Math, when applied to Congress, can be a strange thing. "Majority" used to mean, in the United States Senate, 60 votes. In the United States House of Representatives, it used to mean 218 votes. Now the nation is perched on the edge of that hackneyed fiscal cliff. The reason, in large part, is the threat tea baggers, who hold fewer than 50 seats in the House. That is around 12 percent of the House Membership.
In an abstract to an article, "Getting Primaried: The Growth and Consequences of Ideological Primaries," prepared for the "State of the Parties" Conference at the University of Akron in October, 2009, Professor Robert Boatright's thesis was summarized, in part: "...the rhetoric behind 'primarying' may be an effective tool for ideological groups to threaten moderate incumbents, but this rhetoric bears little resemblance to the reality of congressional primary competition. This rhetoric by itself, however, may be effective, particularly within the Republican Party, in heightening partisan divisions."
Read that as: lesson learned by Richard Lugar in last year's Senate primary.
The 2010 decennial redistricting called for by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, was used by the Republican Party---as used by the Democratic Party in previous decades---to draw district lines that created hyper-Republican Congressional districts.
John Nichols, writing in an October 1, 2013, article, "America Gets Primaried," in "The Nation," notes: "Indeed, there are dozens of Republicans who would be prepared to end the madness of the moment. But they cannot do so---for fear of being 'primaried.' In overwhelmingly Republican districts, the threat of a general election defeat---at the hands of swing voters infuriated with extremist stances and general dysfunction---is slim. But the threat of a primary challenge, and defeat, is real. With national networks of right-wing donors at the ready to fund against so-called 'Republican-in-Name-Only' incumbents, the threat is amplified."
U.S. Representative Susan Brooks represents the Congressional District in which we live. When President Obama pushed for military intervention in Syria, I wrote to her and expressed my opposition to that move. Her response was well-reasoned. She easily could have used extreme language to attack the position advanced by the President. Instead, she explained why she felt there was little evidence to support U.S. intervention. I disagree with her on other positions she has taken. Her latest e-mail concerned the present crisis in Washington and described President Obama as responsible for the impasse.
Of anything that should be clear, the President has not created the impasse. If people support what the tea baggers have wrought, those people should have the courage to stand behind their convictions and say just that; not seek to blame others. President Obama made concessions in the last crisis of raising the debt ceiling. He accepted Republican numbers for reduction of the government spending. In this latest round, the Republicans' opening position was essentially their 2012 platform. The last I checked, the last name of the President of the United States was not Romney.
The view seems to be that moderate Republicans would vote for a "clean" bill in the House, the government would re-open for business, and discussions could be held about important matters. Instead, republican incumbents fear being primaried.
So I offer the following as a counter to the tea baggers---they gave themselves that name in their early days, ignorant of a slang term for a (disgusting) ritual that sometimes occurs in college as most of the tea baggers lack experience in institutions of higher learning---and their threats to "primary" moderate Republican candidates, especially for the U.S. House.
Our Congressional District, according to one local observer of voter statistics, has a baseline Republican vote of at least sixty percent (60%), perhaps as high as sixty-five percent (65%). A crucial primary race between candidates in the Democratic Party hardly seems likely. Whoever decides to throw her or his hat into the ring for the Ds has an uphill fight in the general, not the primary, election. However, if a tea bagger threatens to run against Representative Brooks because she is too moderate, we should be ready to cross over and vote in the Republican primary against such a candidate.
Indiana has "open" primaries. We can votes in either party's primary. It is inconceivable at this time that a candidate for the Democratic Party would be farther to the right than anyone who would present her or his name as a candidate for the GOP. Gerrymandering has bastardized an already bizarre system such that we have---this, a system in which a minority of the members of the House can shut down the government. And let's be clear: this is not an example of the checks and balances set up by the Framers of the Constitution. Hamilton wrote against super-majorities. Washington warned the nation against "factions" and their potential for pernicious influence.
Several ironies present themselves. Those who espouse principles they believe were advocated by the people who staged the Boston Tea Party know little of the history of the event. The participants did not simply destroy to make a point to the British. They dumped casks of tea into Boston harbor, then cleaned the deck of the ship from the hold of which the casks had been taken. Also, the interests advanced by people of the lower middle class who seem to show up for so many rallies of the so-called tea party have little in common with the upper-class white males who benefited from colonists' resistance to the British.
If you live in a Congressional district held by a moderate Republican, let your incumbent know you have her or his back. Let that person know you will cross over to block any effort to make her, or him, effectively the Richard Lugar in the 2014 election. If the two major political parties have created a system that borders on the farcical. the least we can do is try and salvage some control from those who would try to take it over that hackneyed fiscal cliff.