(c) 2017 by Paul DuginskiUsed only with express written permission
During President Trump’s efforts to browbeat Republicans in the House to vote for his Trumpcare health plan, he threatened them with the loss of their seats in the 2018 midterm elections. “I’m going to come after you,” he reportedly told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the extreme-right Freedom Caucus.
Of course, the threats didn’t work and Trumpcare crashed and burned. House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to pull the GOP Obamacare repeal bill from the floor on Friday afternoon, March 24.
“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump tweeted on March 30. "We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”
What’s amusing is that the Freedom Caucus, the successors of the so-called “tea party,” isn’t just a thorn in the side of Democrats; it’s a thorn in the Republicans’ side, too.
These know-nothings put the “no” in the “Party of No.” They take the “tea” out of “team.” They’re the obstructionists that probably are most responsible for the dim view the public has of Congress. The Congressional job approval rating, according to several polls, hovers in the low-20% range. That’s even lower than Trump’s approval rating.
They’re not interested in governing, so they don’t want to compromise, which is the very definition of politics. They would prefer to shut down the government because they hate it so much.
Members of the Freedom Caucus simply don’t care. Low approval ratings? Who cares? Trump is going to punish them? Big yawn. The only thing that could get their attention would be someone who is more right-wing challenging them in a primary.
That’s because they’re in safe, goofy-right districts. Democrats are no threat whatsoever.
How can this be so? Through the marvels of the ancient art of gerrymandering. That’s when the party that controls the state government manipulates district boundaries after the decennial census to favor candidates of the same party.
The word “gerrymander” was first used by a Boston newspaper to describe redistricting boundaries drawn under Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts in 1812. The weirdly contorted districts were designed to benefit Gerry’s Democratic-Republican Party. On the map, one of these districts wrapping around the Boston area was thought to resemble a salamander, a creature that apparently carried overtones of witchcraft or the occult.
The term “gerrymander” was spread and gained popularity by a political cartoon depicting the strange beast, likely drawn by Elkanah Tisdale, an artist and engraver in Boston.
In many states such as North Carolina, Rep. Meadows’ home state, a Republican-controlled legislature redrew district lines after the 2010 census. So Meadows’ arch-conservative views and his seat in Congress are safe, and he can afford to laugh in the face of Trump’s threats and bluster.
Our chief hope of eradicating bizarre extremist scourges such as the looney tunes “tea party” and the rabid Freedom Caucus, which mainstream Republicans have found will viciously turn on them, would be establishing in every state an enlightened and progressive system like California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The commission consists of five Republicans, five Democrats and four commissioners of neither major party. They draw the lines after each new census for state Senate, Assembly, Board of Equalization (a taxing agency) and Congressional districts.
With this reform, the shenanigans have disappeared (California had plenty of them) and our democratic system is the winner.
In states where gerrymandering continues, problems arise as we’ve seen in Trump’s case. Although it’s highly amusing to see the hissing snake from the “Don’t Tread On Me” yellow Gadsden flag turn on the very Republicans who nurtured the rise of the “tea party” and the Freedom Caucus, it raises serious legitimacy questions about our elected representatives in Congress and their desire or ability to govern.