One thing I did — it's the mathematical and systematizing part of my mind — was to look up all the congressional districts that were in play. I noticed a lot of things, among which was the often absurd "gerrymandering" of the districts. The word was a coinage from our early days as a republic. Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts, did some creative drawing of district lines, one of the districts apparently as sinuous and contorted as a salamander. Hence the word.
I have noted that one of the results of the election will be that Republicans, who now will control a majority of state legislative houses and a majority of gubernatorial seats, will do quite a lot of district drawing as the electoral numbers shift among the states after the last census. This will have quite an effect in a few Rust Belt states that stand to lose a district or two, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, and in a few southern states that stand to gain, such as Texas. The net result may be an additional dozen or so seats flipped from leaning Democrat to leaning Republican.
Well, the pictures I saw of congressional districts were not pretty. And, if you think about it for a moment, you'll see that it is almost impossible to gerrymander one district without doing the same to the districts bordering upon it. One district in southeastern Pennsylvania, for instance, was composed of a glomming of a couple of counties, plus a weird thing intruding into a neighboring county, a thing that looked like a really thin stalk bursting out into a spiky sea-anemone. The bordering district, naturally, then looked like the obverse of that, a coherent organism with a little tube stuck into its guts with the efflorescence at the end. Jack Murtha's old district in western Pennsylvania meandered up and around and underneath Pittsburgh, dodging a town here, laying claim to a town there, basically splattered across five or six counties like tomato sauce splashed on a tile floor.
What's wrong with this? Nothing much, if you subscribe to the egalitarian ideal, that every person's vote ought to count for exactly the same, even if exactly the same means infinitesimally; or that every person's voice ought to be heard exactly the same, even if the voice is what William F. Buckley, in Up From Liberalism, calls "exiguous." If nobody but a surveyor with a computer program can come close to figuring out what's in a district and what's not, then there is in real local political reality no district at all. It is nothing more than a mathematical fiction. People cannot say, "We all belong to the same congressional district, because we live in the same town," or the same county, or the same group of bordering counties. And that removes from us the felt sense that there is such a thing as "us," the people who live "here," and whose interests are, and ought to be, conditioned by our common desire to make "here" a better place to live. It robs from me my status as a voter connected to a recognizable place, and thus to the people among whom I live and work.
Suppose someone were to say, "I will make your vote count for thirty percent more than it otherwise would, by drawing your 'district' in such a way as to place you in a crazy maze of rural zigzags, with thirty percent fewer people than you would otherwise be among." Wonderful; now instead of having one five-hundred thousandth of a voice in electing a congressman, I will have one three-hundred-and-fifty thousandth of a voice. That increases my voice, in absolute terms, by next to nothing. Instead of my uttering the squeak of a mouse fifty miles away, I will blare out my clarion voice of a mouse thirty five miles away. Big deal. But place me instead among my fellow townsmen, and I have not simply my individual voice, but my voice as echoed in my neighbors' voices, as my neighbors, with presumably many of the same interests.
I puzzle over these things, because I do not worship the talisman of the franchise to begin with, and I do believe that if we have votes, they should be weighed as well as counted. I am quite fond of the brakes that country people can put on city people, by their being two senators from Wyoming, just as there are two rather silly senators from California. In our summer nation of Nanada up North, we note with dismay that there is "proportional representation," that nightmare dreamed up by logicians with the one egalitarian idea, and that means, essentially, that Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver rule the country. Nanada has but one effective legislative chamber, ruled by the dominant party's leader; our province of Nova Scotia sends a paltry few members to Ottawa, utterly dwarfed by the hundreds from Ontario and Quebec. It would be like being governed by the metropolitan areas of the Boston-Washington corridor, Chicago-Milwaukee, and Southern California. So, effectively, the people of the countryside are disenfranchised — they having a really exiguous voice, compared to that of the people who dwell in the cities, with their megaphones in the major media. Some animals are more equal than others.