It's not news to this community that the Republicans are endeavoring to disenfranchise millions of Americans by changing the rules of the game in a way which will increase the chances that they will win the presidency even if they lose the popular vote. Prestigious newspapers and periodicals are beginning to pick up the story. The Washington Post carries today a story about the initiative; it is the lead story on The Post website. The Atlantic has an article called How to Win States and Disenfranchise People: The GOP's Electoral-Vote Plan. Mother Jones has a piece out this morning about the scam. (Q-Tip will be interested in the Mother Jones story which argues Republican efforts might lead to enactment of the the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.)
When you think about the Republicans' efforts, there are actually a couple of things which are underfoot here, and we need to be careful to attend to both of them:
1. One, of course, is the raw power grab--the nitty-gritty of passing legislation and getting a governor to sign it. These efforts to create the groundwork for a legal coup d'état are of course essential to the success of the Republican strategy.
2. The second thing here is an effort to describe the "fairness" of what the Republicans are doing. This is the public relations aspect of it.
As we attend to point one, I think we need to keep a keen eye on point two. A Republican effort to "normalize" what they are doing is underway.
The story in today's Post which I linked above has some interesting quotes. Virginia Commonwealth Senator Charles W. Carrico, Sr., the sponsor of the Virginia electoral vote scam, argues:
The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them.Comments at The Post blog include points like, ""Are you saying all the other citizens must shut up and let the 'winners' take over?" and, "So many hateful comments about the GOP as if the Democrats have never attempted to take away any rights from the voters." An article at NBC Chicago's Ward Room quotes a blogger at Free Republic as saying:
This is a great idea for Ohio. There is far too much clout in the major metro areas (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton), and all of that clout is on the side of the socialists, voted by the entitlement class. Proportional allotment would be a great way to get some voice back to the conservative districts.In other words, the attempt to rig the Electoral College is fair because more voters live in cities than in rural communities, and in any event, whatever unfair things the Republicans do, the Democrats do. I suppose we could get lost in arguments about how unfair it is that urban places in Republican states don't get a voice in their state's allocation of electoral votes, but that would be a confusing message nationally.
The fact of the matter is that not every Republican is endorsing this activity. The Republican Speaker of the Florida House says in today's Miami Herald:
To me, that's like saying in a football game, "We should have only three quarters, because we were winning after three quarters and the beat us in the fourth." I don't think we need to change the rules of the game, I think we need to get better.And GOPUSA cautions that the Republican effort to cheat the Party's way into the White House could backfire.
Yes, indeed it could, and will, if we play our cards right. Let's make sure this power grab paints with a wide brush all Republicans as anti-democratic (notice the small d). The current overreach by the Nuttiest Wing of the Republican Party actually could be a huge PR boon for the Democratic Party if Democrats were to launch a major advertising campaign that explains what all of the Republicans are doing in clear and unambiguous terms.
What if Bill Clinton were to make some commercials which the Party broadcast throughout the country (but carefully tailoring several messages to the affected states). Bill Clinton, or an announcer, could explain in very simple and persuasive ways what the Republicans are attempting to do. When the people understand it, they will be appalled. We just have to get the message out in a simple way that appeals to the culturally enshrined American value of basic fairness.
A carefully crafted and carefully orchestrated campaign might have beneficial outcomes for the Democratic Party. For example, it might be a means to increase Democratic turnout in states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio in the mid-terms, throw Republican officials out of office, and increase the numbers of Democratic governors and state legislatures.
If we do this right, not only can we prevent this overreaching, but we could further advance the cause of progressive values in America through greater representation of Democrats in state governments.
11:58 AM PT: The Atlantic just posted a story that Jordan Gehrke, a D.C.-based strategist who's worked on presidential and Senate campaigns, is teaming up with Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Republican secretary of state, to try to push the scam in 50 states. They won't comment on where they're starting.