On October 25, 2017, the following remarks were delivered before the Indianapolis City-County Council by Christian Omoruyi, a junior and civic activist from Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana.
In Federalist No. 51, James Madison, the Founding Father and statesman regarded as the “Father of the Constitution,” wrote that in order for our republic to survive, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Madison understood that the countervailing passions of the executive and legislative branches were healthy in moderation because of their ability to maintain the co-equality of the three branches of our government, sustain representative democracy, and empower the metaphorical yet vital concept of checks and balances.
Unfortunately, the practice of gerrymandering has tempered this Madisonian model of healthy ambition. The high-tech redistricting of the Information Age has enabled a modern-day version of political patronage in state legislatures across the nation that echoes of the Gilded Age and its notorious political machines. Such patronage embraces deliberate polarization and the geographic isolation of underserved and underrepresented communities in order to reward uncompromising partisans with perpetual incumbencies. These incumbencies are tantamount to fiefdoms: they stymie competition, which in turn encourages voter apathy that dilutes the voices of the people in favor of the whims of elite brokers in a political caucus.
Furthermore, their suppression of healthy ambition eases the pathway for extremist candidates to assume power. These extremists threaten the co-equality of the branches of government at both the federal and state levels with feet-dragging, flamethrowing, and dysfunction, depressing both voter turnout and faith in our republic.
A favorite writer of mine, James Baldwin, once opined that, “It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, al- lied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” The civic ignorance that many analysts say is vindicated by the abysmal voter turnout rates of modern American democracy—including Indiana’s lackluster 28% voter turnout rate in the 2014 midterms, a national low—is largely possible because of the brazenness of gerrymanders that obstruct the furtherance of equity.
Of course, gerrymandering has been maneuvered for partisan purposes for two centuries. However, the technological advancements of our time, compounded with the loosening of campaign finance regulations and suppressive voter identification laws affecting our national discourse, are exacerbating its negative effects.
By passing the proposed resolution sponsored by Mr. Adamson, Indianapolis will send a clarion call for the invigoration of democracy in our state. It will join nineteen other cities and prominent political figures from both sides of the aisle, including former Senator Richard Lugar—who signed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to render extreme partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional— who are repudiating the anemia of the status quo and putting country before party.
I encourage the City Council to join the vanguard of Hoosiers who are demanding nonpartisan redistricting reform. By doing so, you will honor the ideals of fairness that are indispensable to the progress of Indiana and our nation.