If the power of the purse is to be the topic of the day, it is important to know where that purse comes from. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to A.H. Rowan said, “The purse of the people is the real seat of sensibility. It is to be drawn upon largely, and they will then listen to truths which could not excite them through any other organ.” And boy are the people listening to truths these days.
Kevin Brett is a very good friend and colleague of mine. However, his very well-written article, “Government shutdown is a natural part of a grand old bargaining process” (Oct. 8), failed to take a few things into account.
If the power of the purse is to be the topic of the day, it is important to know where that purse comes from. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to A.H. Rowan said, “The purse of the people is the real seat of sensibility. It is to be drawn upon largely, and they will then listen to truths which could not excite them through any other organ.”
And, boy, are the people listening to truths these days. Those purse strings that the conservative wing of the Republican Party drew closed are attached to our purse. In other words, that money that Congress spends, or doesn’t spend, comes from the American people — the very people who were harmed by its closing.
But the government shutdown that ended last week was more than just two parties battling it out to see whose political capital would run out first. Nate Silver, savant of all things statistical and wonky, has laid out, in plain terms, evidence that one side has nothing to lose.
In the case of Silver’s “landslide” or “strong” districts, a candidate taking an ideologically extreme position has no need to fear either a challenge from the opposing party or a primary challenge. That extreme position essentially represents the Black Card of political capital. He can spend and spend until the cows come home, and his constituents, pleased at his rhetoric and ideological purity, will keep paying off his balance.
Of course, that many districts are locked one way or another is simply a result of geographical preference. It would not be possible to draw a district in Central Pennsylvania or Portland, Ore., for example, that is not a landslide district. Those are not gerrymandered districts, but merely the phenomenon of people preferring to live near other people who think like themselves.
No, I am talking about districts like NC-12, FL-20, PA-12, NC-6, FL-3, IL-17, FL-22, AZ-2, MD-3, and IL-4. Districts of such tortured geography that there is no honest explanation for their existence but one side keeping seats. In fact, moderate Republicans have legislated themselves out of office by cutting themselves off from moderate and right-leaning liberal and independent voters, thereby virtually ensuring the ideologically extreme primary challengers that led us to the situation we are in today.
The existence of these sheltered districts makes me shudder to think what will happen every October as Republicans, secure with their Black Cards of political capital, spend and spend to continue to undo the progressive legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. Remember that the Affordable Care Act is not unique in the way that Republicans revile it. There are laws regarding abortion and contraception, a social safety net, and any number of financial regulations to be dismantled.
Aaron James Spencer is a student at Temple University Beasley School of Law. While in law school, Mr. Spencer has served on the boards of OUTLaw and the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia (GALLOP). He is also currently serving on the executive board of Temple Law’s chapter of the American Constitution Society.