...how did Republicans keep their House majority despite more Americans voting for the other party - something that has only happened three times in the last hundred years, according to political analyst Richard Winger? Because they drew the lines ~ Adam Serwer, Jaeah Lee, and Zaineb Mohammed writing for Mother Jones; excerpt from their 11/14/2012 article article "Now That's What I Call Gerrymandering!".
As I discussed in SWTD #171, the Republican Party plans to continue to use restrictive voting laws to disenfranchise voters and tilt elections in their favor. They'll continue to rely on the Whites with racist attitudes, the homophobes, the misogynists who want to restrict a woman's right to choose, and the wealthy who think their taxes are too high (in addition to the laws already on the books restricting voting privileges). There have been calls for reforms that could attract other voting blocks, but the current relied-upon blocks don't support such reforms (which is why they won't be made).
But the votes of White with racist inclinations, homophobes, misogynists and greedy rich dicks isn't enough to tip elections in their favor any longer. Barack Obama being twice elected even when unemployment was high has them quite worried. They were so sure Romney was sure to win for that reason (unemployment being what it was). The new strategy (as evidenced by recent events), to rile up their base via fake scandals (Fast & Furious, Benghazi, IRS targeting Conservative groups, etc) could help them in the 2014 midterms and in 2016 if Hillary Clinton decides to run for POTUS (rest assurred Benghazi will be used against her), but what about elections even further in the future?
Enter the Conservatives on the Supreme Court and their recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Now the Red states previously forced to clear any new legislation restricting voting privileges can disenfranchise as they see fit. Not that they haven't been doing that already... but now the nine "preclearance states" can suppress away without the federal government stepping in and telling them NO.
Previously I mentioned how Texas is rushing to pass new voter restrictions. In addition to Texas 5 other states moved immediately to enact further restrictions, as a 6/27/2013 article from Think Progress reveals...
|Less than 48 hours after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [Shelby County v Holder, 6/25/2013], 6 of the 9 states that had been covered in their entirety under the law's "preclearance" formula have already taken steps toward restricting voting.|
The five other states are Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia. Alaska, Arizona and Georgia - the other three of the nine "preclearance states" - have not announced any plans to enact new voter suppression laws. So, who believes the Conservatives on the Supreme Court did not do this with the intention of helping out the Republican Party by enhancing the ability of Republican officials in the (now former) preclearance states to disenfranchise voters? I sure as hell do not.
I should point out that, given that Chief Justice John Roberts plus Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito all voted to disenfranchise minorities, CLEARLY I believe they are all racist bigots. No, strike that. I actually haven't looked into it. I don't know which justices are bigots and which aren't (although Scalia is clearly a homophobe). No, this is just another tool in the Repub's election-stealing toolbox. A tool six of the nine states that previously needed preclearance (before changing their election laws) are now planning on turbo-charging.
Another tool in the Repub election-stealing toolbox is gerrymandering, which "is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts". This is a tool the Repubs took advantage of following the 2010 census and the Republican-retaking of the US House and state Congresses.
Mother Jones says (in the article I quoted at the top of this post) that "after Republicans swept into power in state legislatures in 2010, the GOP gerrymandered key states, redrawing House district boundaries to favor Republicans". That is how the Repubs won big in the House. They probably would have retained the majority, but it would have been smaller if not for the gerrymandering, and, as the political website Impact points out...
|...redistricting has served as a potential form of disenfranchising voters in 2012. Redistricting is the process of "redrawing" districts to separate voters who would typically be in the same district. This action is usually targeted toward minority-dense areas in hopes of separating the number of voters who would typically vote for progressive representatives.|
Remember that, after Mitten's loss, the Repubs conducted an "autopsy" that concluded the problem was a lack of inclusiveness? The RNC even issued a report, calling it the "Growth and Opportunity Project". In this report they laid out a plan that included "extensive outreach to women, African-American, Asian, Hispanic and gay voters". Then they said no actual policy changes would be made; the "outreach" would be of a "messaging" nature only.
FYI, "messaging" is code for deceptive propaganda. What the RNC meant (if you decode the "messaging" BS) is that they didn't do a good enough job fooling people into thinking the entire purpose for their existence isn't to further enrich the plutocrats.
No, the Repub strategy to win elections going forward won't be to appeal to more people and thus win their votes, but to disenfranchise (prevent from voting entirely) and dilute Democratic votes (break up areas that traditionally vote Democratic by redrawing district lines so Republicans outnumber Democrats). This explains how the Republicans retained control in the House (in the 2012 elections) when the Democrats GOT MORE VOTES.
Writing for the Washington Post, Ezra Klein points out that "Democrats got 54,301,095 votes while Republicans got 53,822,442. That's a close election (48.8%-48.5%), but it's still a popular vote win for the Democrats". How did they do this? They gerrymandered new districts ensuring Republican candidates victory.
|Ezra Klein: What saved Boehner's majority wasn't the will of the people but the power of redistricting. As my colleague Dylan Matthews showed, Republicans used their control over the redistricting process to great effect, packing Democrats into tighter and tighter districts and managing to restructure races so even a slight loss for Republicans in the popular vote still meant a healthy majority in the House.|
What remains to be seen is if this strategy will work. If Congress can rejigger the rules for clearing the nine states that were covered by section 4, then pass legislation making the new rules law, then we can stop the coming (enhanced) voter suppression in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. But that would take bipartisan support. The act got bipartisan support the last time it was reauthorized by president bush in 2006, but that was BEFORE the Tea Party infiltration of our government; both on the state and federal level.
Currently there are 47 Tea Party Caucus members in the US House (not counting Michele Bachmann, who is retiring) and 5 US Senators in the Tea Party Senate Caucus (see here for a complete list of Tea Party Caucus members of the 113th Congress).
According to Chief Justice Roberts, the formula applied to the 9 preclearance states "violates the sovereignty of the affected states under the U.S. Constitution" and that "Congress could pass a new version, but it would have to reflect current conditions. A 6/26/2013 article from The Hill says House Republicans James Sensenbrenner Jr. (WI) as well as Steve Chabot (OH) and Sean Duffy (WI) are urging colleges to "join him in bringing the law back to life". But will Tea Party Congresspersons cooperate or attempt to derail their efforts?
The Democratic Representative from Georgia and civil-rights icon, John Lewis says he is "deeply concerned that Congress will not have the will to fix what the Supreme Court has broken". Yeah, me too. And, even if another formula is concocted, legislation is drafted and passed, and the president signs it... all the disenfranchisement tools in the Repub toolbox remain intact. Things won't be as bad as they probably will be if Section 4 isn't restored, but the rules governing who is allowed to vote will remain FAR from being fair.
 So the Voting Rights Act Is Gutted - What Can Protect Minority Voters Now? by Steven Hill, The Atlantic 6/25/2013.
 Gerrymanders, Part 1: Busting the Both-sides-do-it Myth by Sam Wang, Princeton Election Consortium 12/30/2012.