GOP: Just Say No
Political parties have identities, some forged from the craft of creative narrative and others formed by the inescapable actions and policies of the party.
The Democratic Party tries to define itself with a narrative of acting on behalf of everyday Americans, but recently finds itself more defined by Obamacare, a mammoth healthcare program also known as the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans’ narrative choice is to be the party of small government and business, but, by inescapable actions the party may become better known as the party that fights for fewer rather than more voters. Republicans’ idea of a voter registration drive seems to be “Just Say No.”
Over the past few years, and with the aid and comfort of courts willing to set aside voter protections, republicans have sought to invent creative ways to offset the troubling potential of shrinking demographics for their voters.
It is certainly not that Republicans are unaware that as the Hispanic population grows in America, as more young voters opt to vote Democratic, and as women voters are increasingly voting for their opposition, the long term Republican demographic is discouraging.
So what do you do when your voters are fewer and fewer but you still want to win elections? Change policies? Never!
If you are Republican you simply get smarter, smarter than the voters, and smarter than the Democrats. As it turns out their strategy is little short of brilliant, if you tend to appreciate the Machiavellian form of brilliance.
Beginning in the 1980’s republicans discovered two important truths; local power, like election boards, matters; and, filling the courts with conservative judges is a gift that keeps on giving.
These fundamental underpinnings allowed Republicans to gradually gain control of more and more state legislatures, first on “tide” voting, when one party’s’ candidates are swept into office in a change year, but then by the far more creative tactic of gerrymandering voting districts.
Republicans so perfectly managed picking their voters that in 2012, while 52 percent of voters wanted a Democratic House of Representatives, 55 percent of those who won were Republicans according to Fairvote. Nationally Democrats won 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, but Republicans won an additional 33 seats.
But Republicans knew this trend would eventually cost them elections, so for the last four years states with Republicans majorities in state government began rigging the voting system.
At first their argument was that voter fraud was forcing Republicans to restrict some previous voting rights. Unfortunately for that narrative no one could find such voter fraud, and upon detailed examination there was so little fraud at the ballot box that the narrative could not hold together.
Recently, in as effort to find some believable narrative, Republicans have now decided that the same efforts once claimed to prevent fraud are now aimed at standardizing voter access.
In Ohio for example counties are no longer permitted to send out absentee ballots. Only the Republican Secretary of State can do so, and only if the Republican legislature provides funding for a mailing. But, it is after all, about uniformity.
Ohio has also gained some fame for allocating fewer ballot boxes in democratic voting areas, allowed fewer days before the election for voting and ending Sunday voting used mostly by African-American voters. All for, ahem, uniformity.
In a moment of clarity that is remarkably anti-narrative, Wisconsin Republican State Senator Dale Schultz recently said “Making it more difficult for people to vote is not a good sign for the party that wants to attract more people.”
Republicans nevertheless seem wholly dedicated to Just Say No to voters in order to win elections.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.