Blowback Working on GOP's Latest Vote-Rigging Scheme

We first heard about the Republican Party's (or maybe the Koch brothers' or ALEC's — it's hard to tell where these bad ideas are born) scheme for rigging presidential elections in Ohio when it slipped out of Jon Husted's mouth at a forum held immediately after the election last November.

He mentioned the possibility of a new way of allocating electoral college votes. Rather than giving them to the winner of the popular vote in the state, he said, maybe they could be allocated to the winner of each congressional district.

Needless to say, with Ohio gerrymandered to give Republicans 12 winning districts and Democrats only four, this would have given Mitt Romney — who lost the popular vote in Ohio — a majority of the state's vote. The scheme was also being discussed in Pennsylvania. If only a handful of other gerrymandered swing states joined them, Romney would have been president, despite losing the popular vote by nearly five million votes (By comparison, George Bush lost to Al Gore in 2000 by only about 10% of that margin).

But when Husted's remarks surfaced and got some negative attention, he quickly backtracked and said he wasn't actually saying this SHOULD be done, just throwing out some random ideas. Sure, whatever. He made two things clear: this idea WAS being bandied around Republican circles, and it IS toxic.

This week the idea reared its head in Virginia when it was introduced into the legislature. Virginia's another state that President Obama carried in the last two elections, thanks to the rapid bluing of its northern section. This week, some Republicans whined that it was unfair (boo hoo) that parts of the state that were more densely populated were always able to outvote the more rural areas because there were MORE PEOPLE there. So every rural/small town person should have their vote count for twice as much.

One Republican in the Virginia legislature did, to his credit, oppose this. But having the idea actually on the table and having its supporters making blatantly undemocratic and racist arguments in support of it attracted a LOT of attention. Now another Virginia legislator and the state's extremist right-wing governor Bob McDonnell have said they oppose it, effectively killing it there. For now.

I've seen some posts online at progressive websites wailing "We're doooooomed!" Bullshit. We are not doomed — as long as we keep the pressure on.

It's also tempting to some to dismiss this scheme because it's such a radical attempt to blow up democracy in this country that it's revolutionary. It would essentially end the influence of voting on presidential elections. It's really astonishing that the GOP has devolved to this point — territory that would have been occupied only by a tiny, extreme, right-wing party a mere decade ago. "Brazen" doesn't even begin to describe it.

But if we push back hard, we can make that obvious. It isn't hard for most people to understand how staggering it would be to inaugurate a president who had LOST the popular vote by five million votes.

There's something positive to take away from this though. It's possible to look at this as the last stand of the desperate. Last year, the Republicans rolled out two big weapons to rig the election: a tsunami of secret billionaire money deployed in service of lies and voter suppression. Both backfired.

Some Republicans are rightly pointing out that their party's problem is that most people don't agree with their ideas. The other day I quoted Republican congressman from Michigan Justin Amash, who said, "The public is not behind us, and that’s a real problem for our party." And some rightwing evangelicals have flat out said they've lost the support of the American public. Of course they're not blaming the fact that they have crappy ideas; they're just saying society doesn't have enough Jesus.

Meanwhile, Louisiana governor Piyush Jindal called out the party at a meeting of the Republican National Committee, saying,

“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.

Of course, he's also saying that the problem isn't the party's core values but how they express them. The real problem is that those Republicans saying those damaging things were simply laying our for all to see the ACTUAL Republican agenda. And they don't feel the need to change that. Republican leaders like RNC chair Reince Priebus talk about more inclusion, better outreach and more effective voter contact, but if you have to hide your agenda to appeal to voters, you probably know deep in your heart that none of that will be effective.

Only a desperate party, bereft of any ideas that make lives better and benefit the greater good, would propose an idea that would assure their victory despite electoral defeat. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Today's Republican Party.

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