If you needed a poster to display the dysfunction in Congress, look no further than the “We Shall Overcome” photo op that took place with congressional leaders on Tuesday. Boehner and Pelosi, Reid and McConnell linked hands and arms and swayed uncomfortably, as they observed the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. The look in their eyes told a deeper story. The distrust was evident.
That Congress is so polarized and unable to act on critical issues led to what is now called the Assembly of State Legislatures, which met for two days at the Indiana Statehouse earlier this month in an attempt to fire up an Article V Constitutional Convention. Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long is a driving force behind a provision in the U.S. Constitution that allows states to call such a convention. His motivation is an end-around Congress to forge a constitutional balanced budget amendment.
About 100 legislators from 31 states gathered in the House chambers, but only six were Democrats. State Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, observed, “This is something the Constitution has afforded us; it’s never been taken advantage of. Let’s think outside the box and look at it. If it doesn’t work out, no harm, no foul. At least the interest is there.”
But one of the reasons Congress is so polarized is due to state legislatures, which in most states draw the congressional maps. If you look at Indiana’s nine districts, drawn by legislative mapmakers (with help from partisan expert cartographers in Washington), you find why Congress is so polarized and unable to function. The Hoosier maps stuff an overwhelming number of Democrats into just two districts, the 1st (+10 on the Cook Partisan Index) and 7th (+13 on the CPI) in The Region and Indianapolis. In one district, the 2nd, you find it competitive with a +6 Republican rating on the CPI. The other six seats are overwhelmingly Republican, with CPI ratings of between +8 and +13.