The GOP's Attempted Electoral Sabotage

The Republican Party wants to use electoral strategy to thwart Democratic presidential candidates.

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We do not live in a direct democracy. Our Senate is utterly disproportional, assigning two seats to each state regardless of the states' populations. The use (and abuse) of the filibuster means that even the least controversial measures now require a 60-vote supermajority to pass. And the nature of the Electoral College itself is undemocratic, since it's possible a presidential candidate could get a majority of the popular vote but still lose.

Some of those imbalances make sense, at least in theory and when they are not manipulated. But some Republican officials want to take the theme further, using it as an electoral strategy to thwart Democratic presidential candidates.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

A handful of states—unsurprisingly, battleground states controlled by the GOP at the state level but captured by President Obama in the presidential races—are considering changing the way they allocate electoral votes, basing the outcome not on the popular vote across the state, but those within each congressional district. The winner-take-all system almost all states now have is surely not entirely fair, since someone who got 49.9 percent of the vote could walk away with no electoral votes. But assigning electors by congressional district is even less fair, since it would typically diminish the power of voters in big cities (which tend to go Democratic). In Pennsylvania, for example—a commonwealth Obama won by five points—the new scheme would have assigned Republican Mitt Romney 18 electoral votes, and Obama only five.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should the United States Get Rid of the Electoral College?]

The proposals, if adopted, could secure the GOP the presidency in the next election, maybe even a couple more beyond that. But it masks a bigger demographic problem the GOP is having. One of the reasons Romney lost is that he failed to perform well among women (especially single women), African-Americans, and Latinos. There's only so long the party can ignore the changing demographics of the country. Leading Republicans accused Obama of being "partisan" in his inaugural address. That may just be defensive rhetoric—it better be. Because if the GOP really believes including women, Latinos, and gay and lesbians in the policy dialogue is partisan, they will never win another presidential election.

Unless, of course, they rig the system to dilute the votes of the coming majorities.

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