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No, You Can't Vote: The GOP and Their "15% Solution"

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As is well-known, since their triumph in the 2010 elections, not only at the Federal but also at the level of the states, a number one priority for the Republican Party has been limiting the numbers of those voting, especially those who might vote Democratic. Further, they have also focused on limiting the significance of the votes of potential Democratic voters. The first step in this direction was the post-2010 re-districting for both Congressional and state legislative seats.

In those states where they had gained both a majority in both Houses of the legislature and the Governor's mansion, they very creatively re-drew both Congressional and state legislative district lines to, wherever possible concentrating potential Democratic votes while expanding the electoral impact of potential Republican votes. Indeed, they had succeeded Karl Rove's early-2000's goal of a "Permanent Republican Majority, which had proved illusory," with the goal-in-fact of creating a Permanent Republican Elected Government, without the bother of having to gain electoral majorities to do that.

Of course they did not put it that way. They used other terminology, like "dealing with voting fraud." Fox"News"Channel and Savagely Levin-itatingO'Rhannibaugh, laid on that one every day to a fare-thee-well. Never mind that voter fraud almost never occurs. It just had to be prevented, using such means as requiring photo ID for registration and then voting. Now if the GOP were really interested in preventing voter fraud, they would, for example, have set up systems in the states in which they were requiring this for registration and voting to make acquiring the ID easy and cheap. They could, for example, have set up numerous photo ID-acquisition centers, at taxpayer expense. Funny. That just didn't happen.

December 10, 2013, march for voting rights, New York City
December 10, 2013, march for voting rights, New York City
(Image by Michael Fleshman)
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Soon, however, the GOP wasn't satisfied with these tactics. They have now moved on to straight voter suppression, especially in the swing states like Ohio and Wisconsin where they can do this. The strategy, for which they give few excuses, is aimed at suppressing the vote in those population segments that are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican, like African-Americans, the poor, Latinos, the young, and so on and so forth. Well, you might ask, "is this a new idea?" Well, I would reply, "no it isn't. It goes back at least as far as an electoral strategy designed in the late 1980s by a now-defunct organization called the 'Christian Coalition.' It was called 'The 15% Solution.' " The balance of this column is based on an excerpt, in quotes, from chapter two of my book by that name.

The text below has been slightly edited from the original. It is fully referenced in the book and the references can be found there:


" 'The 15% Solution' was an electoral strategy developed by the leading political organ of the Religious Right, the so called 'Christian Coalition." The 'Christian Coalition' was an unabashed, un-apologetic, and out spoken representative of that kind of authoritarian thinking which under their influence was so prominently represented in the politics of the Republican Party, beginning at their 1992 National Convention. The strategy was designed to win elections even when the Coalition's supporters comprised a distinct minority of the eligible electorate. As an early Christian Coalition Executive Director, Ralph Reed [yes that's the same Ralph Reed who has cleaned up his act a bit], once said: 'I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag.'

"The 15% Solution was formulated in the following way.

" 'In a Presidential election, when more voters turn out than [in] any other election you normally see, only 15% of eligible voters can determine the outcomes of that election (if things are done right) . . . . Of all adults 18 and over, eligible to vote, only about 60 or 65% are actually registered to vote. It might even be less than that, and it is less than that in many states. . . .'

" 'Of those registered to vote, in a good turnout only 50% actually vote. [Thus,] only 30% of those eligible actually vote. . . . 15% of adults eligible to vote determine the outcome in a high turnout election. That happens once every four years. . . . In low turnout elections, city council, state legislature, county commissions, the percentage who (sic) determines who wins can be as low as 6 or 7%. We don't have to worry about convincing a majority of Americans to agree with us (emphases added).

"As one of the most influential leaders of the Religious Right, Paul Weyrich, succinctly put it in the early 1990s: 'We don't want everyone to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down.' By the national election of 1994, the Republicans were well on their way to achieving their goal. Only about 37% of eligible voters voted. The 'incredible Gingrich Landslide' that the media talked incessantly about (and periodically has done ever since)? The total GOP vote in those Congressional races was 19% of the eligibles, with Democrats getting the balance. Yet the GOP had already managed to concentrate their votes and get out their voters (as they did in 2010 and are likely to do once again in 2014).
"Many of the new representatives in 1994 were supported by the Christian Coalition and its allies. In an odd representation of reality, most media and political figures represented that victory as one reflecting the views of the 'American people' as a whole. In fact, the Republican victory was achieved by garnering the support of less than 20% of the eligible voters. 'The 15% Solution' was well within sight."


Returning to the present, the implementation of the original "15% Solution," originally designed so many years ago by the Christian Coalition, now proceeds apace, at the national level, under the aegis of the Republican Party. I am simply noting here that voter suppression has been a GOP goal for many years. It is just becoming more intense and more wide-spread. And for most of those years, the Democratic Party has simply ignored it, the strategy, and them, its Republican implementers. If it continues to proceed, and one wonders just what might be done at this late date to stop the ever-building momentum, the contemporary Ralph Reeds will be painting their faces, but not even travelling by night. And indeed, most of us will not know that it's over and they have placed the nation in a body bag.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a ├ éČ┼"Trusted Author,├ éČ Ł he is a Senior (more...)
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