It’s Not Cheating If Everyone Knows You’re Doing It

I play a lot of board games and I’m always looking for new mechanics, so here’s one I’m going to attempt to design. Each player has a set of secret agendas/policies, most of which are shared with one or more of their opponents. Over the course of the game, they’ll be attempting to redistrict the voters on the board in front of them so as to enable their policies to succeed if brought to a vote. The game ends when the majority of politicians (i.e., players) agree to take it to a vote, and at that point, whoever successfully has more of their policies pass, based on the distribution of districts, wins. This isn’t actually a game that I’m likely to be able to create or sell, on account of all the math . . . and because this real-world Risk is already going on, as Jonathan Chait calls out in a February 11, 2013 New York article (“Who Needs To Win To Win?”). “Democrats have the voters,” he concludes, “but Republicans have the geography.” And thanks to representational democracy, Republicans have been able to disproportionally rule the Senate and overwhelm the House . . . so it’s no surprise that they’re nakedly looking to now siphon off electoral votes by avoiding the whole “winner-take-all” logic that’s currently used.

First off, I’m tired of one-sided arguments, like the one held up by Jase Bolger of Michigan’s House of Representatives: “People in my district–they feel discouraged by coming out because their votes don’t mean anything if they’re outvoted in metropolitan districts.” Assuming that’s true, is the solution to make the opposite come true: that is, to make rural districts able to outvote metropolitan ones so that the people in the larger districts now feel discouraged that their votes don’t mean anything? Second, while I understand the fears of majoritian democracy, in which a large population is “paid off” with benefits and thereby “tricked” into supporting Democrats, Republicans aren’t proposing anything different: they’re just gerrymandering districts so that the smaller number of people that they’re paying off with benefits (or scaring with social/moral issues) have more power. You’ve already got schemes that allow our various tiers of government to be elected by radically different groups of people (if they’re even elected at all); wouldn’t gaming the system to ensure that all races are decided in the same disproportionate way destroy that precarious check-and-balance? And finally, when your attempts to cheat the majority is this blatantly obvious, don’t push your luck:

The Electoral College itself already compromises the democratic principle (it allows the winner of the popular vote to lose the presidency). But the Republican plan would give its candidates all the electoral votes from states they carry, plus some electoral votes from states they lose.

This is like playing poker with a house rule. One that makes deuces wild. But only for the dealer. And which allows the dealer to choose his cards before dealing. And ensures that the deal never rotates to the left or right. Actually, it’s a lot like the card game Mao, in which there are complex rules that only the dealer knows, thereby allowing that player to remain dealer, adding ever more complicated rules that ensure they remain dealer, even as the majority grows larger and larger in opposition. (And that’s assuming that “burdensome identification requirements” don’t prevent you from even sitting down at the table in the first place.) Believe me, as an avid gamer, I understand how much it sucks to lose. But I also begrudgingly accept that my losses are almost always due to my own decisions, not poor design; the problem Republicans face is that they can’t just find a new game to play, and they can’t seem to change their strategy. All they can do is threaten to flip the table in frustration (shutting the government down), delay the game by freezing up whenever they get a turn (filibustering),  outright cheat (which there’s no proof of…), and, yes, propose new rules.

Now comes the hard part: We all know they’re doing it. Is America smart enough to stop them?

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