I spent a lot Jan 21 with tears of joy and pride in my eyes, watching the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, surprised by the depth of my own emotion. I was proud of our President, and prouder of our country, once again demonstrating the overarching exercise of democracy in the peaceful transition (or in this case continuation) of power. What a country!
But even as I watched today, I was aware that this may be the last fair election of my lifetime -- and the last time a Democrat wins the Presidency. Because one thing you have to admire about Republicans -- they do not give up. They have a new plan for permanently assuring their supremacy despite the wishes of the great majority of Americans -- and this one looks pretty foolproof. They aim to rig the Electoral College. This post is long -- but it is urgent. Please keep reading, because if they succeed -- game over.
My last column addressed the question of "what do Republicans teach their children?" I questioned whether Republican children are being taught about sportsmanship, fair play and honesty, in light of the behavior of their candidates in this last election. I ask the question again, in light of the Republicans' new strategies for winning the Presidency. Put simply, if you can't win by following the rules -- change the rules. And, make sure the new rules permanently tilt the playing field as steeply as possible in your favor. Fairness? Sportsmanship? Having better policies? Winnng the majority of the population? Bah, humbug.
In this past election, it became clear that Republicans are a shrinking party due to their exclusionary view of the world. They have actively rejected minorities, women, gays, students, seniors, and immigrants. There isn't much left -- certainly not a national majority. So, if you don't have the numbers to win, and you won't change your positions -- then you have to reduce the other guy's numbers. Therefore, we saw many and varied plans crop up for voter suppression. Here in PA, Republicans attempted to limit the democratic vote through their oppressive Voter ID law, which targeted traditionally democratic constituencies. Thankfully, we still have a court system that understands what democracy means, and the Voter ID law was temporarily blocked in PA.
So, now we have Steal the Presidency, 2.0.
The new plan is actually breath-takingly ingenious. Republicans started by using the Tea Party to take over many state legislatures, like ours, in 2010. That wasn't just a happy accident -- they targeted 2010, because every ten years, the state legislatures redraw the Congressional districts. Republicans care about local politics more than Democrats do and here is the consequence. The census determines whether a state gains or loses congressional districts, but the party in power gets to design those districts any way they please. In 2010, the Republicans executed a national plan called "Redmap" to redraw congressional districts in a way that clumps all the Democrats into just a few districts, and makes the others "safe" for their Republican representatives. Our 8 th District was one of the least affected, because it was already incredibly challenging for a Democratic candidate -- but none-the-less, we lost the couple of areas of Montgomery and Bucks that had given Patrick Murphy his margin of victory in 2008, in return for some more northern Montgomery County areas that are reliably Republican. This all but assures this district for a Republican going forward forever, or until the population changes dramatically.
So, what is the result of all this redistricting? Well, in this last election, 1.1 Million more Democrats than Republicans nationally voted for their party's Congressperson. But the Republicans still have a 25 seat majority in the House of Representatives. In PA, 83,000 more Democrats than Republicans voted for their congressional candidate, but
Long Voting Line by edenpictures
And here's the punchline. Now, the Republicans are preparing for Redmap 2.0. They want to apply this same principle to Presidential elections, by apportioning electoral college votes by these gerrymandered congressional districts, and
And this new system is closer to becoming law than you think. Seven Republican state representatives, (Godshall, Grove, Kauffman, A. Harris, Barrar, Emrick and Moul) have introduced House Bill 94. Our Governor and Republican Senate Leader have already indicated they support the bill. The Constitution gives state legislatures complete control over how electoral college votes are apportioned. Checkmate? Only if you stay silent. You MUST ACT NOW, or this will be another bill pushed through in the dead of night, and our democracy will be gone.
There is a reasonable argument that our winner-take-all electoral college system is unfair. And four times in our history (including Bush v. Gore), we have seen the untenable consequence in which one candidate can win the popular vote while the other wins the electoral vote -- and the Presidency. That feels unfair -- un-democratic -- un-American -- and so it is. Changing the electoral voting system is actually a good idea -- but only if you change it in a way that will truly represent the will of the people by accurately representing the popular vote. There is clearly no correlation between the popular vote and apportionment by congressional district. If there was, Nancy Pelosi would be Speaker of the House now.
The President should be elected by a straight majority of votes nationwide, and there is a movement underway to make that change. It is a very popular proposal here in PA. A survey of
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). One person, one vote would actually have some meaning, and there would no longer be a few battleground states that get all the attention and power. And it has the added virtue of upholding those universal values of fairness, sportsmanship, and guaranteeing that the peoples' idea of the better candidate wins.
When the bill is enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes-- enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC. The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243 electoral votes. The bill has actually been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes -- 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect. (National Popular Vote, Inc.)
So, if our legislature wants to tinker with the electoral college, let it tinker this way -- get rid of it, in favor of a national popular vote system, and really level the playing field. For more information, check out http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/ . There is a page on activities in PA, including information about HB 1270, the National Popular Vote bill introduced in 2012. If PA passed this bill, its 20 electoral votes would put the initiative well over 50%.
DON'T SIT ON YOUR HANDS ON THIS ONE -- share this information; call your representatives and tell them to vote NO on HB 94 -- our democracy truly is at stake.