January 25, 2013 5:58 AM

Republican ethics: If you can't beat 'em, cheat 'em

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained how Virginia Republicans planned to set up the presidential election system in favor of the GOP…. “We have been documenting over the last few days what appears to be a coordinated effort by Republicans in a number of key states to change the rules for electing a president,” she said. “To change the rules so essentially Democrats running for president cannot win.”…. Republican lawmakers in the state are advancing legislation to replace the current winner-takes-all system with one that allocates electoral college votes based on the winner of each congressional district. The bill would ensure Republican presidents pick up electoral college votes from rural, conservative districts. Combined with the latest gerrymandered electoral maps that were pushed through the state Senate, the proposed changes would virtually guarantee that Republican presidents obtain a majority of electoral votes from the state, even if they receive less votes.

If you’re like me, you grew up being taught that cheaters never prosper. I was taught that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to be willing to do the hard work of doing things the right way. If you took shortcuts, if you cheated, how would you be able to look yourself in the mirror and feel good about what you’ve “accomplished?”

Evidently, a growing number of Republicans are no longer encumbered by things like ethics, honesty, integrity, or conscience. In states that voted Democratic in the Presidential election but whose legislature and state house are dominated by Republicans, there’s a growing movement to fix the process of allocating electoral college votes. By “fix,” I don’t mean repair of make things better. I mean that Republicans are increasingly looking for ways to game the system to ensure that Republican candidates have a decided advantage. IF they get their way, it’ll become much easier for a Republican candidate to win the electoral college while garnering fewer popular votes.

Gerrymandering is a practice as old as the Republic. The art and science of drawing Congressional districts in states is something the party in power has used to their advantage since politicians learned how to draw. Both parties have done it, and both parties continue to do it; I’m not about to argue that aspect of our political history. The practice is as reprehensible as it can be comical, but to the victors go the spoils…and it’s no small consideration. By “properly” configuring Congressional districts, the party in power can ensure they maximize the seats they can win come election time. Gerrymandering works, and while some view it as cheating, both parties have availed themselves of the tactic, so I think we can safely call it a wash.

It’s not exactly a stretch to be able to discern between gerrymandering and just plain cold-blooded cheating.

Dave Weigel had a terrific report…on the efforts of Virginia Republicans, noting that if the preferred GOP system had been in place last year, President Obama would have defeated Mitt Romney by 150,000 votes, but when it came time to distribute electoral votes, Romney would have won nine votes to Obama’s four. Or put another way, the Democrat would win 51% of the popular vote, but 30% of the electoral-college vote. It is, quite obviously, a plan “designed to disenfranchise Democrats,” Weigel concluded.

And there in lie the “If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em” problem. Republicans, having evidently determined that they can no longer win at the ballot box, are gearing up to game the system and rewrite the rules so that they essentially win no matter what the vote totals say.

It’s no exaggeration to call this cheating, because that’s exactly what Republicans are trying to do.

Jamelle Bouie highlighted a detail that would be hilarious were it not so offensive: the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Charles W. “Bill” Carrico, “says the change is necessary because Virginia’s urbanized areas can outvote rural regions, weakening their political strength.” Got that? Virginia Republicans feel the need to rig democracy in their favor because they think it’s unfair that there are more Democratic voters — so the GOP needs to level the playing field.

Eric Kleefeld added…”The openly stated goal of GOP electoral bills is to win while getting fewer votes. Think about that.”

Indeed. When I think about it, I find it difficult not to be furious. That a political party- ANY party- would pass laws to make it far easier for them to win elections (including, quite possibly, the Presidency) is reprehensible.

Currently, this strategy…or at least the germination of it…appears to be focused on six states. These states went for Obama, but their legislatures and state houses are dominated by Republicans, in part because of previous gerrymandering.

This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s not “red” or “blue”. It’s about a party desperate for power and willing to do anything, including thwarting democracy, in order to achieve and maintain that power. It’s a Machiavellian view of politics: the ends justifies the means, because the only thing that truly matters is winning. In the final analysis, honesty and integrity are for losers and Liberals.

This is the sort of election-rigging and voter nullification that we might have expected from Huey Long’s Louisiana, not from a country where every political move is parsed and analyzed to the nth degree. Americans deserve to know that their vote counts, that their voice will be heard. We shouldn’t have to wonder if the fix is in even before we step into the voting booth (or, here in Oregon, mail our ballot).

It’s difficult not to consider what’s happening without wondering how and when the GOP became so thoroughly corrupt, cynical, and dishonest. When did Republicans determine that, instead of doing the hard work and heavy lifting of selling the program to voters, it would be easier to simply lie and cheat their way to power? That’s not democracy, and it’s not American. When you get right down to it, though, the ONLY thing Republicans appear to care about is seizing and maintaining power…by any means necessary. If that means lying, cheating, and/or stealing, so be it.

WE DESERVE BETTER…but we won’t get it until we stand up and demand that Republicans AND Democrats conduct elections with something at least reasonably approximating honesty and integrity.

Memo to Republicans: Remember, if you start cheating now, you can’t claim to be surprised, nor will you be allowed to claim the moral high ground, if the tables are turned on you…as they inevitably will be at some point. Turnabout may not be right, and two wrongs may not rectify the situation, but it WILL come back around on you should you choose this path. Choose your path wisely.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on January 25, 2013 5:58 AM.

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