Let’s say there’s a school, Adams School. This school is made up of 100 students, an exclusive mix of Jocks and Nerds. Jocks tend to favor Jock policies, like an upgraded scoreboard, bigger school weight room, and protein shakes available in the lunchroom. Nerds tend to favor Nerd policies, like increased participation in math competitions, a wider variety of science textbooks, and better access to pocket protectors. But the two sides do tend to agree on other policies that benefit all.
How does Adams decide which policies to enact? It allows its student body to represent itself. The school votes for one President to preside over the entire student body. But there’s also a Student Council, made up of 10 representatives. Each one represents a Homeroom class of 10 students. Jocks vote for Jocks, Nerds for Nerds.
Let’s take this little world and see if we can’t see what’s so crazy about this shutdown nonsense, shall we?
Currently, there are 55 Nerds and 45 Jocks at Adams. When the election was held, Nerd Gilbert Lowe won the presidency with 55% of the vote over Jock Stan Gable. With that sort of majority school-wide, you’d expect the Student Council to be composed of 6 Nerds and 4 Jocks. Or at least split 5-5.
Curiously, the Student Council has gone the other way: 6 Jocks and 4 Nerds. Looking at the overall make-up of the school, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. But here’s what’s going on.
For a procedural reason, every few years it’s up to either the Jocks or the Nerds to decide which Homeroom each student attends (and will vote from). Just leaving it to random chance, odds are you’d get a pretty even collection of classrooms. A few more Jocks in Homeroom A, a few more Nerds in Homeroom B, and so on, so that the average ratio across Homerooms matches that of the student body as a whole.
However, this time around, the Jocks had an idea. First, they took 30 of the 55 total Nerds and put them in Homerooms A-C, all together. 100% Nerds in those three classes. Those Homerooms will vote Nerd all the way, without a doubt.
Then, the Jocks took 20 Jocks and put them in Homerooms D and E. Those are 100% Jock, voting Jock.
Lastly, the Jocks took the remaining 25 Nerds and 25 Jocks and split them up so that the remaining 5 Homerooms go 4-1 for Jocks, even though there are the same number of each left.
A - 10 Nerds
B - 10 Nerds
C - 10 Nerds
D - 10 Jocks
E - 10 Jocks
F - 4 Nerds, 6 Jocks
G - 4 Nerds, 6 Jocks
H - 4 Nerds, 6 Jocks
I - 4 Nerds, 6 Jocks
J - 9 Nerds, 1 Jock
So in a school that is 55% Nerd, the Jocks have crafted the Homerooms to give themselves an electoral advantage in the Student Council elections. 55 votes went to Nerds for Student Council, over 45 for Jocks, and yet Jocks won 2 more spots! They nominate one of their six to become Speaker of the Council. And it’s the Jock Speaker that decides what the Council will vote on.
Normally, when a policy is proposed, it’s up to the Student Council to vote on it. There are Jock-favored policies and Nerd-favored policies, but there are also policies that are pretty simple and are either favored or killed with a clear majority.
Unfortunately, with the current situation the way it is, the Jocks in the Student Council have adopted a procedure named after a Jock of yore, Dennis “The Meat” Hastert. The Hastert Rule says that the Speaker of the Council may NOT bring any vote to the floor that won’t get all 6 Jock votes. It’s not an actual rule, but rather a way for the Jocks to present a unified front against Nerd President Gilbert.
So say the vote for a new weight room comes up. The Nerds are united against it, the Jocks united for it. So the Speaker brings it to a vote, because all 6 Jocks favor it. Bill passes.
But if there’s a Nerd issue, like new science textbooks, that the Nerds (school-wide) unanimously support, the Speaker won’t even bring it to the floor, because the Jocks don’t support it at all. Nerd issue doesn’t even see the light of day.
Unfortunately, this can also apply for issues that share support on both sides. Say all the Nerds and 2 of the Jocks want More Parking Spaces outside the school. According to the Hastert Rule, the Jock Speaker WILL NOT bring that issue to the floor for a vote, even though a majority of the Student Council supports it. It’s because it’s not uniformly supported by the Jocks that the issue dies.
THE D (and E) PARTY
There are a small faction of Jocks, about 20 or so, that HATE President Gilbert. They don’t believe he should be President. They’ve questioned whether he’s even eligible (maybe he’s an illegal transfer, or his classes have never included athletics). These Jocks have been the most vocal, and have declared that they don’t want a SINGLE Nerd policy enacted.
