"I'm from the Republican Party, and I'm here to help."

by John MacBeath Watkins

Ronald Reagan famously said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

A fellow who rejoices in the screen name waard on the WoodenBoat Forum has updated this:

The ten most terrifying words in the English language are: "I'm from the Republican Pary and I'm here to help," he informs us.

After all, they said they were going to make the country default on its debts and were comfortable with crashing the economy, all, they said, to prevent the economy from being harmed by the Affordable Care Act. No, really, that was the official logic.

Now comes the news that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is thinking of intervening in Republican primaries, which have been dominated in recent years by organizations like The Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. Clearly, the Chamber thinks business is losing control of the Republican Party.

 Given how the science of gerrymandering has made it rare for congressional seats to change parties, this makes all kinds of sense. If the winner of the primary will go on to win the general election almost inevitably, the place to spend money is in the primary.

The 1812 political cartoon that introduced the word "gerrymander.
Another alternative is to have the top-two vote getters in the primary go on to face each other in the general election, thereby in theory giving people with the broadest appeal a leg up, but I'm not sure that's been shown to reduce polarization.

A gerrymandered seat will provide a comfortable but not overwhelming advantage to the incumbent of the gerrymandering party. Voters for the other party will be concentrated in as few districts as possible, which might give the moderates the advantage there, but in districts gerrymandered to favor the dominant party, it is quite likely that the top-two vote getters will be a Democrat and a Republican. Close to half the voters in Republican primaries are either Tea Party loyalists or sympathizers. About a quarter of Republican primary voters are moderates.

Some money backing traditional business Republicans in the primaries has got to help fix the dysfunction of Congress, and I think that would be a very good thing, because I don't think Democrats are in a position to dominate both houses, so we won't likely see sanity returned by that route. And in any case, one party rule tends to bring with it a tendency to think you can roll the other party and not compromise. But then, Republicans only control one house now, and they think that already.