The wreckage in Washington is a revolt by conservative politicians against their own waning powerby George Packer / October 22, 2013 / Leave a comment
“The Republican Party stands on an ever-narrowing base of older, whiter, more rural voters, whom it regards as ‘the real America’”
Read Jacob Kirkegaard on how gerrymandering has destroyed the house
In the first week of October, America’s national parks, museums, and war cemeteries closed. The military reserve cancelled training drills, 90 per cent of Internal Revenue Service workers were sent home, Wall Street regulation was put on hold, the National Institute of Health stopped giving grants and locked out new patients from clinical trials, trade talks in Europe were suspended and negotiations with Iran no longer had the necessary personnel. The markets dropped, anxious about the threat that the United States Treasury might default on its obligations, for the first time in American history.
The percentage of Americans who are either working or looking for work is at its lowest level since 1978; among men, it’s the lowest since 1948. As of 1st October, concealed weapons are allowed in North Carolina bars and playgrounds, and earlier this year a town in Georgia passed a law requiring every household to have a firearm. The current Congress is the least productive in over half a century. Republican members of the House of Representatives say they have enough votes to impeach President Barack Obama. Eleven rural counties in northeastern Colorado are trying to secede from the state.
From a distance, this breakdown of American institutions must seem like a fit of mutinous irrationality. And, to some extent, it is exactly that. Year after year, the US is becoming more secular, more urban, more polyglot, darker-skinned, and, politically, more blue. A Democrat has won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and last year Democratic congressional candidates won more total votes across the country than Republicans (though Republicans continued to hold onto the House by a narrow majority because of gerrymandering). Younger voters identify overwhelmingly with the Democratic Party; in a recent poll, a majority of people under 30 even said they preferred socialism to capitalism. Large majorities of Americans favour new laws that would limit gun ownership and put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, but the bills can’t move through a Congress where minorities have the ability to block.
The collapse of governance in Washington has to be seen as a revolt by conservative politicians and the…