Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Column: Defeat and impasse

While the beltway chatter grows over the political death of Eric Cantor, the first House leader to be unseated in a primary, it would be easy to lose sight of how unsettling his demise is for our politics in general.

On one level, it is a glaring example — and condemnation — of the staggering levels of voter apathy that exist the further an election race is from presidential politics. Only about 65,000 people voted in the Republican primary in Virginia's 7th District on Tuesday. This is in a district of nearly 760,000 people, and in which Mitt Romney bested President Obama in 2012 by 15 percentage points.

In case you're struggling with the math here, Ezra Klein of Vox broke it down this way: In 2012, 381,000 residents of the 7th District "voted in the congressional election, 223,000 of them for Eric Cantor." He continued:

"Cantor's loss came at the hands of about 5 percent of his constituents. It came at the hands of about 9 percent of the total number of people who voted in the district's 2012 congressional election. It came at the hands of about 16 percent of the people who voted for Cantor in that election. And though Cantor's defeat is national in its effects, less than three-hundredths of 1 percent of the people who voted in the 2012 House elections voted against Eric Cantor last night."

What does it say about America as a society and as a class of voters when so many sit home and allow the voices of so few to carry so much weight? Not only did recent Republican redistricting — and yes, gerrymandering — create fewer swing districts and safer, more politically homogenous ones, it has also most likely created districts in which that very security gives rise to more strident candidates.

And now that many of them no longer have to worry about appealing to moderates, minorities and women — "stop chasing ethnic groups, stop chasing genitalia," the conservative talk show host Mark Levin told Fox News on Tuesday — they are open to challenges from more ideologically extreme candidates. We have to worry about the message Cantor's loss sends to the Republican caucus — that if they bend, even a little, in the interest of not completely grinding government to a halt and if they suggest an openness to even the most minor movement of necessary legislation like immigration reform, they could be vulnerable, and lose their seats.

Stacking the deck against politicians who deign to compromise with their Democratic counterparts in general, and this president in particular, does not bode well for us as a nation. The party of the president is important when it comes to things like foreign policy and the selection of federal and Supreme Court justices, but laws are not passed in the executive branch, and as long as our legislative branch is teeming with obstructionists, we're at an impasse.

Cantor's defeat on Tuesday may now be the subject of Schadenfreude and chops licking, but it may also be a terrible omen.

© 2014 New York Times


Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18