Last week, when everyone who understands the First Amendment was rightly having conniptions over the Supreme Court's ruling that political speech can be severely regulated under the rubric of "campaign finance reform," the court also heard arguments in a major redistricting case brought by Pennsylvania Democrats. They're upset because they have a statewide advantage of some 445,000 votes but Democrats hold only seven of the state's 19 congressional seats. Their claim: Congressional districts are being drawn unfairly.
Truth be told, I don't particularly care much about the details of this case. The Democrats complain that the Republicans redrew the map so as to eliminate three Democratic seats. The Republicans say, you guys did it to us for decades, it's your turn to suck eggs.
OK, I may not be capturing the legal subtleties as well some scholars might. But the point is, it was ever thus. Gerrymandering - drawing districts for partisan advantage - is neither unconstitutional nor new. Indeed, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the only districts that violate constitutional principles are the ones excessively and explicitly gerrymandered along racial lines - you know, like the North Carolina district that snaked along Interstate 85 looking something like an X-ray of a colonoscopy.
Yes, I think Republicans in Texas and Colorado probably went too far when they decided to redraw congressional districts after the once-a-decade window was closed. And, maybe the Pennsylvania GOP has gone too far, though it doesn't seem like it to me.
But, look: It is simply inevitable that politicians will fight to draw congressional districts in the most advantageous way possible. Expecting them not to is like expecting Yogi Bear to abstain from eating picnic baskets for the sake of improving tourism.
I have the solution: Make Congress bigger. A lot bigger.
With 435 members, the U.S. Congress is one of the smallest representative bodies in the world. By "smallest" I mean literally and relatively. The British House of Commons is much bigger (659) and so is the British House of Lords (approx. 500). The French National Assembly (577 members) is bigger, as is the Mexican Chamber of Deputies (500), the Russian Duma (450) and so on. But, it's not just in absolute terms. Due to their smaller populations, these countries have fewer citizens for each representative, making them far more democratic.