A new story in The New York Times brings us to Mesquite, Texas, where House Republican Lance Gooden is getting dinged by his constituents for opposing military aid to Ukraine. The reason is simple: Mesquite is the winning site for a new General Dynamics ammunition factory, which will boost 155 mm artillery shell production to replenish military stockpiles as the U.S. sends tremendous amounts of ordnance to Ukraine's front-lines. By demanding an immediate end to that aid, Gooden is thumbing his nose at a good chunk of new manufacturing jobs that city leaders fought hard for.
“I would love for them to talk about, ‘Hey, this will create manufacturing jobs in the U.S., this will create advanced manufacturing jobs in the U.S.,” Alexander Helgar, the president of the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview in his office. Lawmakers who oppose continued aid to Kyiv are effectively “voting against your constituents, at that point,” he said. “You’re literally saying no to the people you’re representing.”
An evergreen complaint about The New York Times is the evasiveness its reporters bring to covering anything with a political angle to it, which in the Times' estimation appears to consist of everything, everywhere. But this is a good example of a story that details a complicated, vaguely uncomfortable situation where nobody is exactly right or wrong. Or, for that matter, particularly concerned with being right or wrong.
But points need to be deducted for also including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as an example of a House Republican who's brushing off his own district's defense contracting dependence to instead insist that his constituents have "great concerns" about whatever Jim Jordan says they have "great concerns" about. Look, Jim Jordan has never once given a damn about his constituents—not at the Lima Army Tank Plant, or in the locker room showers of state universities. Giving him an opportunity to projectile vomit another hack line about "East Palestine and Maui" is unnecessary. Always ignore Jim Jordan.
Back to Mesquite, though, what's perhaps most interesting is how utterly rote all of it is. The city has been pushing to expand its manufacturing base because that's what cities do; the congresscritter they sent to Washington doesn't appear to particularly care what his constituents want, now that he's won election and doesn't need to pretend to, going so far as to simply blow off the Times' repeated requests for comment. Whether anyone in town cares about Ukraine in the slightest is inconsequential, because the only important part is snagging a small thread of the military-industrial complex for the benefit of the local economy.
To a large extent, the fate of post-Soviet-era Europe might depend on the butterfly effects of whether Gooden's constituents can convince him to stop sabotaging their new 125-employee defense plant, along with the relative motivation levels of a good number of similarly placed House Republicans. And that really ought to make all of us quite uncomfortable, since we all wander around pretending to have higher principles than, "Yeah, but whose town will the bullets get made in?"
There's also a certain risk to Mesquite's new courted industry that everyone involved is mostly dodging. There aren't a lot of sentences in the English language that are as fraught as, "Hey, let's put a new ammunition factory in Texas, a state notorious for lax industry regulation, and let's put it in a Dallas suburb because why not."
Mmm-hmm. Then there's the more-or-less structural problem, which is mentioned in the article: A military ammunition factory is dependent on federal appropriations battles. Whether this plant employs 100 workers or 200 workers or zero workers depends entirely on each and every appropriations fight that goes through Congress, during a time when House Republicans have reliably decided that every last government funding bill needs to be a knock-down, drag-out fight that may or may not include shutting down the government while they all make speeches and pretend to give a damn about places like "East Palestine and Maui."
The article is worth a read. It's a good reminder of how horrifyingly picayune these things always boil down to be, even while House and Senate members make grand speeches and pretend to have principles. Gooden's not interested in explaining his attempt to sabotage his own district. Mesquite isn't making any larger point about the military-industrial complex other than gimme some, please. And it feels like the Times will be back here in five years to tell us how everything ended up sideways, anyway.
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