Having failed to settle on a strategy to win over nonwhite, young, female and urban voters without putting off the Archie Bunker crowd, Republicans are toying with a novel strategy to get back into the White House.
In swing states that Republicans took over in 2010, GOP state houses and governors may soon use the remaining window of opportunity created by the perennial failure of Democrats to turn out in sufficient numbers during midterms, to rig future presidential elections in their favor.
This is how Katrina Trinko of the conservative National Review, described the plan:
“If states stop awarding votes on a winner-take-all basis, Republicans could also win — and without necessarily getting more votes,” Trinko writes. “Determining Electoral College voting by congressional districts represents one obvious opportunity for Republicans: In that scenario, the effect of urban Democratic strongholds (such as those Philadelphia precincts where Obama was supported by 99 percent of voters) would be isolated. Instead of shifting the entire state’s electoral votes, those precincts would only influence their congressional districts.”
Read more directly, Republicans can reduce the power of large urban centers — with their sizable black and brown populations — by literally giving those undesirable voters less than a full vote apiece. Talk about constitutional originalism! It seems the three-fifths compromise survives.
There is, of course, precedent for gaining the White House without winning the national popular vote. Three American presidents, all of whom happened to have been Republicans: Rutherford Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison (the president sandwiched between Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms) in 1888, and of course, George W. Bush in 2000, got to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that way. So you might call the concept of minority rule a Grand Old Party tradition.
And two states, Maine and Nebraska, already award their presidential delegates by congressional district.
But the idea of applying the kind of gerrymandering that locks Republicans into state legislative and congressional power in purple states like Florida, to presidential elections, is something that’s frighteningly new.
It’s also entirely feasible, if Republican governors are willing to risk the wrath of voters in their states’ largest population centers, who would find their votes literally nullified by the decisions of more conservative rural counties. Then again, I suppose they could fix that by awarding the governorships by district apportionment, too.
Republicans in Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are reportedly considering jamming through presidential gerrymandering while there’s still time; before voters can potentially punish the anti-majority rulers in 2014. Backed by ALEC, the conservative legislation factory that gave us Stand Your Ground and voter ID laws, they’ve got their eyes on Ohio and Florida, too.
The idea has met with the enthusiastic support of Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who took the scheme out for a test drive during the 2012 Republican National Convention by using it to set aside Ron Paul delegates, and to prevent future primary election inconveniences from annoying the party bosses’ preferred candidate going forward.
Recently, FairVote — an organization that advocates replacing the arcane Electoral College with a national popular vote — ran six scenarios based on presidential gerrymandering, and in two of them, Mitt Romney won the Electoral College vote by margins of 274-264 and 280-258, while still losing the national popular vote to Barack Obama by 5 million votes, and the popular votes in each of the six target states.
That, my friends, is called results.
Republicans will present the concept as one of simple fairness. Why should the residents of small counties be out-voted by big cities, simply because those cities contain more people? Wait . . .
Look, voter persuasion is hard. Witness the recent House Republican “reaching out to minorities panel at a former Virginia plantation” debacle. Changing the party’s conservative platform is untenable — how to explain to all those AM radio listeners and Fox News devotees that the party has suddenly changed its mind on abortion, immigration reform, gay marriage or war armament stockpiling to back-burner a second civil war?
Better to just dilute the opposition and give Republicans their man in the White House, will of the voters be damned.