While the rest of politics was melting down over the presidential race here in 2016, the president and his head of justice quietly telegraphed their play for the future of American politics: gerrymandering.
In 2010, American politics was watching the emergence of the ultra right wing movement called the Tea Party. Driven by conspiracy theories like Donald Trump’s birtherism, and egged on by those self-same Republicans who champion Trump’s economic plan, aka, the Ryan Budget, a PAC-Funded groundswell was engineered by the likes of the Koch Brothers to amplify grassroots dissent against President Obama.
That selfsame Republican congress set out to block any and every effort of this president, from the day he was inaugurated. They sought to tear him down, they sought to destroy him, they invented every lie possible and they pointed angry, red white and blue wearing mobs towards Democrats, including Gabby Giffords.
In its review of the Giffords attack, slate had this to say about the relationship between the angry rhetoric of the tea party and the gifford’s attack:
“…consider what was swirling outside Loughner’s head. To call his crime an attempted assassination is to acknowledge that it appears to have had a political and not merely a personal context. That context wasn’t Islamic radicalism, Puerto Rican independence, or anarcho-syndicalism. It was the anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism that flourishes in the dry and angry climate of Arizona. Extremist shouters didn’t program Loughner, in some mechanistic way, to shoot Gabrielle Giffords. But the Tea Party movement did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react, would be able to react, and would not be prevented from reacting, in the crazy way he did.
At the core of the far right’s culpability is its ongoing attack on the legitimacy of U.S. government—a venomous campaign not so different from the backdrop to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Then it was focused on “government bureaucrats” and the ATF. This time it has been more about Obama’s birth certificate and health care reform. In either case, it expresses the dangerous idea that the federal government lacks valid authority. It is this, rather than violent rhetoric per se, that is the most dangerous aspect of right-wing extremism.”
No less dangerous rhetoric was coming from Donald Trump, as he built his alt-right bone fides on the back of the President’s authenticity, birthplace, and patriotism. In the midst of the “swamp of crazy” that gave us Trump and the Tea Party, along with a lot of violent talk, we also got ObamaCare. The affordable care act passed congress by a hair’s breadth, and gave the Tea Party enough to be angry about to spin it off into madness, but not before lifting turnout enough to Democrats the most resounding losses in a midterm election in a generation, and set up a round of gerrymandering that could leave Democrats at a deep advantage in congress and state legislatures that could last generations.
The violence of the right, the lies of Trump, the emergence of a voting block driven by fear and hate and manipulated by money. This is the sickness of the right that emerged during the Obama tenure and culminated in the takeover and national gerrymander of 2010.
Thing is, this effort from Obama seems like an admission that his terrible messaging and the fact that the chose to alienate the left were at least a part to blame for the 2010 apocalypse. At least he has the decency to try to go back in afterwards and try to clean up some of the damage.
More to the point, it all begs a question: should the states and congress be redrawn to minimize the power of the opposing party or should it be non partisan? This battle will go on but as much as Trump represents the ugliness of the right, 2010 represents that moment when democracy really broke, washington really broke, and it became impossible for anything to get done with divided government.
Trump is the ugliness and the Republican Congress is the real damage. A successful Clinton presidency requires a powerful Democratic majority and an even more active Progressive movement making sure they do what’s right.