How Gerrymandering fits into efforts to shut down the U.S. Government

There is an interesting and timely piece by Ryan Lizza in a recent The New Yorker piece Where the GOP Suicide Caucus Lives.”  The Suicide Caucus is a term originated by Charles Krauthammer to describe the radicals in the House who are willing to commit (purported) political suicide by pushing the government to a shut down, and/or not allowing the government to make debt payments, in order to keep Obamacare from getting underway. This caucus is arguably damaging the nationwide appeal of the Republican party and endangering the national economy, but it is a complete misreading of the situation to imply that these congressional representatives are endangering their own political careers, and that is plainly the result of gerrymandered congressional districts.

Lizza’s article provides fascinating data points on how these Republicans play to a constituency that is not only whiter and more Republican than the rest of the country, but is actually trending to become even more white and more Republican while the rest of the country is trending in the opposite direction. Quoting Lizza:

The members of the suicide caucus live in a different America from the one that most political commentators describe when talking about how the country is transforming. The average suicide-caucus district is seventy-five per cent white, while the average House district is sixty-three per cent white. Latinos make up an average of nine per cent of suicide-district residents, while the over-all average is seventeen per cent. The districts also have slightly lower levels of education (twenty-five per cent of the population in suicide districts have college degrees, while that number is twenty-nine per cent for the average district).

The members themselves represent this lack of diversity. Seventy-six of the [80] members who signed the Meadows letter are male. Seventy-nine of them are white.

Lizza, crediting most of his raw data as coming from The Cook’s Political Report’s David Wasserman, also had this depressing statistic to report: in these districts, the average margin of victory for the people currently trying to shut down the government was an astonishing 34%.  So if you’re imagining that promoting this type of government dysfunction is only going to result in good old-fashioned political blowback for clownish behavior, you really don’t understand the dynamics of gerrymandered congressional districts.

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