I have spent the morning reading the information on the websites of the two contenders for the 11the U.S. Congressional District. I find myself pining for the days before gerrymandering and polarization when political campaigns were a battle of differing ideas, ideas for bettering the lives of ordinary people. Once elected to Congress, representatives from both sides would study an issue, discuss it and haggle over details, resulting in a bill that was a collection of compromises which benefited the most people, as compromises usually do.
The result of gerrymandering in North Carolina after the 2010 census was to make many congressional seats, ours included, into “safe” Republican seats. This removed the need for the Republican candidate to formulate good policy ideas. He did not even have to do anything while in Congress to show his constituents how hard he was working for them. He would win reelection no matter what.
The damage done to our political system by gerrymandering and polarization can be starkly demonstrated by comparing the policy ideas on the websites of Republican candidate Madison Cawthorn and Democratic candidate Moe Davis. Cawthorn’s policy page is a short list of things he’s against. He appears to have no ideas about how to make our lives better. He doesn’t mention any issues that are specific to the unique people, culture and economy of Western North Carolina. Davis’s policy pages are detailed ideas about solving problems; he discusses issues that we care about. I may not agree with all of these ideas, but they are actual ideas.
Are we so invested in the spectacle of hearing after hearing – creating sound bites for TV pundits to air – that we no longer care if our representatives produce legislation? Are our lives really so perfect that we don’t expect our representatives in Washington to bother formulating and championing policy ideas?
I believe we desperately need two functioning political parties working together to come up with solutions. I believe we must stop voting for the guy with the best slogans and sound bites and vote for the guy who is the most likely to go to Washington and do some work.