Friday, January 25, 2013

Democratic Efforts In Texas Won't Make Up For The GOP's Plans For A Sweeping Effort To Steal The Electoral College


Were you giggling Wednesday when he said "If I was president...?" It's not a laughing matter

One of Blue America's biggest victories in the 2012 cycle was seeing Beto O'Rourke oust corrupt, conservative Democratic barnacle Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary in Texas and then go on to win a landslide (65.5%) victory in November to become a new congressman from El Paso. There are 5 Democratic freshmen from Texas this year. Besides Beto's big win, Charlie Gonzalez retired and was replaced by New Dem Joaquin Castro, another landslide (64%); Blue Dog Pete Gallego edged Republican incumbent Quico Conseco 50.3-45.5%; and two newly created seats also yielded Democratic landslides, one for Marc Veasey (72.5%) and one for New Dem Filemon Vela (62.2%). You probably read about the Democratic Party's new plans to turn Texas blue-- or at least purple. Texas is now a minority majority state, only 45% of the people there being non-Hispanic whites.
But the Democratic infrastructure in Texas has decayed over two decades of GOP ascendancy. Congressional and legislative redistricting has undercut the party’s efforts to rebuild there. Republicans control every statewide office, and Obama lost to Mitt Romney in the state by 16 points in November. No exit poll was taken in Texas last November, but Latinos have typically made up a smaller share of the electorate than the overall population.

Still, Democrats buoyed by the breadth of their 2012 victories are looking to Texas as a political holy grail: a prize so spectacular that it might just be worth a big, sustained investment of money and energy. If state and national party leaders committed the time and almost presidential-level resources required, the thinking goes, the most important cornerstone of the GOP’s electoral map could become competitive.

...Democratic Houston Mayor Annise Parker said her party couldn’t afford to wait passively for population change to turn Texas blue. Instead, they should dig in for a longer, harder campaign to make it a swing state.

“We have been waiting in Texas for a very long time for the Latino vote to come into its own and turn the tide. But many of us have decided that we can’t wait for that. We have to do the old-fashioned work of going out and talking to Texans,” said Parker, who didn’t rule out a statewide campaign “when I am done [being] mayor.”

“Do I think we’re going to turn Texas in two years? Probably not. Do I think we can turn Texas in four years? Absolutely, because I think the Republican Party in Texas is going to drive itself off a cliff,” Parker said. “You hear Republicans with rhetoric, literally talking about the jack-booted thugs coming and taking guns out of people’s homes, going door to door. You have legislators who will file, once again, virulently anti-immigrant legislation in the state House.”

Any new national group aimed at building up Texas Democrats would join a small but significant array of in-state organizations developing progressive infrastructure. In addition to the Lone Star Project and the germinal Battleground Texas effort, strategists pointed to the group Be One Texas as a significant player in their comeback effort.

...Republicans have consistently scoffed at Democratic attempts to woo the Texas electorate-- and with some cause. As strategists in both parties see it, national Democrats periodically find themselves gripped with excitement about competing there, only to find that the state is too big, too expensive and too culturally conservative for them to pull it off.

The party fielded a strong candidate for governor in 2010, former Houston Mayor Bill White, only to see him lose by 13 points to incumbent Gov. Rick Perry. Two years later, Democrats recruited retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez into the open-seat Senate race, presenting him as a candidate who could appeal to conservative voters and energize Latinos. Sanchez withdrew several months later after raising a paltry sum for the race.

From the deeply skeptical Republican perspective, Democratic hopes for flipping Texas-- even over the medium to long term-- recall the GOP’s short-lived aspirations to compete in California at the height of George W. Bush’s popularity.

Republican strategist Dave Carney, who has worked extensively in Texas and steered Perry’s 2010 reelection, dismissed mocked Democratic claims that a brand-new voter mobilization project would help transform the state. He called it a matter of “consultants coming up with a project to get paid.”
But the Republican Party isn't sitting around and waiting for the Democrats to fail in Texas. They're making their own moves for an electoral game-changer in several blue and purple states-- particularly Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Michigan, Florida... gerrymandering the electoral college, the way they've gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts.

The electoral college was conceived by conservatives to put a check on the efforts of populists to use democracy to remake the country and infuse it with a spirit of equality. The electoral college was conceived as a way to thwart the will of the popular vote; period. It has no other function. And the GOP is looking to build on that anti-democracy spirit now.
The idea is to get state legislatures to change the way they allocate electoral votes. Instead of a winner-take-all scheme, which most states use, they want to institute a system where votes could be split between candidates. Now, on face, that might not seem so bad. It would mean that very Republican areas in very Democratic states-- think Orange County, California-- and very Democratic areas in Republican states-- think Austin, Texas-- wouldn't be essentially throwing their presidential votes away.

