The highlight of the State of the Union happened as Obama said:

We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can't wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That's why, tonight, I'm announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I'm asking two long-time experts in the field, who've recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney's campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.

Over his left shoulder, John Boehner sat motionless while a perfunctory applause break followed. Of course we know by now that making it harder to vote is the core of what can only generously be called the "strategy" of the modern Republican Party.

For the past few weeks, Republican-controlled state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Michigan have been making noise about trying to change the distribution of Electoral College votes to a congressional district system, as is used in Maine and Nebraska. A congressional district plan favors the GOP, of course, because the districts were heavily rigged by Republican state legislatures in the wake of their strong year in 2010. That's how your party manages to win a majority in the House while losing the congressional popular vote nationwide by a healthy margin. In other words, they have the power to rig the system thanks to previous instances of rigging the system.

It's clear with these proposals – regardless of whether they succeed – that the GOP is going "all in" on rigging the system in their favor, having apparently come to grips with the reality that it might be the only way they can win elections anymore. They have nothing else. Their lack of appeal was displayed in high relief on Tuesday night as even one of their charismatic members turned in an awkward, incoherent mess of a performance in responding to the SOTU. I can only imagine how much of this shit we're going to see in the next decade or two. Having comfortably gerrymandered themselves into control of the legislatures in states that reliably vote Democratic in presidential elections, the near future of electoral politics in this country is going to be one pathetic scheme after another. The only other option would be to stand for something that isn't abhorrent to everyone except 60% of white men. And that's just crazy talk.

29 thoughts on “ALL IN”

  • Didn't Nebraska go to winner takes all for electoral votes after 2008, when Obama got a vote out of the state?

    A change to the rules only when it's convenient to the Republicans, but since when is that a surprise.

  • And you can tell that either Obama doesn't actually give a shit about this, or his delusional (like, give the man some Haldol delusional) bipartisan fetish takes precedence. Why else would he be involving Biber in anything? It's not like being a Patton Boggs lobbyist gives the kind of expertise Joe Kennedy brought to the SEC.

    I'm leaning toward delusional.

  • @localnebula:

    Obama's constant reaching across the aisle is working in his favour. Not *our* favour, as liberal/lefties, but *his* favour as a politician. Sure, the Repubs slap his hand away every single time, and the hardcore right keep on keepin' on the "He's a commie!" bullshit, but they are looking increasingly silly and shrill doing it. That doesn't have an impact on their echo chamber, but other people seem to notice, eventually.

  • @Middle Seaman:

    You can go ahead and take your usual "Both sides do it / Obama's just as bad / I don't care / etc." comment as read. When you have something else to say, by all means, chime in. Until then, just give it a rest, dude. Please.

  • The GOP's vision seems foreshortened, change happens, the wheel turns and that advantage you so carefully engineered now works for the other side. Not as it's happened yet in this particular instance, but I expect it, just as they didn't seem to mind the Bush – Cheney power-grabbing precedents, never thinking a Democratic administration would take advantage of them.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Middle Seaman,
    I love ya, bro – but you're getting to be like a one-trick pony.

    As Major Kong said – there's something to be said for sanity. Even if it's sponsored by corporations, and their bought and paid for DLC.

    I gotta admit, I didn't watch the SOTU last night. It's the first I've missed in over 20 years.

    I figured, why watch as one man, from a party that at least is nominally inclusive and sane, and wants progress, talk about it, while the cavemen on the other side, sharpen the same old flint-arrow talking-points that they're going to use to shoot down anything that doesn't smack of the 1950's, or even the 1850's?

    Things like smarter and more rational military spending, getting some sensible gun control, spending money rebuiliding our rapidly rotting infrastructure, JOBS (especially for those under 25 and over 50), allowing ALL of the eligible voters to vote in a fairly reasonable amount of time – without having the ones who aren't old white males have to dance through registration and election day procedural hoops – like having to reject Martin Luther King Jr. in public, and afterwards, having tp recite passages from the Bible, entire speeches by John Calhoun and Strom Thurmond, and sing lyrics from Ted Nugent and Christian Rock bands while playing air-guitar, before the women, younger folks, and people darker than "Eggshell" on the paint-swatch by the voting booth, are allowed to cast their vote?

