On face value, it might seem stupid to run for office on issues sure to piss off the majority of people. Take, for instance, the Republican party (please). They are, of course, against Democrats who make up 34-45% of the US population, depending on the day and who’s counting. The percentage of each party varies by state or district, but generally, about 15% of the voters decide who will win and who will lose.
Some might argue, a campaign of inclusion (suggested search term: democracy) would be the best way to reach that 15% swing vote. So how do the Republicans expect to win elections when they are also in lockstep against:
- People on Medicare (at least, 15% of US population)
- People on Medicaid (at least, 12.6% of US population)
- People who are unemployed (at least, 9.1% of US population, unless you also include those of us who have given up or work multiple jobs, etc.)
- People who believe abortion should be legal (at least, 56% of US population)
- People who believe and are concerned about global climate change (at least, 71% of US population)
- People without health insurance (at least, 14.3% of US population – under 65, not eligible for Medicaid)
- Immigrants (at least, 13% of US population, most all of us if you go back a few generations)
- Blacks (at least, 12.6% of US population)
- Union members (at least, 12.1% of US population)
- Government workers (at least, 4% of US population)
- LGBT (at least, 3.8% of US population)
- Muslims (at least, .6% of US population)
- Agnostic and athiests (at least, .9% of US population)
- Plus, all those little groups, including elites, people who believe in science, are against guns, war, monopolies, corporate funding of campaigns, listen to NPR, don’t watch Fox, etc.
You shouldn’t just add these numbers up. People are members of more than one group. Groups don’t vote as a block. And people are more likely these days to vote against a candidate or even a single issue than for one. But with only 15% in play, it still doesn’t seem to pass a logic test that this Republican strategy can be successful.
It might surprise you, but according to Gallop,
“The most balanced political states in 2008 were Texas (+2% Democratic), South Dakota (+1% Democratic), Mississippi (+1% Democratic), North Dakota (+1% Democratic), South Carolina (even), Arizona (even), Alabama (+1% Republican), and Kansas (+2% Republican).”
Each of these states voted for McCain in the 2008 Presidential election. Each with a Republican governor, Republican upper and lower house majority, with a solidly Republican US house delegation, and at least one Republican Senator (only South Dakota, North Dakota and Mississippi had a Democrat Senator).
How is that possible in these “balanced” states? Assuming vote counting was accurate, the only answer can be that it is about who votes, and more importantly these days, who doesn’t vote.
Let’s start with voter suppression 101:
- Make it hard to vote. Limit early voting to a few inconvenient locations away from poor areas with limited hours, few machines and rumors of long lines. Force people to take time off from work, give up their hourly pay and put their jobs at risk. Works particularly well for people who are struggling.
- Require a valid photo ID. This works well for those who are older and may not have a drivers license or be able to afford to apply and pay for an alternative. It is also effective to keep away the homeless or those whose identification doesn’t reflect an accurate address because of eviction, foreclosure or change of status.
- Purge the voter rolls. This is very popular, effective and there a lot of variations to the scheme. Mismatch names or social security numbers and make people prove they aren’t who some computer thinks they might be (suggested search terms: Georgia purge voters). Or prove they are citizen. Or make them wait in long lines to vote on a provisional ballot that may not be counted.
- Create long lines. Easy to do. Just send few voting booths to the polling place you want to suppress and more to the polling place you wish to help. Also very effective to provide few people or broken machines. Long enough lines, and people will go home (suggested search term: Ohio long lines polls).
- Caging lists. Republicans send out registered mail to the address of a voter in a district they wish to suppress. If returned, they contest the ballot. Expected to be particularly effective with the foreclosure crisis.
- Robo calls. Hire your telemarketer to call registered voters who you don’t wish to vote and tell them their polling place has changed. Or they’ll be arrested (suggested search term: Virginia robo calls vote).
- Contest new registration. A favorite of Republicans during the last few cycles. Republicans have attempted to force verifications of mail in forms. They have even offered rewards to find bogus registration by community groups and have threatened prosecutions.
- Make absentee ballots as confusing as possible. Seems obvious. Put the right information in the wrong place and your vote doesn’t count.
- Prison disenfranchisement. 5.3 million mentally competent and able adult Americans (we are the only democracy in the world that does it) are not allowed to vote because they have been either incarcerated, on parole or on probation. Click here for a state list.
- Pray for rain, sleet, snow, dark of night. Surely, the Republicans will do this. Time will tell if it will be effective.
In 2008, more than 130 million people voted – the highest percentage in a generation. The surge of voters were mostly among black, Hispanic and young voters. Without that higher turnout, McCain would have won. The Republicans are counting on making your life so miserable this time around that you stay at home.