It’s a pretty nefarious idea: impose the president of your choice on the country, by giving your candidate more delegates in states he didn’t win. Sound crazy? Third World? Nope, it’s the latest genius scheme from the GOP.
I first heard about this from John Nichols at the Nation, who I ran into at a pre-Inaugural event in D.C. this past weekend. And Rachel Maddow has been covering it for the past two nights on her show. It’s also the subject of my Herald column this week. A clip:
In swing states that Republicans took over in 2010, GOP state houses and governors may soon use the remaining window of opportunity created by the perennial failure of Democrats to turn out in sufficient numbers during midterms, to rig future presidential elections in their favor.
This is how Katrina Trinko of the conservative National Review, described the plan:
“If states stop awarding votes on a winner-take-all basis, Republicans could also win — and without necessarily getting more votes,” Trinko writes. “Determining Electoral College voting by congressional districts represents one obvious opportunity for Republicans: In that scenario, the effect of urban Democratic strongholds (such as those Philadelphia precincts where Obama was supported by 99 percent of voters) would be isolated. Instead of shifting the entire state’s electoral votes, those precincts would only influence their congressional districts.”
Read more directly, Republicans can reduce the power of large urban centers — with their sizable black and brown populations — by literally giving those undesirable voters less than a full vote apiece. Talk about constitutional originalism! It seems the three-fifths compromise survives.
There is, of course, precedent for gaining the White House without winning the national popular vote. Three American presidents, all of whom happened to have been Republicans: Rutherford Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison (the president sandwiched between Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms) in 1888, and of course, George W. Bush in 2000, got to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that way. So you might call the concept of minority rule a Grand Old Party tradition.
And two states, Maine and Nebraska, already award their presidential delegates by congressional district.
But the idea of applying the kind of gerrymandering that locks Republicans into state legislative and congressional power in purple states like Florida, to presidential elections, is something that’s frighteningly new.
And here’s Rachel Maddow’s coverage:
UPDATE: By the way, Republicans have been monkeying around with their delegate apportionment INTERNALLY for a while now — especially during this past primary election. Witness the shenanigans in Michigan last March, where two at large delegates that were supposed to be awarded proportionally (a new scheme the RNC came up with to fix the problem of Mitt Romney’s incredible unpopularity) were instead handed over to Mitt, with a little help from Mitt’s fixer in Michigan, Saul Anuzis.