    Frankly, the State of the Union SUCKS.
    There is little to no union.

    We're in a "Cold Civil War."
    And sadly, while the Progressives aren't very progressive, the Republicans/Conservatives are Reactionaries, Anarchists, and especially Nihilists.

    There is no "center" around which to rally.
    We're as close to being as divided as we were since 1860.
    Maybe even more than we were in the 1960's – which I lived through. Back in the 60's, Republicans/Conservatives didn't allow loons like Birchers and Jesus-freaks to even be seen with them, let alone speak for them. Today, those kinds of people are in leadership positions in the Republican Party.

    From William Butler Yeats great poem, "The Second Coming," which was written right after WWI:
    "Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? "

    That "rough beast" wasn't in a 'rocking cradle." He was a German veteran with a funny mustache, and idea's straight from the pit of darkest Hell.

    And I suspect that America's "rough beast" isn't in a cradle right now. He/she is in Congress, a Governor's mansion, or some state legislature somwhere.

    And right now, in our "Cold Civil War," the Democrats like President Obama are the Republicans of the mid 19th Century, while today's Republicans are virtually indistinguisable from Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest.
    Only without an Army.

    So, if anyone thinks there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans, it's only 'cause they ain't lookin' – or don't want to look, for fear of what they'll see.

  • Let me preface these comments by saying that I worked voter protection for the Kerry campaign on the east side of Cleveland (Hough, specifically) in 2004, so I've seen some voting snafus up close and personal.

    Voting access in poor neighborhoods is a complex business. Sometimes the snafus (wait times) are less diabolical GOP plots (e.g., ID laws that systematically discriminate against the poor) than simple incompetence on the part of the (local) election officials. At other times, the problems are actually caused by turnout efforts by the Democrats.

    Let me give you an example: Polling place is in the lobby of a low-income housing high rise. The precinct is effectively the high rise itself. Democratic door knockers, bless their hearts, knock on every door in the high rise and get people to the lobby to vote. (Lots of people home during the day, so this is early afternoon, IIRC.) But this has historically been a low-turnout precinct. So there are only two voting machines in the lobby. Combination of (1) history of low turnout, thus lack of capacity to handle (2) a large number of voters at the same time.

    Sure, you can say, the precinct should have the capacity to handle everyone at once, but that's silly. In my own precinct, in a relatively affluent area, I had to wait 45 minutes or so to vote because everyone wants to vote at 8:00 am, before work. Same story. The answer would be to have weekend voting or a voting holiday, but that's not going to happen. Voting by mail also solves this problem, but the same holds there, I think. You're not going to get that through bipartisanship.

    To some extent, I also think that there should be some (incremental) improvements as local officials catch up to what looks like increased turnout in poor(er) precincts. Another example: in 2004, one of "my" precincts had 60 voters, all day. (No lines at that polling place reported.) Sounds pathetic. But in 2000, only 12 voters voted at that polling place ALL DAY. 500 percent increase.

    I think some of the issues the last few cycles have been caused by increased turnout. I don't have systematic data to support this. Just a few anecdotes. But in 2004, both campaigns went all-in in Ohio. In 2008 and 2012 we had the famous Obama campaign machinery. These efforts crashed into a sleepy elections system, and the result has been a bit of a shock to that system.

    So I think that it's important to separate the actual nefarious schemes (like that Electoral College gaming) from the other threads of the problem. A long line does not necessarily mean someone is trying to "steal" your right to vote.

  • Nebraska still has a congressional district plan. They changed the district boundaries to insure that the 2nd district (Omaha) included enough safe votes to be reliably Republican. No problem. If we ever drop to 2 congressional districts you can be sure they'll be reliably Republican.

    Right now the big dust up is the elimination of the Corporate income tax and other income tax measures to shift income taxes away from the high income types. This is the fall back position from eliminate all income taxes.

    Luckily for Nebraska and for my entertainment value Senator Ernie Chambers is back. He will talk the legislature to a stop for the rest of the session if either of these two ideas get out of committee.

