In Hawaii we call it "chicken skin." Back in Pittsburgh, folks say "goose bumps." Regardless of what one calls it, that's the feeling I get when I remember that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Adams and Jefferson were often bitter foes who ended their lives as amiable pen pals. If these two great men were able to find the middle ground, why can't our current politicians do the same?
There are many technical answers, but none greater than "gerrymandering": redrawing the maps of electoral congressional districts, giving great favor to one or the other of the two parties.
This occurs on the state level every 10 years after the census, when Congressional districts are redrawn by whichever party controls state legislature. Currently, Republicans control 27 state legislatures with a veto-proof supermajority.
Gerrymandering has become so common that 78 percent of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives did not change party in the last 10 years. When these seats don't change parties, the general election loses its impact.
In the 2012 election, Republicans won a majority of 240 seats while Democrats won only 201 seats. While this was an increase for Democrats of 8 seats, Democratic House candidates had 1.5 million more votes that Republican candidates (59,645,387 votes to 58,283,036 votes).
Gerrymandering accounts for the fact that Democratic House candidates won 50.5 percent of the nationwide vote compared to 49.5 percent for Republicans. But, Democrats will hold 46.2 percent of the seats, compared to Republicans' 53.8 percent.
Ahhh, but the primary gains tremendous relative importance! Today, it's often the primary election that is of greater importance. In most primaries, it is the extreme wing of the party that holds sway.
Forty percent of voting Americas now identify themselves as independent. But to Republicans or democrats running in a primary, these folks don't even show up on the radar.
In today's presidential races, all the talk is of the candidates' attempts to win over these independents. In other words, the radical extreme of each party chooses a candidate, who then goes out and attempts to mollify 40 percent of the voting public.
The winner of the contest is then expected to work with 435 representatives, and 100 senators, who were elected, by the extremes of their party! I wonder why so many of us think Washington is broken.
If we are ever to get back to a government that can have the faith of the American people, we need to limit the extremists in Congress. Today, only 50 of the 435 house seats are competitive districts according to former Senator Bill Bradley.
We are going to change that. Incumbents don't want to change the current situation. So we have to do it.
Raise awareness of this issue by yakking about it with your friends, tweet it, or write a letter to the editor (newspapers do still exist). Whatever's!
We cannot rely on our elected politicians to level out the playing field and allow the middle to be part of the process. It's time for the extreme middle to be heard. I think that's something that Adams and Jefferson could agree upon.
I get chicken skin just thinking about it.