George Graham

Deep Divisions Behind Shutdown

Who benefits if – as seems certain – the federal government is forced to lock its doors tomorrow? Not the Republicans, certainly. The latest polls show the public is more likely to blame them than the Democrats. So will the Democrats benefit? Not much.

Voters are complicated. It is no sure bet that they will punish Republican candidates next November.

It would take a lot more than a federal government shutdown to make Sandra’s cousins vote for a Democrat – if there is a Democrat to vote for.  There was no Democratic candidate for Congress in our Central Florida district last time. We could vote for Republican Dennis Ross or nobody.

That’s the way it is in America today. Some districts are Republican no matter what. Some vote Democrat come hell or high water.

Gerrymandering by state legislatures has left a nation divided against itself. Over the decades, red districts have grown ever- deeper red. And blue districts have grown bluer as legislators draw and redraw voting boundaries to give their party an edge.

When the Tea Party renegades go back to their districts in places like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah, Texas and the far reaches of the Deep South, they will be heralded as heroes for sabotaging their country. The knuckleheads who sent them to Washington can’t see they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces. All they can see is that their guy gave the feds the finger – and as far as they’re concerned it was high time somebody did.

What we have today is two Americas – the rural South and Heartland vs. the metropolitan areas along the coasts and in the Northeast.  In Florida, where Sandra and I live, the northern part of the state is wedded to the Deep South, with its lingering resentment and prejudice, while the southern part is more diverse – and therefore more likely to vote for the Democrats. Except for the Cubans, the older Cubans, anyway. They’re still fighting Fidel Castro and the communists that drove them from their homeland.

One result of America’s political divide is the dilution of urban voters’ influence and the empowerment of their country cousins. Sparsely populated Republican districts have the same representation in Congress as densely populated urban districts. And rural voters are more likely to be one-issue voters – pro-lifers, for example. They are also more likely to harbor age-old prejudices and resist change.

Fueling the bitter animosities that divide Americans are deep-pocketed interests with various axes to grind. Religious groups, for example, that see their power threatened by federal government encroachment… Billionaires like the coal mining Koch Brothers, intent on resisting costly environmental standards… Private health insurance and health care companies desperately trying to protect their profiteering practices…

What puzzles me is what the corporate giants who fund the Republican Party stand to gain from the constant bickering and brinkmanship in Washington. This kind of political climate is obviously hostile to international financial markets. Stock exchanges are already staggering from the threat of a shutdown and – worse – Uncle Sam defaulting on is debts a couple of weeks from now.

And I can’t see creditor nations like China quietly tolerating the emotion-driven wrangling that’s wrecking Washington. China has trillions of dollars at stake – and enormous influence among the global giants that pay for America’s multi-billion-dollar elections.

Surely, something’s got to give?

But what?

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for