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Hullabaloo


Friday, August 31, 2007

 
They're Doing It Again

by digby


I was at Drinking Liberally not long ago, chattering with my pal D-Day about what long term political reform we would dedicate ourselves to if we had to choose. We both said getting rid of the electoral college, which I thought was quite interesting. It's long been one of my bete noirs, even before the 2000 election atrocity and it was for him too. I think there are probably lots of liberal activists out there who feel the same way. It's an anachronistic relic of an era long past that was the result of one of those undemocratic compromises that was necessary to get the smaller states to sign on to the Union. It's completely unnecessary now and all it does is lead to mischief, dirty tricks and cheating --- the specialty of the modern Republican party.

We know for a fact, it's been demonstrated in living color, that it leads to undemocratic results. In 2000, Bush lost by half a million votes and yet "won" by 537, when the Supreme Court stepped in to stop the Florida vote count, granting all the electors to Bush. It is little wonder that no other country in the world has adopted our vaunted system of government. It's got some serious problems.

There is one political faction in our country that is determined to win by any means necessary. They have had an ongoing voter suppression effort for decades, which has recently been both professionalized and authorized as a legitimate arm of the federal government under the Bush administration. That's what the US Attorney scandal is all about --- vote rigging and suppression.

And if that doesn't work, they will not hesitate to challenge the vote in other ways. You remember this?

In the days before the Nov. 7 election, Republicans feared that Vice President Al Gore might win the Electoral College while Texas Gov. George W. Bush could win the national popular vote.

The expectation then was that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader might siphon off millions of votes from Gore nationwide, but not enough in key states to keep them out of Gore's column.

That could allow Gore to amass the 270 electoral votes needed for winning the presidency while blocking a Gore plurality in the popular vote.

To stop Gore under those circumstances, advisers to the Bush campaign weighed the possibility of challenging the legitimacy of a popular-vote loser gaining the White House.

"The one thing we don't do is roll over -- we fight," said a Bush aide, according to an article by Michael Kramer in the New York Daily News on Nov. 1, a week before the election.

The article reported that "the core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course. In league with the campaign -- which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness -- a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged."

"We'd have ads, too," said a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted."

The Bush strategy to challenge the Electoral College went even further. "Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can," the article said.

"You think 'Democrats for Democracy' would be a catchy term for them?" asked a Bush adviser.

The Bush strategy also would target the members of the Electoral College, the 538 electors who are picked by the campaigns and state party organizations to go to Washington for what is normally a ceremonial function. Many of the electors are not legally bound to a specific candidate.


They are always prepared to play it both ways. From partisan impeachments to off-year gerrymandering to the unprecedented California recall to the disputed 2000 election to the longterm efforts at voter suppression and the use of the department of Justice to influence elections with well timed indictments and bogus "vote fraud" investigations, the Republicans have shown that where they don't cheat outright, they are willing to cast aside all convention, tradition and consensus beliefs that serve to honor the spirit of democracy in order to win at all costs. I don't think that can be disputed. We've watched it unfold before our eyes for the past decade.

So, as far as I can tell very few people are surprised that the Republicans are once again trying to game the system to their advantage by putting another one of those big money initiatives on the California ballot to allocate the California electors according to the votes cast for each candidate instead of winner take all, as all but two states do today.

It's very clever. If someone were to ask D-day and me, and most Californians, in the abstract, if we thought that was a more fair way to allocate the electoral college votes, we'd probably say yes. It would be. But, needless to say, it isn't if only one state, particular one as large as ours, does it all by itself. It essentially turns California into two states, diluting its electoral clout, giving the Republicans more than 20 electoral votes they currently don't have and denying the Democrats 20 they currently do. It is nothing more than typical GOP shenanigans to cheat or change the rules after the fact where they can't win legitimately.

Everyone knows that electoral college reform cannot happen piecemeal. All the states must change together because to do otherwise will distort the process even more than it already is. We will have a much higher likelihood of more presidents taking office without winning the popular vote, and that just cannot continue to happen if anyone expects the United States government to maintain legitimacy. (After the partisan impeachment of 1998 and the stolen election of 2000, it's hanging by thread as it is.)

This may just be a ploy to force democrats to spend money in California on an expensive education campaign to tell Democrats they need to vote in a traditionally low turn out election next June (the primary will have already been held months before) and also let them know that it's an attempt to essentially rig the Presidential election in November 2008. They are very good at this. They do it all the time. It's the reason we have a GOP cyborg today instead of a governor.

The Courage Campaign is working with other groups in California to try to beat this initiative. I haveno idea how seriously national Dems are taking this, but I would assume they know very well how devastating this could be and will pull out all the stops to ensure it doesn't pass. but that's not guarantee. These pernicious initiatives often pass in this state because they are cleverly misleading and they are on the ballot in low turnout elections. (It's a huge problem for California generally.) This time it affects the whole country and it would be smart for everyone to get involved.

If you think it can't happen just reflect back seven years to November 2000. Remember how you felt. Remember the intense frustration and anger when they stole that election and then smugly told us to "get over it." They'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Our "post-partisan" Cyborgoverner says he doesn't know what the initiative says. The fact that the people who drafted it are his former lawyers, is purely coincidence. The Courage Campaign has launched an initiative to 'educate Arnold" by asking everyone to send Arnold a copy of the proposed initiative so he can read it and finally tell his constituents whether he supports this undemocratic act. I suspect he will. He got into office on a similar end-run around established tradition and precedent. He'd be quite the hypocrite standing up for Democratic values and following the rules of the game when his benefactors bought him his governorship with a similarly expensive recall initiative during the 9/11 GOP tide.

But still, he should be forced to tell the nation whether he's going to help the dirty tricksters of his party steal another election. We have a right to know.

Go here to find out how to send the initiative to Governor Schwarzenegger.
I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.


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