  • Many of the US's issues are from an antiquated system. Ie Tuesday voting. I'm sure there was a reason for it at the time. So a push upwards from the states forcing a referendum to change to saturday? Or even a state level ballot to make Election Day a public holiday or paid leave to vote that day? Why does everything have to happen at the Federal level? Put hooks into it so that legislators cannot do what they've done MI. Make it so it needs to clear 2/3 in both state houses *and* needs another state level referendum to boot.

    Also being allowed to vote only in your precinct. In Oz we can pretty much vote from anywhere in our state — though I think that has to do w compulsory voting for registered voters.

    Shortening the process would really help too. There's no reason in this day and age that it should be longer than 3-6 months including primaries. Make all states hold their primaries on the same day. That there are $1 million+ fines for anyone putting out ads and/or campaigning outside the alotted cycle.

  • It is worth considering that whether Middle Seaman is right or wrong, we the electorate have only ourselves to blame.

    Number Three is to be praised for giving time/service to the political process–how many of us do the same? (For the record, I don't, apart from voting, which is close to literally the minimum you can do in a democracy.) Time and again we hear that when people are presented with the policies of the Democrats and the policies of the Republicans, both in neutral 'just the facts' terms, an overwhelming majority choose the Democrats. (Largely due to the fact that the overwhelming majority are not well-off enough to favor lower taxes over the services provided by governmental assistance.)

    Setting aside social issues (which, as a society that believes overwhelmingly in angels, we're always going to be a little backward on), most people want what the Democrats want to give them. So why aren't the Democrats the perpetual majority party? Presumably because we don't demand enough of them–but also because we don't campaign, run for office, and speak out enough to remind our comrades in silence that *we* are the majority, and not the shrieking fools in the tricorner hats with tea bags dangling off of them.

    The GOP's success–even its success in cheating its way into electoral victory–lies not in their superior wit (which doesn't exist), not in their numbers (which a far fewer than ours), not in their message (which is genuinely stupid), but in our own indolence. If we allow ourselves to be represented by lukewarm compromisers, if we allow ourselves to be overtaken by bullying bigots, well–we *allowed* it. (I realize that I'm close to paraphrasing Yeats at this point.)

    All of which is to say: Yeah, you're right, Middle Seaman–the Democrats suck. But *we* are the Democrats. So what are *we* going to do about it?

  • @ eau:

    That's a good point. I just get frustrate at the apparent strategy of "make the Republicans look shrill by using political capital to implement Republican policies and push the Overton window to the right while the R's fight it every step of the way." I'll admit that it appears to have paid off a little in the long-term in terms of the VSP's perceptions, and am even open to persuasion that this has allowed maneuvering room for some good policy proposals. But on a lot of matters, he's been taking the Overton window and chasing after the Republicans as they run further and further right. Simpson-Bowles may be an example of this, depending on if he actually wants to implement it (very bad), or if it's all a bluff (less bad – he's still constantly harping on the need to kick the poors and the future-olds to the curb, because Teh Deficit).

    (In fairness, one recent example that seems to be working: the contraceptive mandate. Validating the "boss owns the workers" arguments of the Christianists sets a bad precedent, but it's better policy than the status quo ante of no coverage, and it has made the Catholic Church and other nutjobs look shrill while completely dismantling their arguments.)

    This seems more an example of bringing in an unqualified hack actively hostile to the initiative (maybe just indifferent – not sure how involved general counsel would be in voter suppression efforts, or if they had other lawyers dedicated to that). All to look bipartisan. Yeah, looks good politically. Not so good on policy.

  • @cu

    "Cold Civil War" is the best, spot on phrase that I have heard in years. That phrase is a devastatingly accurate way to describe our political gridlock and culture wars.

    You deserve a Pulitzer!

  • Do you know what eliminates voting snafus?

    Vote by Mail. You don't hear Oregonians complaining about wait times at polling places, do you?

  • What also eliminates, or lessens voting snafus is early voting. Repubs don't like early voting (or voting by mail). They fight it tooth and nail.

