The GOP is fading into history. A recent USA Today/Pew Research poll placed the percentage of Americans who self-identify as Republicans at a record low of 22 percent, which is five points below George W. Bush’s lowest approval rating. In their nonstop attempts to undermine President Obama, national Republicans have shown their worst face to the American people, and the people are, for the most part, recoiling from what they see.
On virtually every hot button issue—gay marriage, abortion, national security, the economy—public attitudes and beliefs are leaving the GOP behind. The pooh-bahs of the party are well aware of this reality, and desperately attempting to cling to power for as long as possible while doing as much damage as they can to the social compact on their way out the door.
This is why there is such an intense conservative interest in proportional distribution of electoral votes in blue states (where the percentage of a state’s total electoral votes awarded to a candidate is roughly proportional to the percentage of popular vote received by that candidate). It’s one of those proposals that sounds reasonable enough when taken out of context, but is revealed as another cynical power grab upon closer examination.
If blue states like Pennsylvania or California were to award their electoral votes proportionally, but red states like Texas did not—which is exactly the endgame for these Electoral College proposals—it would become virtually impossible for a Democrat to win the presidency for a generation or more.
The Republicans have already gotten their semi-permanent advantage in Congress. In the 2012 election, Democrats actually won the overall popular vote—meaning more people voted to have a Democrat for their representative than a Republican—however, because of aggressive gerrymandering of congressional districts over the past few decades, the GOP retained a 35-seat majority, allowing them to effectively block any progressive legislation and control the national agenda.
Obviously, congressional control isn’t determined by popular vote any more than the presidency, but the fact that the Republicans can wield such a degree of real-world power despite having a smaller population of supporters speaks to the systemic advantages they’ve won for themselves over the years.
If they succeed in rewriting the rules of the Electoral College, that advantage will extend to a permanent seat in the Oval Office, and will introduce an extended period of reactionary rule that will make the Bush era seem positively leftist by comparison. The battles currently being waged over immigration, economic justice, and human equality will become academic, and the conservative evisceration of the New Deal will be completed with interest.
People will protest. Paul Krugman will write pages of insightful and logical criticism of those in power. There will probably even be some great art inspired by the tumult and upheaval. But the media—which will likely become even more consolidated under Republican rule—will diligently do its work in confusing the issue and manufacturing consent, and many people won’t have the foggiest clue who is really responsible for what they are experiencing.
Some will be convinced to blame the poor, in the same way they were convinced the poor were responsible for the housing crisis of 2008. People can be lazy, irresponsible assholes—even poor people—and it’s easy to find examples to scapegoat. As long as the average American is prevented from identifying with the poor—especially if that individual is experiencing economic stress themselves—then the gangster CEOs to whom the GOP truly answers will rest easy on their yachts.
Some will be confused enough to blame those who attempt to introduce public policy designed to mitigate the suffering. This will be especially evident in coverage of Obamacare (if it isn’t outright repealed immediately) where the kind of bureaucratic inefficiencies inherent in such a large system—many of which, it could be argued, come from the right wing’s successful efforts to defeat the public option—will be pointed to as evidence of the underlying futility of social democracy.
And piece by piece, the reactionary forces of our society will dismantle what little remains of the social safety net. Opportunities to better your life and the lives of your children will become even more sparse, and the disintegration of the American middle class will proceed unchecked. Avoiding this future was among the primary reasons Obama got my vote last November.
But if the Republican proposals to award electoral votes proportionally had been in effect, my vote wouldn’t have mattered. We’d be living in the Romney era, and I’d be somewhere in the mountains scouting out caves with good views right now. As things stand, we have a president who—for all his friendliness towards corporate rule and questionable national security practices—is, at the very least, not actively seeking to undo the social progress of the past century.
The struggle continues, if we can keep it.