Ratf**cked: Political author David Daley visits UMass to discuss new book

Daley is the author of “Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy”

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Ian Munnelly, Writer

AMHERST — David Daley, the former editor-in-chief of Salon.com and current publisher of the Connecticut News Project, discussed his new book “Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy,” in the Integrated Learning Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Thursday.

Daley began his presentation by reminding the crowd that the nation is four days away from an “unprecedented” election in the United States. While election coverage has been dominated by presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Daley instead focused his discussion on Congress and the phenomenon of gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is the political practice of strategically remapping and manipulating electoral districts for the benefit of the political party that’s in control of the state legislature. The goal is to win an electoral majority in a large number of districts, while confining opposition to as few districts as possible.

For example, Republican congressional candidates won a total of 50.3 percent of the popular vote in North Carolina in 2012, but came away controlling nine out of 12 of the state’s seats in the House of Representatives because of the strategic way the state’s Republican-controlled legislature decided to map its congressional districts.

Each of these new districts were meticulously created via algorithms and mapping technology to do one thing: benefit the Republican Party, Daley said.

While both major political parties have made use of gerrymandering throughout history, Daley argued that the Republican Party began to use it to new extents beginning in 2010.

The practice of gerrymandering is the essence of the “secret plan” described in Daley’s novel title.

“If 1790 to 2000 is gerrymandering’s Minor Leagues, 2010 is the Steroids era,” Daley said.

The beginning of the“Steroids Era” in gerrymandering began with a targeted Republican effort to win as many House seats as possible using gerrymandering in response to the election of Barrack Obama in 2008, according to Daley.

The Republicans even broadcasted their strategy eight months in advance in an issue of the Wall Street Journal, according to Daley.

“It was a catastrophic failure for the Democrats, these losses will reverberate for them throughout the course of the next decade. It is one of the greatest heists and bargains in the history of American politics.” said Daley.

These reverberations were apparent as early as 2012, Daley said. Obama won a fairly comfortable reelection against Republican nominee Mitt Romney that year, and Democrats took 25 of 33 competitive seats in the Senate. But in the House — despite receiving 1.4 million more votes — the Democrats were not able to take control of the Chamber.

Daley argued that this practice damages democracy, cooperation and progress. The enhanced power that comes from the electoral stability gerrymandering has created discourages Republicans to compromise, cooperate and engage in dialogue in bipartisan politics and instead adopt  “no agenda but saying no,” according to Daley.

“Indeed, if you are actually willing to compromise and govern, those are the things that might earn you a primary challenge,” said Daley.

Gerrymandering has taken the agency of representation out of the hands of the voting public, and has instead placed it  firmly within the hands of partisan politicians, Daley argued.

Daley argued that these redistricting policies have contributed to the current deadlocked political climate.

“This goes a long way to explaining why our politics are so extreme, so broken, and so very hard to fix,” Daley said.

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