California’s Ro Khanna, and Tennessee’s Jim Cooper. This is a good start to a new awakening.
The bill puts an end to the major effects of gerrymandering while also creating more civility in election campaigns. Negative campaigning will become a detriment instead of a successful strategy as political candidates seek support from the second and third choices on voters’ ballots. And progressives will be able to cast their votes for the person they want without worrying about a spoiler effect.
This bill combines instant-runoff voting with proportional representation. More choices, more voters, more democracy will make America great again!
I read John Nichols’s editorial with interest, but I’m not sure I accept his premises. If House seats were combined into multimember districts, the same gerrymandering that goes on now would still occur, just on a larger scale. Also, I live in a community that uses ranked-choice voting, and it is no panacea. In our last mayoral election, one of the least progressive candidates came out on top, despite the fact that she would not have made it to a runoff under the old system.
The ideas put forth in Congressman Don Beyer’s plan are interesting, and I think there are a few facts to bolster the argument against “gerry-mandered district lines rather than the will of the people.”
In the 2012 election for Congress, the Democrats received 1.4 million more votes than the Republicans, but the Republicans won the House with 231 seats to the Democrats’ 201. Moreover, in recent election cycles, the Republicans always received a higher percentage of seats than the percentage of votes received. For example, in 2016 they won 49.1 percent of the vote but 55.4 percent of the seats. And although the Democrats received 1.1 percent fewer votes, the result awarded them nearly 11 percent fewer seats: 241 to 194.
I guess the simple solution would be for the Democratic Party elites to decide to represent the people and thereby begin to win elections. Nonetheless, we also need good ideas like the Fair Representation Act.
Dems: Remember the Base
Reading Katha Pollitt’s article “Running From Choice” [July 31/Aug. 7] reminded me of a campaign event I attended as president of the New Hampshire National Organization for Women. I held up NOW rounds, staffed an info table, and listened to the Democratic candidate preach why he was a better “choice” than the Republican candidate—both males. I interrupted him to point out that his opponent was pro-choice and he was anti-choice. The chair of the Hampton Democratic Committee screamed in my face that I was ruining her event. Later, two women softly told me they were glad I spoke up. How sad that speaking truth to power about reproductive rights is still unappreciated. Only women bleed.
Katha Pollitt’s articles on Democrats and abortion come as another bitter pill for women to swallow. We have supposed pro-choice men running the Democratic Party and, as a woman living in Ohio, I have witnessed the closing of multiple abortion clinics in our state and nationwide. This issue was never addressed by Bernie Sanders in his ego-driven rush to discredit Debbie Wasserman—Schultz and Hillary Clinton and what Hillary’s presidency would have meant for equality. I will never forgive The Nation, Senator Sanders, and his supporters for their treatment of Hillary and for Donald Trump’s victory.
Sally J. Keller
Action and Words
Thank you, Sasha Abramsky, for creating in your piece, “Caravan Against Fear” [July 31/Aug. 7], part of what you are calling for: the alternative stories that give people a sense that reality is bigger than the odd spectacle, that reality is something we can join in on. Mostly, thank you for telling the stories of people who have chosen to act.
In Defense of Prog Rock
Prog rock produced some of the most innovative, exciting, and beautiful music ever written [“Cruising to the Edge,” by David Hajdu, July 31/Aug. 7]. As in any art form, some of the musical visions from prog rock’s heyday were better realized than others. I saw all of the bands mentioned in the review numerous times in their prime years. My tastes in music have changed somewhat as I’ve aged, but I’ve always thought that the derision and terms like “grandiose” and “pretentious” came from critics who didn’t like or understand the music and from rockers who couldn’t play it. Too bad that these perspectives are still rolled out whenever prog rock is discussed today. Kudos to Hajdu for reviewing David Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends.
Philip M. Prince