John Oliver took a break from (at least directly) lambasting President Trump last night and turned his televisual comedy/news deep dive apparatus on the subject of gerrymandering—a process of rewriting the boundaries of political districts that's given Republicans an overwhelming electoral advantage at the federal, state, and local levels. In the 20-minute Last Week, Tonight clip, Oliver breaks down how redistricting came into fashion in 19th Century New England, cooled off for about 200 years, and then exploded in the years immediately before and after President Obama's 2008 win.
As Oliver points out, gerrymandering is often framed as a fundamental threat to American democracy, giving those in power the ability to rewrite electoral maps so that opposition parties are marginalized and the status quo remains in power. "Gerrymandering has become a very precise science," he notes, "and interestingly, it's one of the few remaining types of science in which the Republican party currently believes."
Former president Obama decried gerrymandering in his final State of the Union speech, and since leaving the Justice Department, former Attorney General Eric Holder has made it his mission to push back against Republican redistricting.
When it comes to solving the problem, Oliver suggests establishing an independent commission tasked with fairly (re)drawing district lines all across America: "Lawmakers should not be allowed to dilute our votes by drawing their lines and essentially picking their own voters."