The big news since the election is that the results revealed the Republican Party is now at a disadvantage given its inability to win over key, growing demographics that gave Barack Obama a clear-cut victory in November. So what does the party do? Expand its tent? Try and attract more moderates, blacks, gays, women, Latinos, Asians? Nope. According to the National Journal it will make a big push in states where the GOP is in control to change the way electoral college votes are allocated — wiping out decades of the way our political system has operated:
Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office.
Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.
The irony is that GOPers on talk radio and on blogs constantly talk about Obama’s “Chicago politics.” In reality, we’ve seen little of the somewhat sleazy, legendary political power plays that “Chicago politics” entails from the Obama camp — or at least nothing that measures up to this. This would, however, be in keeping with the GOP’s virtual political coup in Michigan, the lightning strike successful move to disembowel organized labor, as well as efforts at what post-election analyses now almost universally acknowledge were blatant voter suppression in key states where GOPers had governors and strong legislative majorities.
So if voter suppression doesn’t work, what better way than to use your power to ram through a change in the way the political system has traditionally operated in the most parts U.S.? Not to say there aren’t a few exceptions:
Already, two states — Maine and Nebraska — award an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. The candidate who wins the most votes statewide takes the final two at-large electoral votes. Only once, when President Obama won a congressional district based in Omaha in 2008, has either of those states actually split their vote.
But if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.
All three states have given the Democratic nominee their electoral votes in each of the last six presidential elections. Now, senior Republicans in Washington are overseeing legislation in all three states to end the winner-take-all system.
Obama won all three states in 2008, handing him 46 electoral votes because of the winner-take-all system. Had electoral votes been awarded by district, Republican nominee Mitt Romney would have cut into that lead. Final election results show that Romney won nine of Michigan’s 14 districts, five of eight in Wisconsin, and at least 12 of 18 in Pennsylvania. Allocate the two statewide votes in each state to Obama and that means Romney would have emerged from those three Democratic states with 26 electoral votes, compared with just 19 for Obama (and one district where votes are still being counted).
Republicans are able to contemplate such a bold plan because of their electoral success in 2010, when the party won control of state legislative chambers and the governorships in all three states, giving them total control over the levers of state government.
“If you did the calculation, you’d see a massive shift of electoral votes in states that are blue and fully [in] red control,” said one senior Republican taking an active role in pushing the proposal. “There’s no kind of autopsy and outreach that can grab us those electoral votes that quickly.”
I’m betting as these efforts begin a)Republicans will continue to lose more moderates, b)these efforts will again cause a major mobilization on the part of the Democrats and the growing demographic groups that support them, c)these efforts will further hurt the image of the Republican Party that seemingly can’t play by the rules that parties have played for by years but have to turn to voter suppression and changing the rules of the system.
Question: the Dems see this coming now.
Are they prepared to deal with it?
UPDATE: Booman writes:
The Democrats cannot retaliate in kind, but I imagine that we will go ballistic. It’s a very desperate move that acknowledges openly that the GOP no longer believes that they can remain a conservative party and win the White House unless they change the rules. And they would rather stay conservative than adapt or evolve to meet changing circumstances. I predicted that the GOP would make this move back on December 4th.
It still is not certain that they will succeed in their plans. The Pennsylvania GOP wanted to change the rules for the 2012 election but discovered massive resistance in their own ranks. From my understanding, safe members didn’t want Obama campaigning in their districts. If you remember the competition between Obama and Hillary Clinton, you know that Team Obama is very good at competing on a district level. But changing the rules will benefit future Republican candidates in a massive way.
There will be a huge backlash if the GOP attempts this, but they must think they no longer have any choice. They don’t want to change, so they will change the rules instead.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.