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Safe partisan districts are driving U.S. politics to extremes that might be beyond voters’ powers to correct.
Friday, October 4, 2013
Rep. Scott Rigell, who represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District over Hampton Roads’ way, is right on target when he blames gerrymandered districts for the gridlock that shut down the federal government.
Gerrymandering has amplified the voice from the GOP’s far right fringe way beyond its numbers. Noncompetitive districts free candidates of the moderating effects of having to win over independent voters. The only challenge conservative incumbents have to fear is an attack from the right for the party nomination.
So, while there’s broad agreement among the American public that shutting down government is damaging the country and a bad way to conduct policymaking, House backbenchers have dictated just such a strategy. If they run again, they’ll answer to a concentrated constituency of like-minded anti-government true believers.
Republican Rigell and his constituents, though, well understand the economic impact of idling 800,000 federal workers, more than 150,000 of whom live in Virginia.
Rigell, of Virginia Beach, holds a seat in a gerrymandered district, and moved to the right politically to win it. But he and two other Republicans in the Virginia delegation — Frank Wolf of Northern Virginia and Rob Wittman of Hampton Roads — have joined more moderate House colleagues and Democrats in calling for an end to the shutdown by passing a so-called clean resolution to continue funding the government.
Voters in their heavily defense-dependent districts have seen firsthand how communities will suffer for thousands of idled workers missing paychecks. Sequestration already has slowed economic growth in Hampton Roads.
And the dire prospect of a government default — God forbid — lies just ahead as the deadline approaches to raise the debt limit.
This is shamefully bad government. And Virginia, the state that benefits the most from federal spending, can expect disproportionately more damage when the government closes up shop.
No wonder Ken Cuccinelli has called on members of Congress to decline their paychecks during the shutdown. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, who owes his nomination to an ultra-conservative grass-roots movement in the state party, opposes the shutdown.
But he stopped short of calling for a clean continuing resolution that would bring it to a quick end.
If he hoped to change the conversation, much, if not all, of Virginia’s delegation was already ahead of him. Wittman and Sen. Mark Warner told the Free Lance-Star they’re donating their pay to charities during the shutdown.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Tim Kaine said they’d be forgoing theirs for the duration.
So will 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a spokeswoman tells us. Good.
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