Last week, Senator John McCain issued a call to action to his colleagues in Congress who go back to work today. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, McCain urged Republicans and Democrats to find real and lasting solutions to the nation’s problems through compromise, pragmatic problem-solving, and respectful dialogue.
McCain acknowledged the difficulty of breaking through Washington’s political gridlock, citing obstacles such as a sharply polarized atmosphere, self-created crises, national political campaigns that never end, majorities that refuse to make concessions, and a president who “has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed, and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.”
It’s probably worth it to reflect that some of our current problems are a result of partisan gerrymandering. In March of 2010, Karl Rove issued a call to action of his own. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, subtitled, “He who controls redistricting can control Congress,” Rove laid out a plan to win majorities in state legislatures across the country. That year, the GOP spent $30 million to win full control of 25 state legislatures and 29 governorships—just in time to redraw the electoral maps. Multiple statistical tests have found a persistent Republican advantage in the hundreds of U.S. House races from 2012 to 2016 that cannot be explained by chance.
There is debate about whether an effect of gerrymandering is extremist politicians. At the least, gerrymandering reinforces hyper-partisanship. It certainly makes seats uncompetitive. And safe seats incentivize representatives to put the interests of their parties above those of their constituents.
Here in Indiana’s eighth district, gerrymandering has made an impact. We are no longer “The Bloody Eighth.” We are a safe, Republican district; Larry Bucshon was elected in November, 2010.
In his op-ed, McCain reminded his colleagues of their two-fold duty: to represent their constituents and to serve as a check on the president’s power.
Historically, Bucshon has refused to represent his voters. He supports policy that would gut funding for public schools. He consistently votes against controlling toxic pollution. He voted to take healthcare away from over 470,000 Hoosiers. He voted to undo laws designed to protect consumers and prevent another financial disaster. Because, he says, he doesn’t believe in climate change, he’s hostile to clean energy, but he doesn’t have to believe in the science to believe in the economics. Clean energy is the fastest-growing business sector globally. In the U.S., where job growth has slowed under the Trump administration, and wages have been stagnant, it feels like it would make sense to enact policies that are friendly to an industry that is creating jobs, making money, attracting investors, and experiencing demand. But the only industries Bucshon is friendly toward are agriculture, oil, and coal, to the detriment of his constituents.
Under a popular Democrat, Bucshon was happy to check the president’s power. Now, under a Republican president with historically low approval ratings in his first term, Bucshon is a rubber stamp. Bucshon votes in line with Trump’s positions 97.6% of the time, according to the political site FiveThirtyEight. And, Bucshon refused to rebuke President Trump for his remarks on the events in Charlottesville, despite requests from his constituents (including this one) to do so, and despite the backlash against the president from CEOs, charities, religious leaders, American allies, other Republicans, and more.
As McCain points out in his op-ed, Congress is facing several issues of vital importance this fall, including the budget, tax reform, infrastructure, and immigration. Some of our representatives may not be willing to do their jobs, but we have to do ours: contacting our legislators about the issues that concern and affect us, keeping a watchful eye on how they vote and what they say, and holding them accountable for their job performance at the ballot box.