The Gerrymandering Behind the MAGA Schism

Thursday, October 19, 2023

How long can we go without a functioning House of Representatives? I guess we’ll see, because these clowns aren’t getting any closer to being able to work together. The infighting is getting uglier and more public with GOP congressional leaders screaming, bitterly insulting each other, and blocking each other on Twitter.

I keep hearing the media say that the dispute is between MAGA and “more traditional Republicans.” I don’t think that’s true at all. Virtually every House Republican is a MAGA loyalist. I think one of the biggest issues in this dispute is the impact of gerrymandering.

One of the holdouts who won’t vote for Jim Jordan represents a district about a mile from me here in Oregon. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-5) is a dedicated Trump supporter. She is very conservative but has needed to take a somewhat more bipartisan tone because her district is relatively evenly split. They elected her, but also voted for Biden by 8+ points.

If you look at districts like Ohio’s 4th, Jim Jordan’s district is so gerrymandered it looks like a seahorse. Jim Jordan and Trump both won that district with over two-thirds of the vote. So the more aggressively right-wing Jim Jordan gets, the more popular he is in his district. And conversely, if he compromises on anything, a key part of how legislating works, he’ll face an even more right-wing opponent in the next primary. If you repeat that cycle for enough years, moderates cease to exist. Across the country, the gerrymandered one-party districts have congressional representatives that skew further from the middle. And so it’s no surprise that one of the most gerrymandered districts has one of the most extreme right-wing Congressman, and that one of the most extreme right-wing Congressman is now the leading Republican for Speaker of the House.

But for Republicans like Chavez-DeRemer in more evenly balanced districts, her reelection chances hinge on being able to pretend that she’s less conservative than she really is. Voting for a far-right figure like Jim Jordan who is universally loathed by liberals and moderates (and certain former high school wrestlers) would give away her far-right MAGA loyalties. If she votes for Jordan, she’s almost certain to lose the general election.

So that’s the conflict — Congressional Republicans in safe Republican districts must support the most extreme right-winger in the party or they’ll get a primary challenger, while those in more evenly split districts can’t support an extreme right-winger and still win a general election. So there’s not really any ideological basis in any of this, no legislative priorities at stake, just self-preservation in a system that is broken at every level.

David Fry is a technology entrepreneur living in Corvallis, Oregon. He founded Tanuki Interactive in 2008, providing web strategy and development. He enjoys life in the Willamette Valley with his family, dogs, chickens and garden.

This blog recently celebrated it’s 24th anniversary.

Jim Jordan's seahorse shaped district