Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows have decried a coup against Trump. Their districts give them no incentive to break ranks
Theyre President Trumps first line of defense against impeachment: US Representatives Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, both former chairmen of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, now ubiquitous bulldogs on cable news, the Sunday morning shows, Capitol Hill hallway press availabilities, even a tag-team road show in Texas.
It makes compelling television. Meadows and Jordan shed congressional politesse and speak the language of thriller novels. Theyve argued that impeachment represents a coup and have offered dire warnings of deep state conspiracies to take down this president.
The congressmen share more than a belief in an international cabal working against the president. Jordan and Meadows represent two of the most wildly gerrymandered congressional districts in the nation seats designed to elect not just any Republican, but the most extreme conservative.
Jordans district, the Ohio fourth, is 90% white and carefully sandwiched between the outskirts of Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo collecting suburban Republicans and rural conservatives, while surgically avoiding any urban Democrats. The seat was drawn in 2011 by Republican consultants who disappeared into what they called the Bunker to draw the states congressional map, making last-second changes to please national Republicans and campaign donors.
That map, as designed, has produced a reliably 12-4 Republican delegation ever since, draining this competitive state of competitive congressional elections for an entire decade. Jordan won re-election in 2018 with over 65% of the vote, despite a lingering scandal over what he knew about a team doctor sexually abusing collegiate wrestlers when he coached at Ohio State.
A new poll this month found Ohio voters support impeachment by a margin of 47%-43%. But Ohios gerrymandered congressional map all but guarantees that three-quarters of the states delegation will not only remain Republican, but representative of the partys most activist and pro-Trump base.
Meadows, meanwhile, is the product of Republican determination to draw a 10-3 map in purple North Carolina after Republicans captured both chambers of the state legislature in 2010 and won control of decennial redistricting. They split the largest city in western North Carolina, the liberal enclave of Asheville, almost precisely in half, scattering the largest pocket of Democratic votes across two newly conservative seats.
During the 2000s, Meadows district, North Carolinas 11th, had been one of the swing-iest in the country veering between Republicans and Democrats as the nations politics swung red after the September 11 attacks and then blue as the Iraq war wore on and the economy fell into recession. Its not any more. The conservative Democrat who won the seat in 2006, 2008 and 2010 took one look at the new map and retired; Meadows won a GOP primary on a vow to send Mr Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is and has been comfortably re-elected ever since.
In districts so uncompetitive that they reward birtherism and brush aside questions about sexual assault, Meadows and Jordan feel comfortable not only cheerleading for Trump, but defending him by advancing wild, discredited conspiracy theories.
The Democrats are guilty of what theyre accusing the president of, Meadows charged on Fox News, incorrectly conflating the Steele dossier with Robert Muellers special counsel report. We know that there was a coordination between the Democrats and between the previous administration and other entities.
Jordan, meanwhile, has suggested that the White House whistleblower was part of the intelligence communitys political vendetta against Trump. If you mess with the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you, Jordan said, ominously. We saw it in 2016 with what the FBI did. I think were seeing it now with this whistleblower.
A president is openly suggesting hes above the law, flaunting congressional oversight, and publicly inviting foreign powers to investigate his political opponents. Yet two of the most powerful House Republicans dismiss this constitutional crisis as all about politics and nothing to do with the law.
Meadows and Jordan might be the loudest pro-Trump voices in the House, but there are few profiles in courage anywhere in that body. Our polarized moment has many causes, but uncompetitive, gerrymandered districts have helped produce members of Congress with little incentive to buck their partys base, even in moments of national crisis. More than 60% of Republicans 127 of the 200 elected in 2018 represent landslide districts won by more than 15%.
Exactly one member elected as a Republican in 2018 has supported an impeachment inquiry, and hes no longer in the party. Justin Amash, who became an independent on 4 July, has become liberated to speak his mind now that hes no longer concerned about a primary challenge. His district, Michigans third, is part of a map so gerrymandered that it produced nine Republicans and five Democrats from 2012 through 2016, even in elections when Democratic candidates won many more statewide votes.
It was 45 years ago, when President Nixon faced disintegrating support on Capitol Hill and near-certain impeachment, Republican House members visited him at the White House with the grim news that his presidency seemed unlikely to survive impeachment and then removal from office. Todays polarized members, from gerrymandered districts where its always best to stick with ones tribe, have little incentive to break from Trump or their party, no matter what.
The House belongs to Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows now. Our democracy is poorer for it.
David Daley is the author of the national bestseller Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesnt Count and the forthcoming Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Slate and many other publications