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"Slay the Dragon"

“Slay the Dragon”: What Econ Extra Credit is watching in September

The Econ Extra Credit Team Sep 2, 2022
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As we near the midterm elections, the Econ Extra Credit team has had politics on our minds, specifically how democracy and economics intersect. So, we’ve selected “Slay the Dragon” as our documentary to collectively watch in September.  

The 2019 film, directed by Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance, follows the efforts of a group of citizens in Michigan to prevent Republican lawmakers from using partisan gerrymandering to retain control of the state legislature at the expense of fair representation for voters.  

Gerrymandering, designing district maps that favor one party over another, has been common practice by both Republicans and Democrats at various points in our nation’s history. In “Slay the Dragon,” ordinary Michiganders fight to put an independent commission, rather than politicians, in charge of redrawing the lines.   

Understanding how gerrymandering creates unfair representation is easier with visual aids. This illustration from The Washington Post shows how the lines can create problems.  

(The Washington Post)

While it has been occurring for centuries, we saw gerrymandering on steroids during the 2010 midterms. Republicans launched their Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP for short, to flip state legislatures where Democrats held slight majorities for the express purpose of controlling redistricting. The project was extremely successful, and at a bargain price.    

“The Republicans spent $30 million on [the REDMAP] and they were able to build themselves a firewall, a full Chamber of Congress for a decade, for less than the price of a losing Senate race in a small state,” said David Daley, author of “Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy,” in an interview with public radio station WBUR.

In the coming weeks, we hope to explore how gerrymandering influences the economic policies passed by lawmakers and whether maintaining the status quo is good or bad for business.

We hope you will watch with us. “Slay the Dragon” is available to stream on Hulu with a subscription and can also be rented or bought on many platforms. After viewing, send us your thoughts and questions by replying to this email. We are at extracredit@marketplace.org

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