Think of our political system as a car. The people, the voters, are the engine while the elected representatives and senators are the transmission. Unfortunately, the transmission is broken. Many of the voices of the people are not transmitted through the transmission to where the rubber meets the road.

Our current system promotes tribalism due to partisan gerrymandering. It is a practice, employed by both political parties in the United States, that creates majority districts without regard to natural or sensible geographic boundaries. The result is that gerrymandering incentivises legislators to play to a partisan base rather than seek compromise across the aisle, lest challengers (who are further to their party’s ideological extreme) penalize them. Tribalism is thus reinforced by the system. Through out the United States, efforts to end political gerrymandering have been underway for years.

In Wisconsin, we need to accelerate that process. One option is to ban the practice. This action will face stiff political opposition, yet there is no other structural reform that would do more to diminish the impact of tribalism. The goal should be not to eliminate differences but to learn how to govern despite them. In a not so sophisticated manner, gerrymandering oppresses opposition movements. In a democracy, we need to allow and to listen to the voices of all the people. Gerrymandering is a flat out anti-democratic action. The task will not be easy, not at least because the citizens/legislators on whom the burden of addressing the crisis falls are themselves caught up in the tribalism that pervades our country. Solving tribalism is not unlike the biblical admonition, “Physician, heal thyself.” Yet the state of our democracy depends in large measure on whether we can meet this challenge. Tribal divisions are susceptible to manipulation by enterprising politicians. The result is that the will of the people (all the people)—transmitted into action through the transmission of our political system—is corrupted, if not broken, and the car goes no where.

Reform of the process is critical for our democracy. We need to stop partisan gerrymandering. Contact your legislator. Let them know that we need to promote our democracy.

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