Partisanship Unswayed By Federal Shutdown

Oct 11, 2013

When it comes to Washingtonian sentiment about government gridlock, partisan politics is the name of the game.  Whether it’s here in the Puget Sound region, or in the Central and Eastern parts of the state, political leanings are the lens through which Washington residents are viewing the crisis.

Jim Camden, capital bureau chief for the Spokesman, a newspaper and website that serves Eastern Washington, said that commenting activity on the Spokesman website has spiked since the government shutdown.

“It’s pretty strong on both sides – people who think that the Republicans are doing the right thing and people that think they are being absolutely ridiculous and driving the country basically into the ditch,” Camden said.

Which side they stand on depends on whether they are conservative or liberal.

Matthew Manweller, Republican state lawmaker for the 13th district and political science professor at Central Washington University, said this fits into classic political theory.

“People tend to view political events through a pre-existing belief that they already had,” Manweller said.

And the system – the very way Americans elect their representatives – is deepening partisanship, Manweller said. 

Redistricting after the 2010 census made many congressional districts internally homogenous – while politicians used “toe the moderate line” between their Democratic and Republican supporters, now they tend to represent constituents from their own parties.  Manweller lives in such a district himself – he was elected for his position in the state legislature by 75 percent of the vote.

“We all tend to listen to our base more than our middle," he said.  “If you are a Republican who lives in a Republican district, you’re not going to lose your seat because the government’s shut down.”