If you can’t win elections, rig them

Updated
 

We’ve been keeping a close eye on state Republican officials hoping to rig electoral-vote distribution so that only GOP candidates are able to be elected president. As Rachel noted on the show last night, there are several states considering election-rigging schemes – Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – but Virginia is the first to advance an actual plan.

Dave Weigel had a terrific report yesterday afternoon on the efforts of Virginia Republicans, noting that if the preferred GOP system had been in place last year, President Obama would have defeated Mitt Romney by 150,000 votes, but when it came time to distribute electoral votes, Romney would have won nine votes to Obama’s four. Or put another way, the Democrat would win 51% of the popular vote, but 30% of the electoral-college vote. It is, quite obviously, a plan “designed to disenfranchise Democrats,” Weigel concluded.

Jamelle Bouie highlighted a detail that would be hilarious were it not so offensive: the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Charles W. “Bill” Carrico, “says the change is necessary because Virginia’s urbanized areas can outvote rural regions, weakening their political strength.” Got that? Virginia Republicans feel the need to rig democracy in their favor because they think it’s unfair that there are more Democratic voters – so the GOP needs to level the playing field.

Eric Kleefeld added last night, “The openly stated goal of GOP electoral bills is to win while getting fewer votes. Think about that.”

That’s good advice – I desperately hope the political world takes the time to really think about that. I know it’s not as gripping as whether a pop star sang the National Anthem on Sunday or Monday, or the latest Benghazi conspiracy theory, but we’re quickly approaching a crisis the establishment is not yet prepared to acknowledge.

Republican policymakers are looking ahead, concluding that they’re likely to lose future elections, and moving forward on plans to ensure they get power even when the American people don’t vote for them. That may sound insane, but that’s the plan on the table.

And just to reiterate a point from several weeks ago, the fact that this is happening in Virginia, of all places, warrants special attention.

Let’s put it this way: at least in Pennsylvania the GOP scheme is understandable, albeit disgusting. It’s historically been a competitive swing state, but in six of the last six elections, the Democratic presidential candidate has won, usually pretty easily. With this in mind, it stands to reason that Keystone State Republicans would conclude, “Our candidate probably isn’t going to win statewide anytime soon, but if we rig electoral-vote allocation, we can still help our guy win the election.”

But Virginia is a very different political environment. In the last 60 years, only two Democratic presidential candidates have won the commonwealth: LBJ in his 1964 landslide and Barack Obama. That’s it. Even Bill Clinton lost the state twice, and he was very competitive throughout the South in both of his races.

If you’re a Virginia Republican official who believes the state will soon revert to form and start voting GOP again, changing the way Virginia distributes electoral votes doesn’t make sense – it creates a huge risk of helping the other side. Indeed, had this idea been in place in the commonwealth in recent elections, Virginia would have awarded several electoral votes to Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore, instead of none.

The only reason Virginia Republicans would even consider an idea like this is if they assume the state is slowly slipping away from them. By pushing this idea, folks like Carrico are suggesting they expect Democrats to be in a position to win the state for the indefinite future.

And since the will of the voters and the consent of the governed are now antiquated concepts that Republicans no longer value, the democracy-crushing scheme continues to move forward.

Electoral College and Virginia

If you can't win elections, rig them

Updated