Month: February 2013

Review of “To Divide and Not Conquer: Preventing Partisan Gerrymandering with Independent Nonpartisan Commissions”

I was recently contacted by a fellow writer by the name of Victoria Stoklasa who had asked me to review her essay titled “To Divide and Not Conquer: Preventing Partisan Gerrymandering with Independent Nonpartisan Commissions.”  Once I read the essay, I quickly agreed since the issue of gerrymandering is rarely brought into the public spotlight.

The essay begins as to explain what gerrymandering is by defining it as “the process of one population—in the case of this paper, a political party—to gain an advantage over others by changing district lines.”  For years, politicians have had control over where district lines are drawn and have often come in favor of the incumbent.  The goal of the essay is to examine which options would best adhere to the National Conference of State Legislatures seven principles of fair legislation.

Stoklasa breaks down the options into partisan commissions, nonpartisan commissions, bipartisan commissions, and the courts.  She then looks to the work of Jonathan Winburn who studied which type of organization would best follow the NCSL’s principles.  His study examined partisan commissions, neutral commissions, divided legislatures, unified legislatures, and the court system.  She explained that his work concluded that nonpartisan commissions would closely follow NCSL principles, she then looked on to examine if a nonpartisan commission or a bi-partisan commission would be the better choice.

To determine whether a nonpartisan or bipartisan commission would better serve the public, she then turns to the work of Michael Lyons and Peter F. Galderisi.  Lyons and Galderisi came to the found that bipartisan commissions experienced a lower incumbent displacement rate possibly because they did not adhere to the NCSL principle of using incumbency data.  Stoklasa uses this finding and combines it with Winburn’s work to conclude that independent nonpartisan commissions would better adhere to the NCSL’s principles.

Overall, Stoklasa put together a very well-written essay and supported her argument throughout her entire piece.  Every question that may arise in your mind as you are reading the essay is quickly answered with credible evidence put together in great synchronicity by Stoklasa.  If you are looking to better inform yourself on an issue that is rarely talked about by mainstream news outlets then I encourage you to check out her essay here.

As a Democrat, I Would Vote for Chris Christie

The more that is reported about Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the more I find myself admiring his leadership style.  Christie initially gained my attention when he praised President Obama for his help with Hurricane Sandy relief just prior to the Presidential election.  So, I looked more deeply at his record in an attempt to find a major trait that I dislike.  It hasn’t happened yet.

One characteristic that sets Christie apart from the GOP establishment is his belief that climate change is real and is man made.  In 2011 he was quoted as saying “When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who study this stating that climate change is occurring and humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts.”  His emphasis in the existence of global warming isn’t just a punchy statement, it is mirrored in his energy policy.

The Governor is a staunch supporter of renewable energy and spent much emphasis on expanding New Jersey’s clean energy capacity in his first term in office.  In 2011 he finalized his energy master plan which outlines all of his energy goals and proposals.  The plan contains a large portion dedicated to outlining renewable energy goals such as making renewable energy sources 22.5% of New Jersey’s overall power supply by 2021 through mandating the private electricity suppliers of the state.  If the electricity companies fail to meet the plan’s obligation then they are subject to state fines varying in cost depending on how far they fell short of the mandate.  The plan also states that the building of new coal power plants in the state of New Jersey is prohibited and the state will also work to shut down existing high polluting coal plants. His energy master plan is widely regarded as one of the most aggressive in the United States but also believed to be attainable.  His plan’s definition of renewable energy is broad, which allows energy companies to creatively craft an efficient and cost effective strategy of balancing all sources invested by the company.  With the renewable energy market being essentially untapped, Christie states this plan will open pathways for electric companies to bring cheaper energy to their customers and at the same time explore affordable ways to bring renewable energy into the power grid.

When it comes to gun control, Christie again tries to find a middle ground between both parties.  As governor, Christie has supported New Jersey’s assault weapons ban and also stresses the expansion of the gun control conversation into violence control.  His approach to the issue is much more dynamic than either party.  In a climate where Democrats are only willing to talk gun control and Republicans have classified the entire gun control conversation as taboo, it’s nice to see a politician lead the way on the conversation.  He breaks through both party lines and emerges as the true leader in the gun control debate when both sides are dug in too deep.

On the topic of same-sex marriage, Christie again finds some middle ground.  In a 2011 interview with Piers Morgan, he proclaimed that “I’ve always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual,” a statement  that not only comes  at odds with many Republicans but also with his religion’s beliefs on homosexuality.

One common ground that he finds with most Republicans is the fact that he does not believe in the allowance of same-sex marriage.  He reasons that marriage should be between a man and woman for the purpose of procreation but is also a very strong supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples.  He believes that same-sex couples should be viewed equally in the eyes of the law and given the same legal benefits that opposite-sex partners enjoy.

What I see in Governor Christie is a breath of fresh air that hasn’t been matched in the American political climate for quite sometime.  His record as Governor of New Jersey is nothing less than impressive, especially with a 74 percent approval rating according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.  And his strategy is quite simple, which is combine common sense politics with core family and religious values.

But the thing that is most impressive about him is his ability to break from the Republican party as he feels necessary.  He brings realism to the GOP ,which hasn’t been seen in some time. This characteristic will prove to benefit him in a possible 2016 run as he will appeal to moderate Democrats, minority groups, and Independents that strayed away from the Republican party.  Hopefully the example that Christie sets is a trend that the GOP can follow, as in recent years his party has moved so far away from  common sense and has sped toward a delusional counter-intuitive ideology.