Support your local non-Democrat … the Brin Plan

As I said in an earlier post:

We have a deeply divided political system right now. Part of that is due to gerrymandering — drawing political districts so the opposing party has an overwhelming majority in a very few districts and a powerless minority everywhere else. …

What can be done to fix this? … Let’s start with the primaries. David Brin has an interesting proposal — if you are a gerrymandered minority, simply register as a member of the majority party, and vote for the most centrist of the contestants. Admittedly, this may require you to choose between Attila-the-Hun and Timūr-the-Lame, but it does give you an effective choice, better than the one you have now.

Brin has a good idea. He goes into greater depth here but doesn’t give some of the information you need to operationalize it. This essay will help.

One way to estimate the degree to which a given state or district is divided is to use the Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI), a measure of how far the voters lean towards one party or another. Obviously, in a heavily partisan district, it’s almost impossible for a challenger from the other party to win, so the challenge to an incumbent comes from someone further from the center — yes, he’s Republican, but is he Republican enough?

How can you tell if you live in a gerrymandered state? Take a look at the PVI for your state’s districts. If you have two or three districts that are R+7 for every one that’s D+15, you’re gerry’d. A good example is Michigan, with 9 districts averaging R+4, and 5 averaging D+19. A more balanced state might be one like next-door Iowa. It has a total of four districts: D+4 and D+5, +0, R+5. If the divide was due to simple geography or demographics, you’d see something more like Washington state, which has a strong Red/Blue divide along the crest of the Cascades, separating the urban West (D+11) from the agricultural East (R+6).

In a highly partisan state the policy positions don’t get decided along party lines, instead, they get decided by divisions within the dominant party. That being the case, the only way you can influence those positions is by being a voting member of that party, and voting in that party’s primary. This means you have to start thinking politics early in the year, not just in September or October. In heavily red districts, the election is essentially over by late summer. Come November, the only thing getting decided is Municipal Sanitation Officer, and the referendum on Outlawing Poor People.

The idea of voting to influence the Reds is more important this year than ever. The few Republicans who were adult enough to push back against last fall’s government shutdown and threatened default will be subject to well-funded attacks on the right by Tea Party absolutists who believe you have to destroy the government in order to save it.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if your state is Republican-gerreymandered, or if you have the bad luck to live in a Republican enclave in a Democrat-gerrymanedered state, or even if you just happen to live in a district that’s natrually Republican. All that’s really important is that your distirict be safely red, say R+6 or above. Having said that, you’re more likely to be living in a red district if you’re living in a red state. Here’s a list of the top ten Red states that (as far as I can tell) hold meaningful primaries. I’ve left off states where the candidates are determined by party caucus, even if there’s a beauty-contest primary as well.

State Primary
10 TX 03/04/14
13 WV 05/13/14
12 NE 05/13/14
13 KY 05/20/14
14 AL 06/03/14
10 SD 06/03/14
8 SC 06/10/14
22 UT 06/24/14
19 OK 06/24/14
12 TN 08/07/14

Note that Texas holds its primary as early as May. Note also that Texas has some of the most anti-Democrat (and anti-democratic) voter restriction legislation in the country, so you need to start prepping now to have the proper ID and registration and so forth. Most of the rest vote in May or June, so you’ve got some time left, but do check on the voter ID requirements.

Once you have voted for your Republican in the primary, you can go on to vote for the Democrat (assuming there is one) in the national elections in November. That will let the politician know there’s more people on the left that he could be picking up votes from. My thought is, the only time you wouldn’t do this is if the Democrat is an obvious nut-case (free marijuana for all and defund the police!). People who vote for nutters like that are what used to be called Yellow Dog Democrats (I’d vote for a yaller dog, if’n he was a Democrat). Those kinds of folks are unpersuadable, and your Republican isn’t going to wast time on anybody who votes that way. You want to be plausibly persuadable, to make it worth his while to moderate his stance in order to get your vote.


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