Political Kudzu

Recently, as we drove through North and South Carolina on our way to the beach, we were struck by the relative absence of the Kudzu we usually see climbing over telephone poles and fences, and generally taking over large swathes of the landscape. My husband wondered if agricultural researchers have finally found something to control it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the saga of kudzu, it was originally brought to the US south from Asia–thought to be a low-maintenance plant that could be used along highways–an attractive plant requiring less mowing and less expense. To say that things didn’t quite work out that way would be a considerable understatement; as Wikipedia notes, kudzu

 is a serious invasive plant in the United States. It has been spreading in the southern U.S. at the rate of 150,000 acres (61,000 ha) annually, “easily outpacing the use of herbicide spraying and mowing, as well increasing the costs of these controls by $6 million annually.”[1] Its introduction has produced devastating environmental consequences.[2] This has earned it the nickname, “The vine that ate the South.

Kudzu is the poster child for unintended consequences.

Kudzu makes me think of gerrymandering. No kidding.

The Republican Party, as everyone sentient knows, owes its majority in the House of Representatives to aggressive gerrymandering.(And yes, before commenters weigh in, I know that Democrats would engage in gerrymandering too, if they were in control of those statehouses.) But here’s the dilemma–by creating deep red districts safe from even the remotest Democratic threat, the GOP has created a party image that places recapture of the Presidency pretty much out of reach.

The problem is that these “safe” districts tend to elect the most extreme partisans–the crazies that embarrass the national party and turn off reasonable voters. If polls are to be believed, their antics have come to characterize the party in the popular imagination. For Democrats, they are the gift that keeps on giving–supplying fodder for campaign ads,  endless discussions by the television punditry and blog posts. Their presence–and lack of vulnerability–undercuts the efforts of the few adults left in the party to move the GOP at least slightly back toward the middle. As we have seen repeatedly (Farm Bill, immigration), Boehner cannot control them. Why should they listen to party leadership? They’re invulnerable.

These Representatives from the reddest of red districts can thwart responsible legislative efforts. They can bring Congress to a halt. Like Kudzu, they are incredibly destructive. But–also like kudzu–that destruction is indiscriminate. To the consternation of the grown-ups, they have become the Republican brand.

I don’t know whether agronomists have finally found a herbicide that controls kudzu. But unless the GOP figures out how to extricate itself from the unintended consequences of its own gerrymandering, even expanded voter suppression efforts won’t win it back the Presidency.


  1. When I hear of Kudzu I wonder if there isn’t some lemonaid in there. Maybe that stuff could be the new fuel stock for ethanol. It seems to grow nicely on its own. Just a thought.

  2. It’s rather funny (odd) to think that the Republicans are upset about the status quo that is our democracy. They have set us up to fail, all of us, and yet they want to “take back” their country. They have let unregulated capitalism destroy the middle class of this country with union busting, tax lowering, pension busting and us-against-them taunting! We are living the GOP dream of every ‘man’ for themselves and yet they are too naive to see it. Shame on them!

    I want the old days back when you were offered a pension when you got hired and it was protected by laws that bound the company to pay them. I want to be able to work in a safe environment that doesn’t blow up a small village (TX) when the rules are not followed. I want to be able to be secure in my job when a manager isn’t treating me fairly (discrimination) and have some recourse and help to prove it and remove them when they don’t follow the rules. I want to be able to go downtown without packing heat to enjoy what the city offers and have police protection to arrest criminals.

    You can’t have a civilized society when all of these things are removed from the 99% that live in this country. I don’t understand why the conservatives are unhappy. They built this.

  3. “it was originally brought to the US south from Asia–thought to be a low-maintenance plant that could be used along highways–an attractive plant requiring less mowing and less expense.”

    …So, nobody bothered to research this plant in its natural environment to see how invasive it really is?
    … “Heck of a job brownie”

  4. And Mark, we have yet to learn our lesson (from Wikipedia).

    “Silver carp were imported to North America in the 1970s to control algae growth in aquaculture and municipal wastewater treatment facilities. They escaped from captivity soon after their importation. They are considered a highly invasive species. Silver carp, with the closely related bighead carp, often reach extremely high population densities, and are thought to have undesirable effects on the environment and native species.”

    Coming to a waterway near you SOON!
    Like to see? Google “jumping carp” and watch a video.

  5. Gerrymandered Kudzu. Sounds like something on a restaurant menu. At any rate, I understand that you can eat kudzu (if you have a creative bent in that direction), that it’s good as animal feed and other uses, but a few acres will provide all you might want to use.

    Maybe it’s about time we start calling that corrupting political process “kudzufication” so people will begin to understand how destructive it is. Introducing a representative as “our kudzufied respresentative”, people will get the idea that the person represents a highly selected group and is not to be construed as being representative of the people. Elected, yes. Representative, no.

  6. Perhaps elected officials that represent the Tea Party are …


  7. “jumping carp”

    …I’m very much aware of these Carp and their threat to Lake Michigan. Once there all the Great Lakes will be in trouble.

Comments are closed.