Education leads to compromise

Jacob Tomlinson

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Illinois Supreme Court’s unfortunate decision to disregard the will of the people and take from the table the ability for us — the citizens of this state — to vote on whether we want an independent commission to draw our political districts. To say the least, my qualms are not close to being over. I think this issue deserves revisiting in light of the incoming disaster we are calling the general election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The issue at hand, to refresh our memory, is whether we should allow politicians or an independent commission to redistrict our state after each census in order to ensure that each district is well apportioned based on the population size. Of course, population size is not the only variable that matters when it comes to redistricting — another factor is race — but this is the starting point.

In regards to redistricting, gerrymandering is where we run into trouble. Gerrymandering refers to the conscious act of drawing district lines in order to create an electoral advantage for one political party over another. In turn, this creates districts that are, among other things, uncompetitive, and we the citizens, the ones who politicians are supposed to represent, are left with politicians who rule the Statehouse for more than 30 years (I’m looking at you, Speaker Madigan).

Why am I revisiting this? To put it simply, gerrymandering in the state of Illinois — and other states like Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina — has created a political climate in which Americans are disgusted. According to Pew Research, just 19 percent of Americans trust the federal government, 57 percent are frustrated with the federal government and only about 29 percent would describe elected officials as honest. To make matters worse, it isn’t just the federal government; about 65 percent of Americans believe the news media has a negative impact on how things are going in the country. An even more disheartening figure is the less than 15 percent approval rating of Congress, as averaged by Real Clear Politics.

How could any of those things be related to gerrymandering, one would rightfully ask? When districts are gerrymandered, the majority of the district favors one party over another. These gerrymandered districts have now quarantined individuals with highly similar ideologies in which politicians will thereby try to appease. This, if it isn’t obvious already, suppresses the minority’s ideology. Instead, what occur are primary battles that become more and more ideologically extreme and, in turn, create a highly divisive political dialogue. Instead of compromise, we have political promoting the ideological poles. Instead of sensible candidates for president of the United States, we have Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Undoubtedly, gerrymandering may be only one factor influencing the political climate in which we live. Nevertheless, we know how to easily solve this problem and, indeed, we should. But if we are to consider all of the problems born out of highly divisive political dialogue and ideological extremes, there is only one solution grand enough to repair the United States: education.

To be clear, I do not mean general education or even a college degree, although both would help; the education I am talking about is education on policy, candidates and the issues that affect everyday Americans. We are spoon-fed simplified versions of policy, candidates and other political information that creates an “us versus them” divide where one is either for some policy or against it. If we are to ever actually dig ourselves out of the colossal hole that generations before us created, we must do so by exploring the gray areas, having intelligent debates based on more than beliefs and by compromising on policy designed to serve the American people.

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