The Republican Party is in a quandary - they’ve lost the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 Presidential elections. So, what to do? They could change and not promote such hard right policies. But naw, that’s not the Republican way. Besides, any success they’ve had in the last few years has been largely due to the fringe far right Tea Party. And there’s a simpler way: If you can’t win the hearts and minds of voters, just change the way their votes count.
We already have an illegitimate Congress – Democratic House candidates received over a million more votes than Republican House candidates received,with Democrats wining a majority of 50.5% of the vote to the Republicans 49.5%. But the Republicans control the House with 53.7% of the seats belonging to Republicans. How? Simple – gerrymandering. You pack the densely Democratic areas – mostly urban centers – into a select few districts, and then mix the more evenly divided suburban areas in with heavily Republican rural areas, and voila! You have a majority of congressional districts favoring Republicans even while statewide it’s a Blue state. The Tea Party wave of 2010 swept Republicans into control of state legislatures and the Governorship of a number of Blue states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan, and into control of a number of swing states such as Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. And they went right to work gerrymandering the hell out of their Congressional Districts. Just look at the 2012 election results: President Obama carried Michigan by 9 points, but Michigan’s Congressional delegation? 9 Republican Congressmen and only 5 Democrats. Obama carried Pennsylvania by just under 5 points, while its Congressional delegation is 13 Republicans and only 5 Democrats. And Ohio? Obama carried it my just under 3% (much to Karl Rove’s disbelief), while its Congressional delegation is 75% Republican , 12 Republicans to only 4 Democrats. Such a disparity in the results for President and the resulting makeup of the Congressional delegation is due only to gerrymandering the vast majority of districts to favor Republicans. And that’s I call it an illegitimate House of Representatives – because it doesn’t represent the will of the voters, it represents the dirty tricks of politicians. And yes, to be fair, the Democratic dominated legislature in Illinois returned the favor and gerrymandered a couple Republican districts, causing a couple incumbent Republicans to lose last November. I’m against gerrymandering, whoever does it.
Compare what happened in those Midwestern states carried by President Obama but the congressional districts were gerrymandered by Republican controlled legislatures to the election results here in Arizona, where districts are set by an Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) instead of by politicians. Romney carried Arizona 54-45%, but our Congressional delegation is 5-4 Democratic. Aha! you say? That proves Republican claims that the IRC drew maps to favor Democrats? No, look again: Here in CD2 Republican Martha McSally came within 2500 votes of defeating Ron Barber. In CD1 Republican Jonathon Paton came within 9200 votes of defeating Ann Kirkpatrick and in the new CD9 Republican Vernon Parker came within 10,400 votes of defeating Kyrsten Sinema. Those 3 districts are swing districts, and in a Republican year such as 2010 all 3 could swing to the Republicans, resulting in 7-2 Republican delegation. The IRC drew 4 “safe” Republican districts, 2 safe Democratic districts, and 3 swing districts, and that’s pretty much in line with our statewide voter registration of 36% Republican, 32% Independent, and 31% Democrat. While President Obama isn’t terribly popular here, Democratic Senate candidate Richard Carmona did much better, losing to Jeff Flake by only 3%. Swing districts are fair districts because either major party can carry them, and the current Congressman or Congresswoman had better pay close to the needs and views of his or her district, because if they make very many unpopular votes in Congress they can easily wind up on the losing side in the next election. Gerrymandered districts are far from fair – in most of those gerrymandered Republican districts the current officeholder fears a primary challenge from the right far more than they fear a Democratic opponent.
But back to the Republican quandary of how to win the Presidency. They were so sure they could defeat Obama that they even put up a rich guy moderate that nobody liked but were sure could beat the pants off that Obama guy. And they still got their butts kicked, by over 5 million popular votes and a landslide 62% of the Electoral vote. And then they had what they though was a stroke of genius: let’s change the way those Electoral votes are awarded! Instead of all the state’s electoral votes going to the winner of the statewide vote, they want to award by winner of those gerrymandered congressional districts. But not in Red states, of course! That would only help Democrats. Red states like Texas where Obama won 42% of the popular vote but got 0 of it’s 38 electoral votes. No, if the electoral vote was awarded to the winner of congressional districts in places like Texas Obama would have walked away with at least 12 electoral votes. We can’t have that! So, in true Republican tradition they want to change the rules only when & where it favors them, so want only only those swing states to award votes to the winner of congressional districts – Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. A bill has already passed a legislative committee in Virginia that would award the 1 electoral vote to the winner of each Congressional district, and then the remaining 2 electoral votes to the winner of the most congressional districts. Yes, you read that right – not to the statewide winner, but to who wins the most gerrymandered congressional districts. We’ve got to stack this in our favor as much as possible! Had that been effect in the 2012 election, President Obama would have defeated Mitt Romney 51-47% in the statewide vote, but Romney would have won 10 of it’s electoral votes and Obama only 3. In fact, if this plan to award electoral votes by congressional districts in these swing states only (an in none of the Red states) had been in effect in 2012, it would have been Mitt Romney taking the oath of office last Monday, despite losing the popular vote by 5 million votes! Only a Republican politician could come up with such a truly anti-Democracy idea.
First of all we need to defeat this anti-Democracy plan. It may be a bridge too far for even some Republicans, with influential Republicans in Virginia and Florida coming out against the plan. But watch out Michigan and and Pennsylvania. Secondly, we need to do away with this Electoral College system of electing our President. When our Constitution was written our Founding Fathers were leery of citizens directly electing the President. And with good reason – a significant portion of the population had no formal education and couldn’t even read or write. And with such a small population with many poor, votes could be bought. In this Age of Information, there is no reason our citizens shouldn’t directly elect our President. And as a Republicans have demonstrated, 538 Electoral votes can be much more easily manipulated than the votes of hundreds of millions of citizens. And thirdly, we need to put the task of redistricting into the hands of Independent Redistricting Commissions like we do here in Arizona. Politicians have proved over and over again that when they draw the maps they consider their own reelection first, election of fellow members of their political party second, and the needs of the voters dead last.