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Thursday, November 08, 2018


The sum of their fears

by Tom Sullivan

What keeps aging white Republicans up at night. Image: National Geographic, October 2013.

When in January David Frum typed, "If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy," was he writing as a prophet or a historian?

“The rise of minority rule in America is now unmistakable,” says Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe.

Even as final votes are tallied, the GOP gerrymandering project (REDMAP) has ensured Republicans maintain control in many places with a minority of popular support.

Running in congressional districts declared unconstitutional, North Carolina Republicans held 10 of the state's 13 congressional seats on Tuesday with only 50.3 percent of the statewide vote. Because the late-August ruling came so close to midterm elections, the three-judge panel allowed the 2018 election to proceed, but ordered the illegal districts could not be used in 2020. State Republicans have appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

State Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican and architect of the existing redistricting maps, argued that because Democrats fielded candidates in 12 districts "it proves the seats were not drawn to keep them out of the process." The News and Observer notes that has not always been Lewis's position:

Lewis famously said in 2016 that the maps were drawn “to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”
In Wisconsin, less than a day after the election in which Democrat Tony Evers turned out incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, Republican state Assembly leader Robin Vos (R-Rochester) announced he would look at ways to limit the incoming governor's power before he takes office:
"If there are areas where we could look and say, 'Geez — have we made mistakes where we granted too much power to the executive,' I'd be open to taking a look to say what can we do to change that to try to re-balance it," Vos told reporters.
It is a trick Wisconsin learned from Republicans in North Carolina. Such an effort may not be strictly undemocratic, but as with gerrymandering neither does it reflect the wishes of a majority of Tuesday's voters.

Daniel Block writes at Washington Monthly:
In 2016, Republican North Carolina Governor Pat McCroy lost re-election to Democrat Roy Cooper by 10,277 votes. Having failed to stop Democrats through democracy, McCroy and the GOP-controlled state legislature thwarted the voters’ will through other means. In mid-December—before Cooper took office—state Republicans hastily called a special session during which they rammed through legislation that deprived the governor authority over elections and appointments. The General Assembly merged the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission into one entity and changed its appointment process to prevent Cooper from significantly altering the commission’s partisan balance. The legislature also required that the state senate confirm many of Cooper’s appointees. Finally, it reduced the number of government employees Cooper could hire and fire by more than 1,000, crippling the governor’s ability to change his staff’s political allegiance.
Some of those efforts have been blocked in court. Others remain in litigation. Previous NCGOP efforts to require identity cards for voting ruled unconstitutional, Republicans added a constitutional amendment referendum to this week's ballot: "Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person." For or Against? they ask. Trust us. We'll fill in the details before we lose our veto-proof majorities in January.

Republican efforts to void election results, purge voters, block registrations, erect hurdles to voting, etc., reveal a party that uses the Constitution as a fig leaf to cover naked power grabs.

Retiring Wisconsin state senator Dale Schultz told a local radio host in March 2014 he could no longer support the Republican party's efforts to restrict voting. “It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics," Schultz said. "I am not willing to defend them anymore.”

To guarantee their long-term viability, MSNBC's Chris Hayes argues, Democrats must invest political capital in ensuring people have easy access to the ballot. The Atlantic's Adam Serwer put it bluntly:
It has to be prioritized by Democrats because it's increasingly a crucial part of the Republican strategy for maintaining political power. Their constituency is shrinking, and the way that they're going to keep winning elections is not by being the majority, but by ensuring that the rules of the elections favor their constituencies so that they can win a majority even when they don't have one.
Because quite frankly they rejected democracy as a foundational principle long ago.