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Republicans Are Not Gerrymandering Anywhere Near Enough

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Okay, this is getting stupid, and more than the usual stupid. The GOP is, as usual, failing to sack-up and take the fight to the Democrats. Those saps always whine about the voters pushing anti-establishment candidates in primaries, and this is exactly why. It’s time to divide up congressional districts. Where Democrats can, they are gutting the GOP. That’s how it’s done. But too often, the GOP is offering a limp, clammy hand across the aisle where it should be throwing a fist in a right cross.

Oregon is now 5-1 Democrat. In California, several GOP seats are gone because the “independent” commission is run by Democrats. In New York, it’s 23-3 Dems. The Illinois map looks like a bad acid trip – the only good thing about it is Adam Kinzinger’s new friends hung him up by his Fruit-of-the-Looms on the high school flagpole and eliminated his district.

What is the GOP doing? Assuming the fetal position. In Texas, they could have gotten more GOP seats but settled for beefing up existing ones. In Missouri, the hacks are proposing a 5-3 GOP map where they could do a 7-1 GOP map. Even in Florida, they are failing to squeeze out the extra seats – Governor DeSantis needs to regulate.

Why is this? 

Well, there can be good reasons not to press an advantage today. The districts are good for a decade, and districts evolve over time. It may make sense to not create a new seat that is red for a couple cycles before turning blue at the expense of beefing up an existing seat. Or you may leave a blue seat that you expect to organically turn red in a few cycles. These are legit strategy questions. These are tough calls. But if you are going to do these things, you damn sure better be able to explain why, because the default explanation for when the Republicans seem like they are doing something stupid is that the Republicans are stupid.

This is an establishment problem; us bomb throwers want to gerrymander the hell out of any place we can. A good part of the GOP establishment’s problem is the lingering notion that there are some sort of unofficial rules still in effect that only apply to Republicans and that, if we fail to observe them, we are going to upset the finely-tuned system that has delivered such outstanding triumphs as Iraq, Obamacare, pandemic panic, and Cardi B. 

Obviously, any objective observer would see that the idea of maintaining a functional system is bunk, nonsense, and hooey. There are no such rules that we have any duty to observe, no such principles that tie our hands but not theirs. But there is a fear on the part of Republicans that to aggressively assert our own interests in the rough and tumble world of politics will somehow undermine our institutions.

I got a newsflash for you guys. Those institutions are already undermined, and you trying to reinforce them in order to seem nice just makes you look like idiots and it makes your base look for people who will fight. If you want Trump, this is how you get more Trump. Fail to aggressively seek to protect the interests of the people who voted for you in favor of serving the interests of an establishment that has totally failed us and you bring on your own destruction.

We do not expect the Democrats to minimize their advantages where they can. It’s annoying; sure, any time the other side puts points up on the scoreboard it is annoying. But it’s silly to be morally offended at them for doing what they are supposed to do – win for their team.

We expect Republicans to win for our team, but too often they don’t see it that way.

Have you Republicans learned nothing? 

That’s a serious question, establishment GOP. What have you learned from the last decade? That we are looking for politicians committed to sensibly managing our decline? So many of you were and are horrified by Donald Trump, with his mean tweets and his refusal to genuflect to the institutions, yet have any of you really thought about why we turned to him instead of you?

Of course not, because that would be impossible. It is impossible that you might consider how you failed the base because you do not think that your duty is to the base. Instead, you think your duty is to some amorphous collection of institutions which you are unable to hold accountable for its failures. The establishment can never fail enough for you to think “Maybe we ought to try something else.”

That’s where we, the base, are. We’re on to “something else.” Who do you GOP establishment types represent anyway? The people demand that you represent them, not the system. In fact, the people – for good reason – believe the system is out to get them. What’s that make you?

The answer is to pursue our enlightened self-interest. The Republican Party must seek to advance the interests of its voters, just as the Democrat Party should do. When that perspective gets skewed by the notion that some arbitrary construct of norms and institutions must be upheld over our voter’s interests, you create the crisis of confidence that is happening now. The people feel they are not the priority of their representatives, because they are not the priority of their representatives. The system is. 

We see it with John Roberts at SCOTUS. People go to the Supreme Court looking for a ruling in accordance with the law, but he delivers one not based on that but based on “retaining the credibility of the Court.” And, of course, that kills the credibility of the Court because the criteria are not facts and law like we were told but what is supposedly going to the right people he thinks he should please happy. We go asking for justice and instead get him making decisions based on what he thinks will maintain the Court’s standing.

And it does not even work. No. We understand that we can be entitled to a win under the rule and lose because us winning will not support the institutional interests. Why are we supposed to respect an institution that prioritizes its own status over doing the job it is supposed to do under the rules that are supposed to apply? This sort of thing makes faith in the system drop even further. The establishment is baffled because for all its efforts to protect itself, its credibility is now lower than ever. The more it tries to preserve its status by going outside the rules, the less status it has, requiring it to go ever further outside the rules.

The answer is to obey the rules. Play the game according to the rules. The gerrymandering rule is that the party in power in a state draws the lines for its own benefit. The GOP should draw them in the most advantageous way it can, as we should expect the Democrats to do. Parties acting in the interests of its members instead of the interests of the members of the establishment – imagine that! If the GOP did that, it might suck less.

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