|Jan 31, 2013 - Issue 502|
If You Can’t Win Fair and Square, Cheat
By Larry Matthews
The Republican brand, as we are so often reminded these days, is tarnished to a point where even Republicans are worried. It is clear that most Americans reject the far right’s plans to tear down one hundred years of social progress by regressing into a semi-feudal system of a few haves telling millions of half-nots to stop whining and eat their gruel.
Logic would suggest that the proper response would be for the Republicans to examine their message and excise what isn’t selling at the polls. After all, If you are assuming that the Republicans are getting the message you would be wrong. Instead, they are going with the Lance Armstrong strategy. They want to cheat.
The GOP is excited about an idea that would, in effect, give the White House to the candidate who wins the most votes in the House of Representatives, now solidly in the hands of Republicans and likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future because of gerrymandering of Congressional districts.
Here’s now the scheme would work: Instead of giving a state’s Electoral College votes to the Presidential candidate who wins the most votes in the state, the Electoral College votes would be apportioned by Congressional districts. Win the district, win the vote. The idea has Republicans in Virginia so excited they’ve put it on the fast track. You can just see them smacking their foreheads and shouting, “Why didn’t we think of this earlier?”
According to the Washington Post, the scheme would have given President Obama only two of the state’s thirteen electoral votes last November. Under the current system, he won them all. That’s because Virginia’s Congressional delegation is mostly Republican. That, in turn, is due to the gerrymandering of Congressional districts into “safe” seats for the party in power. This isn’t a problem unique to Virginia. Nearly every state legislature uses Census numbers to create districts that reflect current party power, Republican or Democrat.
And Virginia isn’t the first state to attempt to gerrymander the Electoral College. Maine and Nebraska already have such systems. Supporters claim it is “fairer” because it gives less populated areas a bigger role in choosing the President. In Virginia, for instance, the densely populated Washington suburbs went for Obama while the rural areas supported Romney. In a sense, this issue was resolved by the Supreme Court in the 1960s in its “One man, one vote,” ruling that population was more important than geography in apportioning Congressional seats. This new scheme will test that.
By the way, a casual observation shows that the faces of those who are supporting this plan are white, male, and straight (it appears). Not one of them is saying the plan is designed to benefit the black, the poor, the disadvantaged.
If this latest attempt by Republicans to turn Presidential elections into 435 individual races for the White House succeeds, it will change the political dynamic of the entire nation. The bitter divisions we see between red and blue states will turn into political battles within states and that will likely produce ever more radical positions on both sides.
The Republican plan is, simply, a scheme to steal the country from voters by rigging elections. They’ve learned that they can’t win with their message, so they’ll game the system and see how that works for them. The legendary House Speaker Tip O’Neil’s observation that “All politics is local” is even truer today than it was when he said it decades back. What is happening down the block and in the State House will determine the future of America.
Don’t let them get away with it. Call, phone, raise hell.
Guest Commentator, Larry Matthews, is a veteran broadcast journalist.
He is the recipient of The George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence
in Broadcast for his reporting on Vietnam veterans. He is also the
recipient of a Columbia/DuPont Citation, Society of Professional
Journalists, Associated Press, and other awards for investigative
reporting. He is the author of five books including, I Used To Be In Radio: a Memoir. Click here to reach Mr. Matthews.