  • Part-time Jedi says:

    I'm with cromartie. Oregon's vote by mail system is awesome. No lines, and no having to schedule voting around work. Also, it means that when you fill out your ballot, you can sit down in front of the computer and look up the campaign websites of the candidates, so you can actually see what their positions are on various issues.
    Also, I'm not positive what the cost breakdown is for printing and mailing paper ballots to each registered voter vs. buying and maintaining voting machines, but it means that we don't have any of the voting machine snafus that seem to plague other states

  • @localnebula:

    Yep, I agree with most all of that.


    While I'm not quite ready to award you the Pulitzer just yet, "Cold Civil War" is inspired.

  • Florida does have vote by mail, but we call them absentee ballots. They had problems last fall too–ballots getting lost "accidentally" and lines at the elections office to request the ballots. Some voters reported not receiving their ballots at all.

    Of course, that conservative apologist bb will probably whine about how this is all so unfair and biased because in his county there's never been a problem with voting–they'll even send somebody out to the homes of the elderly and disabled just to make sure those folks get to vote, blah blah blah.

  • @sarah

    criticize my actual statements please, don't make stuff up.

    I apologize if this simple request constitutes whining.


  • If Obama wants to improve voter turnout, make it easier to vote by mail. Then the Republicans can pack and crack all they want–but thesad truth is that the functionally illiterate wingnuts are less likely to fill out the forms and spring for stamps to mail their ballots!

  • @ Sarah: I didn't have time to say this earlier, but that was *really* uncalled for towards bb. I know you have no love for him, but I know that you are a better person than something we'd find on RedState. :) Ed has attracted a better class of troll than we find else where.

    @Ruthie: Oregon has gone a few steps even further. You can fax, or even better scan it and email it!

    Shock horror!!! Not only are they capitalising on existing technology, but there's a paper trail too!!

    I just wonder if mine was one of those that some how was doctored (see above). As I know that I didn't fill in all of the bubbles. Main reason, I couldn't find the link for the voter guide and I couldn't find info on who was who and what they stood for. Even then I voted straight party.

    The Repubs proved in 2010 that when they say Jobs they mean kill the unions. If the word jobs comes out a Repub candidate if means ending abortion access. Jobs means obstruction! Jobs = kill Medicare/social security! Jobs really means redistributing the wealth upwards…

    Basically, whatever a Repub candidate says, it means something horrible and nasty.

  • There are a few problems with voting by mail. For one thing it makes it possible to buy or coerce votes, which used to be a major concern. This is why voting machines can't give you a receipt showing how you voted. Furthermore, voting by mail is completely invisible and pretty much unaccountable.

    Sure, it seems to work in practice, at least in the Northwest, but it doesn't work in theory, and there may be reasons to worry about its adoption in the Southeast.

  • The very fact that voting by mail violates the privacy of the vote, since it's potentially visible to a third party, might make it feasible to audit the counting of the vote. The voter retains an identifying number which the registrar of voters would be required to match to a tallied vote. There should be a way to do this which allows private verification, in the sense that the registrar doesn't know who's asking.

    So yeah, there might be a safe way to do vote by mail in Florida, if you're willing to put up with Sarah Silverman breathing down your neck while you complete your ballot.

  • "Sure, it works in practice, but does it work in theory?" This sounds remarkably like modern Republicans re: science. And healthcare. And…well most things.

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    Rubio's reply was not "an awkward, incoherent mess." It was a perfectly coherent Romney stump speech. It's not poor Rubio's fault he delivered it three months too late.

  • @Jak the Yak:

    There's an old joke that goes something like: "Show an economist something that works in practice, and he'll give you three reasons it wont work in theory." It was funny, right up until the neo-cons took over the fucking world. Now that joke just makes me sad.

    But conservatives/libertarians don't have *theories* (or opinions), they call them facts.

    It's sort of similar to how they don't have *ideology*, but common sense.

  • And you don't think that votes can't be coerced when people vote using machines? I live in a planned community that has a lot of elderly, and VERY conservative voters. Every election Tuesday, bright and early, they all walk to the clubhouse to vote–usually as couples. And if you're walking right behind them, you can hear the husbands telling the wives exactly who they should vote for. And most of these women probably do just as they're told.

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