Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Playing By Different Rules


We Democrats are the Pollyanna party. We skip through life trying to see the best in people. We want to fix everything so our neighbors are happy....or at least housed, clothed, fed and treated for their medical conditions. Our hearts hurt when we see anything mistreated, whether that's a child, an elephant or a forest. We consider taxes the communal dues we all pay to live in a civilized society....and if you're lucky enough to have to pay a lot of them, that's a good thing for you. We think poor people are mostly that way through misjudgment or misfortune and not simply because they are grasping, greedy users out to get our stuff. In fact, many of us have a "there but for the grace of God, go I" attitude toward the poor. We think any two people who love each other should have the right to marry because no group gets to define marriage in the way that reflects their particular beliefs. We think that, over all, immigrants (even undocumented ones) do America more good than harm. We hate war and it takes a lot for us to agree to invade another country. September 11 was enough to bring us around but Iraq wasn't.

And you know what? We Democrats think we are winning the political war because we have the hearts and minds of many more Americans than the Republicans do. A majority of women agree with us, as do African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, the young....and all these groups are growing as the Republicans' base of the elderly, the ultra-wealthy and white males is shrinking, or at least, not expanding.

That does look pretty positive for the Democrats, right? But, hold the phone, because this is only the view from the surface.

The Republicans aren't even trying to compete on that playing field. They really don't care if their unwillingness to vote on immigration reform pisses off Latinos. They don't care if their refusal to pass Equal Pay (not to mention all the other War on Women issues) makes women unhappy. They don't care if their reluctance to update the Voting Rights Act upsets African-Americans. Do their views on the unemployment extension or a minimum wage increase or veterans benefits or "entitlement" programs like Social Security and Medicare disturb the unemployed, the poor, veterans or senior citizens. Oh, fucking well.

They have an entirely different agenda that really doesn't include voters.

First, they got a huge head start on that agenda by winning the 2012 elections as massively as they did. Because of it, they were able to re-write the congressional district maps, ensuring that Republicans could hold onto the seats they won for at least the next ten years. Democrats running for House seats got over a million more votes in the last election than Republicans but Republicans still won the majority because of the skewed make-up of congressional districts. And Republicans have even further plans for maximizing these advantages. Several states currently held by Republicans are considering going to a winner-take-all system for presidential elections which would minimize the votes cast by big city voters (Democrats) and enhance those cast by rural residents (Republicans), giving more of their electoral votes to the Republican candidate.

The Republicans' second big advantage is having a Supreme Court with a conservative majority biased in their favor. This is the Supreme Court that gave us Citizens United and more recently, McCutcheon v FEC. These are the "corporations are people" and "money is free speech" decisions which ensure that mega-rich individuals like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson and the shadowy networks they bankroll can outspend citizens' groups and literally buy state elections without having to reveal themselves.

The right-wing Supremes are also complicit in assisting the Republicans by gutting a key part of the Voting Rights Act while congressional Republicans stonewall Democrats who want to pass an updated bill.

Next, an explosion in voter suppression legislation in red states contributes to Republican ascendancy in those states. More stringent voter i.d. which many elderly and poor don't possess and can't afford to obtain. Shorter early voting hours which mean some working people can't get to the polls or hours-long lines so that others simply give up and go home. Making it nearly impossible for students to vote on their campuses. Cutting the number of voting machines and polling places (while placing them in distant and inconvenient locations) in Democratic districts. Putting intimidating "poll watchers" in blue districts to "challenge" voters. Putting up threatening and misleading billboards to discourage people in minority neighborhoods from voting. ("Voter fraud is a felony - 3 1/2 years, $10,000!") All this despite the fact that there is not and never has been a significant voter fraud problem in America.

And when all else fails, Republicans simply ignore the rules. If you follow what is going in the states, you know that Republicans in Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio and others have used dirty tricks that are breathtakingly egregious. Gaveling a voice vote closed and declaring a winner without counting or holding the vote in the middle of the night or adding contentious legislation onto their budget which had never been done before (Ohio) or adding it to a motorcycle safety bill without telling the Democrats (North Carolina) or not honoring a recall election by the voters (Michigan) or changing the rules about filibusters in mid-stream (Texas).

So, the political war in America is being fought on two different battlegrounds. While Democrats try to convince Americans to vote for them based on shared valued and ideas, Republicans concentrate on finding ways around voters.

Which side do you think will prevail in the end?

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