Certainly, there are longstanding critiques of the Electoral College. Recently they've mostly come from the left. The 2000 election, in which Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote, was a galvanizing moment. And there are plans to try to rectify the oddness of the Electoral College. For example, the National Popular Vote plan is a push to get states to sign on to a scheme in which they'd award all their electors to the winner of the most votes nationwide. The plan would only take effect once states representing at least half of the electoral votes have joined, guaranteeing its effectiveness.

So this GOP plan is a smart move, driven by politics but with a result that would better reflect the will of the majority, right? Not quite. Here's the twist: The proposal would award electoral votes based on who wins Congressional districts. (That's already how Maine and Nebraska work, but the two states only account for nine of the 538 total electoral votes.)

From a Republican perspective, this is genius, but it's evil genius. It would allow the party to gain electoral votes in swing states and near swing states like Ohio, Colorado, and Michigan that went for Obama in the last two elections but have large Republican constituencies. But you may also recall that the GOP maintained its majority in the House in November but actually won fewer votes than Democrats did in congressional elections overall. This is because the GOP has been extremely effective at gerrymandering House districts. One reason the 2010 election mattered so much is that the Tea Party wave handed control of redistricting after the 2010 Census to Republican-led legislatures in many states. And they didn't waste the opportunity. Now the lines won't be redrawn again until after the next census, in 2020. For more on this, read Robert Draper's story from the October issue of The Atlantic.

At the Washington Post, Aaron Blake shows how destabilizing these vote-allocation proposals could be to the status quo.
In fact, if every state awarded its electoral votes by congressional district, it's likely that Mitt Romney would have won the 2012 presidential election despite losing the popular vote by nearly four percentage points. (According to Fix projections and data from Daily Kos Elections, Romney won at least 227 congressional districts and 24 states, giving him 275 electoral votes-- more than the 270 he needed.)

In addition, if just the five states mentioned above changed their systems, Obama's 126-electoral-vote win would have shrunk to a 34-vote win-- close enough where a different result in Florida (which Obama won by less than one point) would have tipped the 2012 race in Romney's favor.
...[T]he plan would disenfranchise voters. Which ones? Mostly the minority ones in cities who helped Obama win this year. Most urban districts are going to vote Democratic, and most rural ones will go Republican. But if votes are quarantined in a single Congressional district, it doesn't matter if the turnout in a city is 50 percent, 70 percent, or 100 percent; there's only one electoral vote on the table, plus the two at-large electoral votes. This takes almost all the venom out of the formidable Democratic get-out-the-vote operation.

There's a certain nihilism here. One of the major storylines of the 2012 election was voter-ID laws and voting hours. While ostensibly formulated to stop voter fraud, there wasn't much voter fraud to stop, and the changed hours tended to affect mostly poorer and urban (and therefore Democratic) voters. In some cases, Republican officials put the changes in starkly honest ways. A Pennsylvania legislator said a voter-ID law would help Mitt Romney win the state (he was wrong), while an Ohio official said voting hours shouldn't be shaped to accommodate the "urban-- read African-American-- voter-turnout machine." For a variety of reasons, however, these pushes didn't work: courts struck down some laws, and voters were willing to wait in long lines to cast their ballots.

But hey, if disenfranchisement didn't work once, just try it again, right? It's not like the GOP's standing with minority and urban voters can get much worse.

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At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, while it's true that Romney would have won, if ALL the states split their electoral college votes, they aren't going to put GA in play by splitting the vote in GA or TX.

2. Obama would still have won if the GOP scheme to flip WI, PA and a few other blue states where they control the legislature were in effect.

3. This nefarious plan is already being criticized by some Republicans like Haley Barbour. Of course they could all be told to shut up and get in line by Rush Limbaugh, but it's going to generate MASSIVE bad publicity for anybody who tries this.

This is NOT like attacking unions in WI or MI where an entire generation of propaganda has convinced millions of working class whites that "Unions = giving my money to illegals."

This is direct vote stealing, nothing more. It's going to piss a lot of people off.

Could they get away with it in a few states? Possibly, but it's going to generate a backlash against any Governor who tries it. And it certainly won't help any Republican win statewide office in a state where Obama won a majority.

Take Colorado for example: GOP chances of pulling something like this off here are ZERO. They have to control both the governorship AND both houses of the legislature and they don't control any of these.

They MIGHT be able to do this in WI. I question whether they will dare try it in MI. PA they seem crazy enough to try it, but it will cost them.

Remember that Republicans in blue states depend on winning support from conservative Democrats and independents who will be offended by naked power grabs (aimed at them).

It looks from the wave of negative publicity, and Republicans backing off and not wanting to be associated with these ideas, like this entire effort is going to come unglued before it even gets rolling.

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, when I was a young man growing up there was a lot of talk about the one man one vote principle. It seems this should be the basis for all elections.

Even the supreme Court should be able to figure this out. Created equal, not gerrymandered.


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