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In a Democracy, Safe Seats Are a Disgrace

October 31, 2002

The bad news in "Chances Fade for Upset in House" (Oct. 28) is not that the Democratic hope for taking the House is in trouble, but that American democracy is in a deep coma. If only 16 House seats are up for grabs, that means that 3.6% of the populace gets to choose a representative. The other 96.4% might as well be voting in Iraq. If we take the more generous estimate that 40 seats are not absolutely safe, we could say that 9% have a voice in the membership of "the people's house."

This Soviet-style disgrace continues because we allow politicians to create safe districts for themselves. In Arizona, a nonpartisan commission creates the districts on a strict per capita formula and the Legislature can accept or reject the plan in an up-or-down vote. There, four of five districts, 80%, are at least new enough that politicians feel compelled to actually go out and meet voters. The country may be evenly divided between the red and blue states, but it is difficult to know that for certain when fewer than 10% of Americans get to express a preference in the one body that was intended to be close to the people.

Dean Hiser

Orange

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Sadly, few Democrats and fewer Republicans are identifying the "rush to war" in Iraq as the transparently cynical manipulation of war fever to regain the Senate and retain the House under the rubric of the war on terrorism (and control of Iraqi oil). This is what it appears to be elsewhere in the world.

Do we really want the general Islamic world to join Osama bin Laden in fearing and hating the U.S., adding many foot soldiers to the current Al Qaeda-Hezbollah-Hamas fanatic suicide cadres, or is this just "collateral damage"? "Containing" Saddam has worked for 11 years. Why not address hunger, despair, injustice and the growing rich-poor divide worldwide rather than military provocation?

Kenneth McClain

North Hills

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Crime up. Debt up. Economy down. Republicans in the White House and Congress. Blame liberal Democrats. Here we go again!

Paul Lux

Thousand Oaks

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