Back before the Chicago Mercantile Exchange discontinued futures trading in pork bellies in 2011, one could get reliable statistics on the number of such cuts of pork likely to be consumed in the United States. The GDP still counts. And data on total employment are still collected. Stats on politics, however, are difficult to get. Neither the Bureau of the Census nor the Bureau of Labor Statics collects them. An ordinary member of the public can’t get such data—unless he forks over some serious dollars. So how big, exactly, is the minority that supports the Tea Party?
I bring up this subject because it’s—re-run time. End of the World is being rerun by our infotainment media in two episodes. The first is called “Government Shutdown,” the second “Fiscal Cliff.” Pretty much the same characters are playing the same parts as last time.
Let’s see if we can dress the Tea Party in some so-so numbers. EofW comes to us sponsored by the House of Representatives. That body had some 433 voting members as of August 2, 2013. Two seats were vacant then. Of those seats the GOP held 233, Democrats 200. The GOP count included 48 representatives who were also members of the Tea Party Caucus. In effect it is Tea Party members who really give the GOP its House Majority—and then some. Let’s now extend these facts to the electorate as a whole.
In the 2012 elections, 118 million people cast votes. Let’s assume that each voter voted for
every federal office—thus that 118 people all voted for congressional representatives. The 48 Tea Party representatives are 11 percent of the seats in the House now. This means that 13 million votes are bringing us the current entertainment. A lot of spoil-sports are trying to tell us the end of each episode before it actually arrives—but CNN, Fox, and MSNBC are doing their best to keep the suspense going right up to the edge of that cliff.
A happy end, indeed, may be in the offing. But Brigitte and I, experts at watching splendid series that are much, much better written than End of the World (e.g. The X-Files), know how the producers ensure a continuation of the series. Each season must end with things a little bit resolved but still up in the air. Therefore the Fiscal Cliff, if avoided, will only be avoided for about a year. Meanwhile preparations for the 2014 season will have begun as we start thinking about Christmas.
Wikipedia provides a handy map showing the congressional districts held by Tea Party members in the 113th Congress (link). Interesting picture. It reminds me of an apple we recently cut open.