In the immediate hangover of the Bush/Cheney administration, I used to ask people, “What was one thing Bush got right?”
Some argued that the war in Afghanistan — up until bin Laden was allowed to escape at Tora Bora — made sense. Others said a Medicare prescription drug benefit was necessary — it just should have been funded and designed to negotiate for the best prices. A few said that Bush accidentally made it possible for President Obama and huge Democratic majorities to end the Iraq War, pass health care reform, end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…
The best answer I heard praised the work Bush led to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa as the one “right” thing he did. Last year, President Clinton mentioned this work fondly, becoming the only primetime speaker at either of last year’s national conventions to openly praise W.
The question of what Republicans have gotten right since Bush left office is an even bigger brainteaser. It’s even harder than trying to figure out where the periods go in one of Sarah Palin’s sentences.
The GOP was dead wrong in its opposition to the stimulus, which anyone with even a trace of honesty in their being has to admit stopped our layoff crisis and placed a bottom from which our slow economy began. Dead wrong in asserting that the actions the president and the Fed took to save jobs would lead to hyperinflation. Dead wrong in pushing the cuts on the state and local level that killed good jobs when we needed them most.
And they created their own reality where a president who slowed the growth of government spending to its lowest point in nearly 50 years and cut the deficit at the fastest pace since World World II was charged with being a big spender.
The only thing Republicans did get right was strategic. In the 2010 midterm elections, they successfully used dark money to blame President Obama for the trillion-dollar deficit and economy he inherited. They then took the opportunity that landslide in the House and state houses gave them to redraw the congressional map in a way that created a majority that lasts even as they received a million fewer votes than Democrats.
It wasn’t until after the 2012 election that most people recognized how the GOP had gamed the system. But Republicans were well aware of what Karl Rove and their other practitioners of the dark arts had done. It gave them the confidence to vote to privatize Social Security and Medicare while gutting Medicaid and education, extremely unpopular stands.
In 2011, Republicans in Michigan – a blue state that elected huge Republican majorities in 2010 – explored using their redistricted map to ensure Mitt Romney would get a majority of the state’s 14 electoral votes.
Why didn’t they do it? Michigan state rep Pete Lund said, “There were people convinced Romney was going to win and this might take [electoral] votes from him.”
They thought Romney was going to win Michigan, which he lost by 9.5 percent – or they would have cheated.
This admission is staggeringly important as the GOP — with some exceptions — goes forward with the plan to swipe the presidency the way they swiped the House. The only reason Republicans would even consider this plan is because they can’t imagine winning any other way.
In Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – blue states for decades that have Republican governors and legislatures thanks to the chicanery of 2010 – Republicans are admitting that they’ve given up any hopes of winning by garnering the votes of a majority the state’s voters. Instead, they’re using their perverse redistricting to make the votes of urban blue districts count less. Tellingly, this plan would have given President Obama credit for three-fifths of the votes he won in Virginia.
Republicans are calling the idea that the GOP is trying to steal the election a conspiracy theory only supported by fringe figures – fringe figures like the chairman of the national Republican Party?
In Wisconsin and Michigan, two controversial Republican governors elected in 2010 — who have studiously enacted an agenda shaped by the billionaires who helped fund the GOP’s redistricting scam — have both basically said the same about the scheme. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker said it sounded “interesting.” Michigan’s Rick Snyder said he was “open-minded.”
Their participation would crucial.
“On its own, the Virginia plan won’t do much to reshape the electoral map,” The New Republic’s Nate Cohn writes. “But the combination of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin could be the ticket for Mr. Rubio or Mr. Bush to win the presidency while losing Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and every battleground state other than Florida and North Carolina.”
So Republicans, recognizing that efforts to prevent Democrats from voting in 2012 didn’t work and unwilling to change anything but the way they talk about extremely unpopular policies like overturning Roe v. Wade, are making a startling admission. They know they can’t win the presidency anymore. The only time they really have won since they had Reagan campaigning for them in 1988 was in 2004 – and that was likely because the lines were so long in Ohio that many voters just went home.
The man behind those long lines in 2004 — Ken Blackwell, the Secretary of State of Ohio at the time — has joined up with Jordan Gehrke, a Republican operative, to push this electoral college bamboozle nationally.
Gehrke claims this plan would force presidential candidates to campaign in much more of the country and contest every district. It would help Democrats in, say, Texas. As if Texas’ Republican majorities would even consider giving away its electoral votes.
His argument for the revised system is based on the same lie the GOP used to try to suppress the vote in 2012. “Dead people don’t vote in Sheridan, Michigan. They do in Detroit,” he told The Atlantic’s Molly Ball, proffering a lie that no one – not even the Bush administration in its multi-year study of so-called voter fraud – has ever proved.
Gehrke is just invoking the worst racial stereotypes you can repeat in public to back up an argument the GOP is finally making in explicit terms: “We’re going to pretend they cheat in private so we can justify cheating in broad daylight. Because we can’t win any other way.”
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com