EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote the first 600 words or so of this a week ago, and ever since then, I’ve been totally absorbed with other things — first, a project I needed to complete for ADCO, and then, a very fun trip my wife and I took to Asheville. We got back late yesterday. Of course, it’s still timely, so I thought I’d add an ending to it and post.
I know some of y’all think I’m a really stubborn, arrogant guy who never changes his mind. Not so.
Here’s an example, from yesterday:
OK, that’s it. I’ve never seen the issue of whom folks in other states elect to Congress as being any of my business. But they’re making it my business. I can’t handle another of these farces. These people have to go… https://t.co/Uh0ZVQ3ufr
— Brad Warthen (@BradWarthen) September 22, 2023
Y’all may be familiar with my views on worrying about who holds what congressional seat in a district somewhere else in the country. I don’t approve of it. I think I initially decided this in connection with the fact that folks where I lived — either when I lived here, or in Tennessee or Kansas — would run off at the mouth about how they hated, say, Ted Kennedy. I decided that it was none of their business whom the people of Massachusetts chose to elect to represent them in the Senate.
And you can’t say that without also believing that it was none of other people’s business whether South Carolinians wanted to keep re-electing Strom Thurmond. The whole point of representative democracy is that people in each state — who may have different sets of values — get to elect whomever they want.
Therefore I’ve always harrumphed at people trying elect the people they want in other people’s states and/or districts.
And I still see it that way. But I had just really had it with the yahoos in question. Y’all know how much I despise these stupid, repeated fights over the budget in which nihilists who hate our country threaten to shut down the government, or actually do it, simply because they can. And the Garland thing was so deeply offensive to anyone who values this country or believes in the most basic demands of civility. And while I haven’t taken the roll and compared all the names, it’s basically the same sort of people.
But however much it irritates me, I don’t change policies for personal reasons. I came to this fork in that road (and took it, as Yogi would say) because this country can’t continue to function with these people in these positions. We’re just sinking lower and lower, and our liberal democracy is ceasing to function to such an extent, that these people who live to destroy can’t be in these positions any more.
They just can’t. This is not about party (and usually in the past, people were concerned about who won contests elsewhere because they wanted their party to control Congress). And it’s not about ideology, in any conventional sense. Traditionally, ideology’s role in politics was to drive debates between people who all wanted the good of the country, but disagreed over how that might be obtained.
But in the last few years — mainly since the Republican Party ceased to be the Republican Party in 2016 (it had been creeping that way for several years, but 2016 was the final explosion) — we’ve seen the emergence of a new sort of creature, slouching towards Washington. At this point, one of my more cynical friends will offer a list of people from history who ran for office because they were out for themselves. Certainly. And we still see such people. Currently, this Menendez guy is charged with being one.
But this is different. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the cheap Trumpist hustlers of the House are people who are in office because they represent any sort of consensus of views in the places where they come from. I mean, I know that Westerners aren’t nearly as refined as us East Coast types (ahem), but I don’t think Lauren Boebert is in any way a fair representative of…
SECOND EDITOR’S NOTE: The rest is what I added this evening, in order to finish this.
… Colorado. I mean, that’s where John Denver hung out, and he was a pretty normal and pleasant guy, for the most part. Just an ol’ country boy.
And why do people who are not normal or representative get elected? Well, when you’re talking about the House — and we are here — the problem, as I’ve said again and again, is gerrymandering. Both parties have worked hard to draw themselves as many safe districts as possible since 1990, and the Republicans have been way more crafty at it than Democrats (although not everywhere, but I’ve never lived in New York).
Crafty, but not very smart on an individual basis. In 1990, you were dealing with fairly normal, garden-variety Republicans. It was before Newt Gingrich, before Club for Growth types such as Mark Sanford, before the Tea Party, and before You Know Who.
But over the next few decades, those “safe” seats elected “Republicans,” alright, but not the kind that Robert A. Taft would recognize. And the center-right folks found themselves getting knocked out of office in their own primaries by extreme yahoos who didn’t have to appeal to a majority of people in the district — just to a majority of the small minority that turned out for party primaries. And sometimes, the yahoos themselves got tossed out by more extreme yahoos.
And so we got to where we are now.
Now I’m not saying we need to round these people up on buses and drive them out of the country, as poetic as that might be.
I prefer to start reversing the process. Serious redistricting reform, combined with something like ranked-choice voting, and (my fave) the universal primary — in which everyone seeking an office runs in one primary, regardless of party, and the top two go on to the general.
That wouldn’t fix things immediately, but it would be the most lasting solution.
However we do it, though, these folks have got to go. I’m not particular as to where they go, as long as they’re no longer running our country. Send them to a resort, if you want…
FINAL EDITOR’S NOTE: Yeah, I saw Congress reached a deal to keep the government operating… for 45 days. Call me crazy, but I really, truly believe we’re going to need it to keep going somewhat longer…