And it isn’t just their prospects in 2012 that are starting to fade; it’s 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020 and so on. Missing from the Tea Party mobs last year – so responsible for Republican gains in Congress and the State Houses – was even a semblance of African American or Latinos. With the odd exception or two, they were virtually a no show. Despite claims to the contrary, the Tea Party is ostensibly a whites only club, and mostly white men.
Of course, as any pollster will tell you, white males are, as a demographic, the slowest growing segment of the population in the country. The fastest growing? You guessed it, blacks and Hispanics. And not by a thin margin, either. In some parts of the country, they are on a pace to equal the white population within the next couple of decades. Of particular concern to Republicans are – believe it or not – deep-south states like Georgia and Texas, long considered to be untouchable. Both Atlanta and the Metroplex are witnessing large increases in minorities, a group that historically has tended to lean toward more progressive candidates.
No matter how you slice it or dice it, the future is looking dark for the GOP, no pun intended. The white population, which presently comprises roughly 90% of the Republican vote, is fading into that long good night. It’s enough to make old Mr. Melting Pot himself, Pat Buchanan, practically disconsolate.
None of this is a secret to senior officials within the GOP. They have known their fate for quite some time. In deed, had it not been for the worst economic downturn in over seven decades, Republicans might well have suffered three consecutive election cycle losses. But with the economy slowly on the mend, voters – particularly independent voters – are starting to feel a bit more optimistic about the future. And with the freshman class of Tea Partiers behaving like a bunch of rowdy kids without adult supervision, you can see why they are burning the midnight oil over at the RNC. Clearly this problem demands an out of the box solution.
Not to worry. Plan B is well under way. There is an old saying in politics: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Well, the GOP has put a new spin on that saying. It goes something like this: If you can’t beat ‘em, eliminate ‘em. That’s right, boys and girls, you heard right. Unable to beat the opposition in a fair fight, the Republican plan for 2012 is to make sure they don’t get in the way.
While all of us were preoccupied worrying about the House and Senate last year, the real battleground was the state capitals, where several Russ-belt governors’ races were up for grabs. Losses in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin not only robbed Democrats of long-held seats of power, it permitted the GOP an opportunity to rewrite Congressional district lines, as well as enact legislation aimed at solidifying their power grip. The intended result of all this was to make Barack Obama’s road to reelection a bit more bumpy. The orchestrated attacks on labor by these newly elected governors has been referred to in the mainstream press as a miscalculation by over-zealous leaders driven by the rush of power and propelled solely on the basis of ideology. Part of that was true. These are ideologues, in the strictest sense of the word. And they have overreached, no doubt. But this was hardly a miscalculation. It was carefully planned down to smallest detail.
Phase one – eliminating collective bargaining in both Wisconsin and Ohio – is now complete. Barring a recall election of both governors, or an overturn of the laws by their respective judicial branches, the laws are likely to hold up, despite the overwhelming disapproval of a majority of voters. Effectively, what Scott Walker and Ron Kasich have done is cut the legs out of one of the largest organized contributors to the Democratic Party. You think the prospect of Barack Obama raising a billion dollars seems a bit obsessive and over the top? Well he might end up needing every penny of it if he plans on winning the industrial Midwest. And make no mistake about it, he will need to win at least two of those swing states to get back to the White House.
But if depriving Democrats of a major contributor in 2012 wasn’t bad enough, phase two is now well under way. In Ohio, House Republicans have just passed what many are calling the most restrictive voter identification law on the books of any state. The new law, if it gets enacted, will require voters to show one of five forms of ID to vote in person: an Ohio driver’s license, state ID, military ID, U.S. passport, or “a new, free photo ID that State Bureau of Motor Vehicles would dispense to indigent citizens who qualify.” Currently, voters must show a photo ID or present a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document with a current name and address. Unlike other states’ photo ID laws, the Ohio bill would not even allow students to use IDs issued by state colleges.
Republicans claim the new law is necessary to eliminate voter fraud, despite the fact that they can't seem to offer up any concrete evidence of it. When confronted with this fact, the bill’s sponsor, state representative, Bob Mecklenborg (R) said, “I believe it happens and it’s impossible to prove a negative.” Of course, it’s also impossible, it seems, to prove that Republicans have souls, though hope remains eternal.
Mecklenborg’s belief notwithstanding, representatives from the Board of Elections, the League of Women Voters, and the former Secretary of State office “have never even heard of one” instance of voter impersonation in Ohio. As the Brennan Center for Justice noted, a statewide survey found four instances of ineligible persons voting or attempting to vote in 2002 and 2004 out of 9,078,728 votes cast — “a rate of 0.00004%.”
Of course the real reason for this law has nothing to do with voter fraud, either real or imagined. It’s intent is to restrict or exclude potentially millions of people nationwide – similar measures will undoubtedly be passed in other GOP stronghold states – from voting. Most of these voters will be seniors, the disabled, low-income voters, students, and minorities. In Ohio, alone, as many as 890,000 people would be effected by the new law. If polling within these groups is consistent and reliable, that would mean a net loss of more than 500,000 voters from the “D” column in 2012, turning Ohio from blue to red.
And that’s how the GOP plans on holding onto power, at least for the foreseeable future. It will, no doubt, lose many of the independent voters it picked up in the midterms, but if it can effectively thwart or suppress Democratic turnout enough, it can stave off what many political pundits are predicting will be their inevitable Waterloo. Parties that pander to race baiting and fear mongering eventually peter out and, like a black hole, collapse of their own weight. But before collapsing, they can suck everything imaginable into their gravitational well. What is going on in Ohio, Wisconsin and other “swing” states is the political equivalent of a black hole.
Progressives must step up their attempts to unseat those governors who have overstepped their mandates, so that these draconian laws can be repealed before next year’s election. This nation cannot afford the specter of someone so grossly unqualified as a Michele Bachmann or, worse, Donald Trump being elected to the highest office in the free world. It would be catastrophic. And to those who think such conclusions a bit premature and somewhat histrionic, I give you three words to chew on:
George Walker Bush.