The Limits of Representative Government, or, Why Republicans Don’t Give a Damn What You Think
I would never deny that I am enjoying the rousing round of hashtag that I’ve added to my morning routine.
That’s the game where, in response to President Obama’s call for Americans to flood their elected representatives’ Twitter accounts with #my2K messages, I compose a haiku-length expression of my utter disdain for Washington’s entire cabal of Tea Party Jihad Republicans, including my own district’s tinfoil-hat-wearing representative in the House, Tom Rooney, and I tweet it to the likes of @MarcoRubio, @SpeakerBoehner, and @TomRooney.
You know, just for giggles. They call it micro-blogging, but it’s really micro-bitching, and I am all up in that.
On the other hand, as I watch Congress play déjà vu all over again (you’ve seen this movie, too: Dancing on the Debt Ceiling was Summer 2011’s alien-invasion blockbuster, starring John Boehner as Cthulhu)—this time with GOP jihadists in the role of Wile E. Coyote and President Obama as (I devoutly hope) the Road Runner—I’ve begun to have an Irrepressible Thought.
The whole #my2K campaign is predicated on the notion that “our” elected officials are amenable to pressure from the citizenry and have some interest in modifying their stands on issues as a result of hearing that the “people” are displeased (or pleased, hypothetically speaking). Thus, if enough Americans write letters, send emails, make phone calls, and Twitter-pate, the Republicans will stop dangling us over the fiscal cliff because they fear being voted out of office.
The trouble is, I’m having an awfully hard time believing this is so.
To cite the local case: Tom Rooney (in the House) and Marco Rubio (in the Senate) are my Republican politicians (with Patrick Murphy and Bill Nelson across the respective aisles), and they’re a part of the merry band that is once again holding the entire country hostage in the matter of the “fiscal cliff” and the expiration of Dubya’s tax cuts.
I’d like to think they’d be interested in hearing from the part of their constituency that didn’t vote for them, on the theory that they are actually elected to represent all of us. But then I’d also like to think Santa Claus is going to bring me that new iPad this year.
In recent decades, Republicans across the country have displayed Machiavellian cunning in gerrymandering their districts down to a fare-thee-well, religiously shifting the borders when too many liberal wingnuts moved to town. They already know whether they’ve got enough votes to keep their jobs.
Tom Rooney is certainly well aware of these facts. So is Marco “The Earth Is 6000 Years Old” Rubio. They also know there is literally nothing either of them could do to get my vote—assuming they wanted it, which they don’t because it doesn’t actually matter to them, mathematically speaking—short of depositing a million bucks into my checking account. Each. (Yeah, I am for sale, especially since people like Rubio and Rooney are a big part of the movement that’s working to ensure I won’t ever collect Social Security, and I’m really going to need that dough.)
So why should they be moved by my cleverly worded matutinal insults? The answer is: they aren’t.
There’s absolutely no reason for them or any other Republican to change their positions, to compromise on the “fiscal cliff” (or anything else), or to stop playing chicken with the economy. There is no down side to ignoring me and others like me because there is no longer the slightest expectation that Republican politicians will represent the voters who didn’t vote for them. Rather, their job is only to represent their voters. And their voters exist wherever lines can be redrawn to redden the electorate.
Sure, the rigged-districts formula occasionally backfires. I mean, Allen West (it seems obligatory to identify him as “Tea Party darling, Allen West”) got the boot in our local House district earlier this month, but he lost by barely 2000 votes and it was kind of a one-off. Shouldn’t have happened. Especially not after West spent $14 million to ensure that “Second Amendment remedies”—rather than actual representation of one’s constituents—would continue to have a voice in Congress.
But more often, it’s a Grand Old Party for all. Take the case of Michelle Bachman. (Who, I mean, c’mon. If this were a serious country, would someone like her even hold political office?) Thanks to Republican gerrymandering, her district, Minnesota’s 6th, was expanded to include conservative Carver County (95.6% white, only 3.5% of the county below the poverty line, and a median income of nearly $66,000), all of which ensured Bachman’s stranglehold on her seat. Not even being the preferred daughter of the Dark Lord of Mordor slowed her down.
So that’s why Boehner and his posse can continue to label Obama’s proposals as “laughable” and “insulting,” including this latest outrage from the Less-White House: let existing tax rates expire for those earning above $250,000 for couples, or $200,000 for single households; increase the highest rate from 35% to 39.6%; and end the historically low 15% tax rate on capital gains and dividends for these upper-income households—which, as you’ll recall, is the rate Mitt Romney pays, given that he’s chronically unemployed and his only income is from investments.
It’s this kind of demented offer that Republicans can well afford to spit on. Because they’ve rigged the game, and they don’t truly believe anyone is ever going to vote them out of office if they don’t stop.
Just like Karl Rove didn’t believe Romney could lose Ohio.