TW: “suicide” as a metaphor
So the federal government shutdown is now more than a week old, with seemingly no end in sight, and honestly, why should we expect there to be any such thing? As Ryan Lizza explained with liberal references to extremist Republicans as “suicidal” in the New York Times:
As with Meadows [the House member who popularized the idea of a shutdown], the other [pro-shutdown]-caucus members live in places where the national election results seem like an anomaly. Obama defeated Romney by four points nationally. But in the eighty suicide-caucus districts, Obama lost to Romney by an average of twenty-three points. The Republican members themselves did even better. In these eighty districts, the average margin of victory for the Republican candidate was thirty-four points.
In short, these eighty members represent an America where the population is getting whiter, where there are few major cities, where Obama lost the last election in a landslide, and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular. Meanwhile, in national politics, each of these trends is actually reversed.
Lizza points to a less metaphorically troubling article but more condescending one by Charlie Cook at the National Journal, where he detailed the situation:
Between 2000 and 2010, the non-Hispanic white share of the population fell from 69 percent to 64 percent, closely tracking the 5-point drop in the white share of the electorate measured by exit polls between 2004 and 2012. But after the post-census redistricting and the 2012 elections, the non-Hispanic white share of the average Republican House district jumped from 73 percent to 75 percent, and the average Democratic House district declined from 52 percent white to 51 percent white. In other words, while the country continues to grow more racially diverse, the average Republican district continues to get even whiter.
As Congress has become more polarized along party lines, it’s become more racially polarized, too. In 2000, House Republicans represented 59 percent of all white U.S. residents and 40 percent of all nonwhite residents. But today, they represent 63 percent of all whites and just 38 percent of all nonwhites. In 2012 alone, Republicans lost 11.2 million constituents to Democrats (a consequence of not only the party’s loss of a net eight House seats but also the fact GOP districts had grown faster in the previous decade and needed to shed more population during redistricting). Of the 11.2 million people Republicans no longer represent, 6.6 million, or 59 percent, are minorities.
Now, if you had to come up with a word for this, gerrymander would probably be the first off of your tongue (and it was the first off of Cook’s and Lizza’s), but examine the racial politics here for a second longer – what Republicans have essentially created a distinctive portion of the country and now feel entitled to allow its politics to dictate the entire country’s. Or should I say countries’? Is this a bit of covert secession, complete with the expectation that comparatively urban as well as racially and regionally diverse populations will kowtow to rural, White, and predominantly Southern interests?
(The Republican-catering media knows what the Zeitgeist is for that part of the country, from here. And yes, Drudge used the 2008 electoral college map in a story from 2012.)
Much like before the first US Civil War, the interests and political solutions touted by different populations have been aligned with different political parties, different classes, and even different regions. For some time now, we’ve been in a time of divergence. The shutdown is just another installation of that, and it’s just the sort of thing that can’t “run its course”, because it has so much historical and political momentum.
In a very scary sense, that’s what might have begun now more than a week ago. The most extreme Republicans have fashioned a miniature country within the US of their own likeness out of odds and ends. With more and more people of color living in this country and more and more Whites at the least being less enthusiastic about this near-exclusively White political coalition, however, they’ve had to scribble together all sorts of unusual districts to make it work, for just 80 seats in the House.
The trade off there may be a part of our saving grace, since there’s no clear center of operations for a secessionist movement to coalesce around. Still, that seems to have been replaced with battle lines drawn through 32 states instead of between them.