The Thinker

Republicans keep proving they are shameless

It’s clear that Republicans have learned a few things from the 2012 election after all. First, they cannot win at the ballot box, at least not unless they change their policies a whole lot so they can attract moderates, which they seem unable to do for ideological reasons. Second, they have finally looked at demographic trends and have realized that their party is likely in permanent decline. Having pondered these problems the Republican Party has decided to do more of what they excel at: stacking the cards so even if they lose the popular vote, they still win. It’s the Animal Farm strategy: that votes are equal, but some are more equal than others. Only this time, it will be the law.

Republicans want their votes to count more than Democratic votes.  In the 2012 election, their attempt to move the odds in their favor consisted mostly of intimidating voter ID laws. There were also the usual illegal robocalls designed to confuse minorities about voting and insufficient voting machines at minority precincts, leading to long lines. Those efforts proved largely counterproductive. Perhaps out of spite, minorities waited in lines to vote, sometimes for hours to cast their votes.

The latest effort is to create laws in swing states controlled by Republicans to apportion their electoral votes based on who wins the majority of votes in a congressional district. With the exception of two states (Nebraska and Maine), electoral votes are awarded on a winner take all system. However, if Republicans control a state legislature, they already have congressional districts that are gerrymandered so that Republicans are likely to win most of the House seats. It’s logical to assume that if a Republican represents a congressional district, a majority of its voters will also vote for a Republican for president.

President Obama won 51% of the votes in the swing state of Virginia (where I live) and received all of the state’s 13 electoral votes, 11 for its congressional districts and two for its senators. However based on this analysis, if the candidate who won the majority of the electoral votes for the congressional district got one electoral vote, 7 out of the 11 electoral votes in Virginia would have gone to Mitt Romney. It’s unclear how the two votes for its senators would go under this proposal endorsed by the Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, but with the Virginia legislature firmly in Republican control, it’s likely they would have gone for Romney, meaning that 9 out of 13 electoral votes (69%) would have gone for Romney even though he received just 47% of the vote statewide.

As you can guess, various groups have crunched the numbers. Had swing states had their electoral votes proportioned this way, Mitt Romney would now be president, even though he received just 47% of the popular vote, 4% less than Barack Obama. In short, some votes (Republican votes) would be “more equal” than Democratic votes.

Currently, each state decides how they will award electoral votes. Almost all states use the “winner take all” system. The advantage of this system is that it makes the Electoral College results decisive. With a few exceptions in very tight elections (such as the 2000 election) the winner of the popular vote wins the electoral vote. Of course, the electoral vote is the one that matters. In those exceptions the popular vote mismatch has been very close. In 2000, for example, Gore won the popular vote by .5% but lost the Electoral College vote by just five electoral votes. As we know, the Supreme Court decided this election in Bush v. Gore. The court chose to honor the state of Florida’s dubious certification of its election results.

Most normal people would look at this as a blatant attempt to stack the presidential race in favor of the Republican candidate. Doubtless this is also the intent of the Republican Party, since the proposal is to do this only in swing states where Republicans control the state legislature. The obvious conclusion is that the Republican Party is antidemocratic. In the past, their actions (insufficient voting machines in minority precincts and onerous voter ID laws) were masqueraded. This proposal simply cannot be mistaken for anything other than a blatant attempt when choosing the President of the United States to have Republican votes count more than Democratic votes.

It is a shameless new low for the Republican Party, which cannot win elections using a set of fair rules. It is a tacit admission that they know their party is in permanent decline and that they see the only way to prevent it is to give them disproportionate political power.

One would hope that a case before the Supreme Court would result in a decision to order a level national playing field for allocating electoral votes based on one man, one vote. But most likely the Supreme Court would defer to law and the constitution, which gives states discretion in rules for awarding electoral votes and drawing congressional districts.

Since there are no swing states controlled by Democratic legislatures, Democrats cannot try the same approach, as it will diminish the electoral votes for Democratic candidates. (I seriously doubt it would occur to Democrats, as the principle of one man, one vote is part of our DNA.) So unless the Republican Party can be shamed into abandoning this approach, it is in their short-term interest. If a president actually won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote by four percent my guess is the political cost would be very high indeed. Democracy works on the consent of the governed, and it’s hard to imagine that a majority would agree that the will of the majority should be permanently disenfranchised.

The solution to this mess is simply to elect a president based on the national popular vote. This would require a constitutional amendment that even if it got through Congress would be unlikely to be passed by the states.

This whole proposal is so unbelievably antidemocratic, fractious and audacious that you would think no party in their right mind would propose it. But then, I am not a Republican. I still feel shame.

 

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