A lot of those 20 Jocks are in Homerooms D and E, rendering those two Homerooms the most vocal opponents of President Gilbert. When the two Jocks that represent those Homerooms visit and hear from their ‘constituents’, all they hear is “DOWN WITH GILBERT”. So these two Jocks come into the Council thinking the ‘will of the people’ is exclusively “DOWN WITH GILBERT”. Any policy issue that might come before the Student Council that has the support of Nerds is de facto dead-on-arrival for Homeroom Reps D and E. Even the More Parking Spaces bill, which would pass with a majority on the floor, is loudly denounced by Reps D and E. I mean, if they don’t vote “DOWN WITH GILBERT”, their Homeroom might replace them with a Jock that will.
And because of the Hastert Rule, the Jock Speaker will not bring More Parking Spaces to the floor at all, because it does not have the backing of all 6 Jocks in the Council. Consider that: all Nerds support it, which means at least 55% of the entire school supports it. Add in the 2 Jocks that support it, and the percentage of the student body that supports the More Parking Spaces bill rises even higher. And yet it doesn’t even get a vote by a Student Council meant to reflect the student body’s wishes.
Now, the Jocks (especially the extreme Jocks from D and E) have a specific target: a bill that the Jocks hate, that was passed a few years ago, before the Jocks reworked the Homeroom ratios and took the Student Council. This policy, the More School Nurses Policy, was supported by President Gilbert and passed with a majority vote when the Nerds controlled the Council.
The Jocks don’t like it, so they try to strike it down whenever they get a chance. The Jock Speaker brings countless bills to the floor saying “UNDO THE MORE SCHOOL NURSES POLICY”, because he knows the Jocks will vote for it (lest they get replaced by another Jock in the next election). The Jocks all vote for it, the Nerds all don’t, it passes. Of course, President Gilbert won’t sign these bills, because it was his bill, his idea. So it dies, and no new policy has been enacted. The Jocks know this, but want to be seen as trying to do it again and again.
Now Adams School has a dilemma: it relies on the student council to vote for the Prom Theme and Budget. Last year it was Enchantment Under The Sea, with $200 delegated for streamers, punch, and a DJ. This year, there’s not much disagreement on what the theme will be (Old West!), or what the budget will be ($190). But the Jocks see an opportunity.
Or more specifically, Jocks D and E see an opportunity. They say, “We won’t vote for the Prom Bill unless you get rid of the More School Nurses Program”. The Prom and School Nurses are completely unrelated issues. The Nerds all say, “That’s ridiculous.” Foremost, they’re not going to just agree to dismantle President Gilbert’s signature policy. But second, the idea that Adams’ prom – which will affect just about the entire student body – would be held hostage by two Jocks that are hell-bent on destroying School Nurses is just odd.
Now, if the Speaker brought a simple Prom Bill (Old West, $190) to the floor, it would get a majority vote: 4 Nerds and 2-3 Jocks. But because of the Hastert Rule, the Speaker won’t even consider a “clean” Prom Bill, because two of the Jocks (D & E) have vowed they won’t vote for it. So no prom.
BREAK IT DOWN
So here’s why the Prom Shutdown is so far from what the school wants or what their representatives should be doing.
- The student body is more Nerd than Jock, yet the Homerooms have been set-up to give Jocks more voice than the Nerds. Thus, the Student Council doesn’t accurately reflect the student body as a whole.
- Additionally, because of the Hastert Rule, the majority-Nerd student body is further disenfranchised, because the only bills that will come up for a vote are bills that have unanimous Jock support. Often, those bills are not Nerd-friendly.
- And even bills that do enjoy a majority support school-wide, bills that would win a majority of Student Council votes, are tabled because of Homeroom Reps D & E.
The result? In a school made up of 55% Nerds, most of the policy decisions for Adams School are made by Homeroom Reps D & E. Two Jock-dominated Homerooms are now, more or less, running the a school with a slight majority of Nerds.
That’s not how this is supposed to work.
(Yes, this is silly and reductive. It doesn’t account for the Senate, or the idea that people like Ogre can “switch sides” from Nerd to Jock or Jock to Nerd (rendering some Homerooms ‘toss-ups’), or outside money influence and campaign finance incentives for a particular position. But the bottom line is, the House of Representatives was set up to be a reflection of the country as a whole. It’s not, anymore)