Who Broke Our Politics?

As you are reading this, infants and toddlers at the border are detained in “tender age” shelters, our new euphemism for jail cells for immigrant children.

These children have been ripped from their families – families struggling against insurmountable odds to find safety and a future for their kids. They came to our borders out of desperation to ask for asylum. And how did we respond? We took their children away. It is gut-wrenchingly, breathtakingly cruel. How did we get here, to a place where we resort to terror tactics and child internment camps?

The answer is the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus has discovered a cheat code in our democracy. It turns out that if a group of our elected officials staunchly refuse to participate in the legislative process – if they instead choose to throw a prolonged temper tantrum when they don’t get what they want – they can grind our entire system to a halt.

The result is everything broken in our political system today. It’s gerrymandered districts where politicians get the choose their voters, instead of the other way around. It’s a deeply unpopular tax bill designed to cut taxes for the fabulously wealthy at the cost of our social safety net. But it’s more than just process. The true legacy of the Freedom Caucus is heard in the cries of babies at our borders. It is felt in the despair of everyday people who are terrified of losing their insurance, who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. And it is seen in the immigration votes earlier this week, with Dreamers being denied the protections they’ve been promised because the Freedom Caucus is once again holding our national legislative process hostage.

Too harsh? Think again. During a recent CNN interview, Jim Jordan made it clear that he was happy to use the plight of these babies and their families as a bargaining chip to push the Freedom Caucus’ extremist immigration agenda. Freedom Caucus members like Jordan have perfected an insidious bob and weave, paying lip service to a self-righteous and self-serving principle du jour, in this case, the rule of law, in order to hide their true extremist intentions. I call BS.

I have watched Jim Jordan and his Freedom Caucus playbook up close for years now. That’s why I decided to take him on and run for Congress. My district is a mostly rural and working-class area of Ohio – precisely the type of area helped by the Affordable Care Act and in dire need of help to address our opioid crisis and stagnating wages. But the people in my district – and many more like it – aren’t getting what they need because of Freedom Caucus obstruction. For years, Jim Jordan and his Freedom Caucus cabal have specialized in cynically manufacturing fear of the very programs designed to help their constituents.

The American people, including the residents of Ohio’s 4th District, are tired of the broken politics of Washington. We don’t understand why our elected representatives can’t work together to solve problems and help people. For us, compromise is not a dirty word – and respect and compassion are the values we teach our kids. We want to see more efforts like the one undertaken by a group of Republicans to find a compromise on immigration and help Dreamers, a position overwhelmingly supported by people of both parties. But the Freedom Caucus can’t stomach progress that doesn’t fit with their rigid worldview, so they are holding legislation pushed by their own Republican leadership hostage to their 40 votes. They’ve proven that it’s not just Democrats they don’t get along with – they can’t even compromise with members of their own party.

Now Jim Jordan is said to be the hard-liners’ choice for Speaker. That would be another brutal blow to our democratic institutions – and to the people who rely on them. But we can stop them, starting with defeating Jim Jordan and Freedom Caucus members in November. Are these easy seats to win? No. But saving our country is worth the effort. And Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania showed us it is possible. Our grassroots base is mobilized and many Trump voters are questioning whether he delivered the change they thought they voted for.

Right now, we have the best opportunity in a generation to defeat a core component of the group that has truly broken our political system. The question is whether we’ll seize that opportunity.

Janet GarrettComment