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David Sirota
David Sirota
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Banana Republicans' Assault on Democracy

Comment

When the Senate minority leader of the United States calls something "a genuine threat to our country," everyone — regardless of party — should listen. Even in the post-9/11 era of overheated language and hyper-partisanship, that kind of declaration from such a powerful public official is not to be taken lightly.

So, what horrible menace to our way of life was Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talking about when he recently uttered those words? Communism? Al-Qaida? Hostile extra-terrestrials?

None of the above. He was referring to democracy.

That sounds hard to believe, but it's absolutely true. In a speech last week to the Heritage Foundation, McConnell used that War on Terror-flavored jeremiad about an existential "threat" to describe a grassroots effort aimed at electing presidents via a national popular vote.

Prompted by frustration with swing states' disproportionate power, the national popular vote idea is elegant in its simplicity. States commit their Electoral College votes to the national popular vote-winner, regardless of the outcome of the presidential contest within their boundaries. The plan does not go into effect until a majority of Electoral College votes are signed on, but if and when that happens, America finally gets what should be a fundamental democratic guarantee: that our president is the candidate who received the majority of votes.

To most readers, that seems like a non-ideological no-brainer — it means every vote is equally important, regardless of geography. And why shouldn't it be that way? After all, there's no moral or substantive reason that a vote in liberal Denver should be more valued by a presidential election system than a vote in rural Idaho just because the Denver vote was cast in the swing state of Colorado. Similarly, there's no democratic justification for candidates reaching the Oval Office when they didn't win the most votes.

Yet, despite those non-partisan truisms, McConnell billed the accelerating national popular vote campaign as a nefarious liberal plot.

While such a paranoid theory sounds like a "Saturday Night Live" spoof of a Fox News diatribe, the Senate minority leader was dead serious, which made his statements all the more hilarious — but also painfully revealing. They highlight the fact that Republicans are now openly defining themselves as opponents of the most basic democratic ideals.

In the states, the onslaught against voting has been unselfconsciously overt. As civil rights lawyer Judith Browne Dianis told CNN, "Through a spate of restrictive laws passed in Republican-led legislatures, a disproportionate number of African-Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, the elderly and the young will find voting difficult and in many cases impossible." These statutes, she notes, "require a state photo ID to vote, limit early voting, place strict requirements on voter registration and deny voting rights to Americans with criminal records who have paid their debt to society."

Now, with 132 electoral votes signing onto the national popular vote compact, there's the real possibility of more democratic presidential elections. So the highest-ranking Republican in America is mobilizing the opposition.

Taken together, this coordinated war on democracy leads to a frightening question: Why is it being waged?

Republicans claim they are moved by (totally unproven) fears of rampant voter fraud, but their obvious motivation is authoritarian self-interest. With polls showing the party's policy goals wholly out of line with public attitudes, the GOP is trying to limit the public's democratic rights. In other words, Republicanism is at odds with public opinion. So, rather than bend to that opinion, Republicans are trying to disenfranchise it.

Such fanatical ends-justify-the-means-ism was once the exclusive hallmark of foreign banana republics. Should our own Banana Republicans succeed in their assault on democracy, that's exactly the kind of backward country America will become.

David Sirota is best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. Email him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at DavidSirota.com.

COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM



Comments

5 Comments | Post Comment
The Founding Fathers chose the Electoral College process to prevent larger, more populous states from swamping sparsely-populated smaller states.

Or, as the adage goes: a better democracy than two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

They're still over 200 years ahead of spin doctors like Sirota.
Comment: #1
Posted by: oddsox
Fri Dec 16, 2011 2:09 PM
Why are conservatives always so stuck in the past?

Many things have changed since the time of our Founding Fathers some 200 years ago.

Why do conservatives think that democracy, letting everyone have an equal vote, is "spin"? Totally bizarre. Unless you understand that no matter what Sirota says, like any other Democrat/liberal/progressive, conservatives will instinctively take the opposite view. Even if that position is totally nuts.
Comment: #2
Posted by: A Smith
Sun Dec 18, 2011 8:56 AM
Re: oddsox
With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency -- that is, a mere 26% of the nation's votes.

Now presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections. When and where votes don't matter, candidates ignore those areas and the issues they care about most.

Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group. Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK -70%, DC -76%, DE --75%, ID -77%, ME - 77%, MT- 72%, NE - 74%, NH--69%, NE - 72%, NM - 76%, RI - 74%, SD- 71%, UT- 70%, VT - 75%, WV- 81%, and WY- 69%.

In the lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in nine state legislative chambers, and been enacted by three jurisdictions.
Comment: #3
Posted by: oldgulph
Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:30 PM
We're now conversing on 3 streams, oldgulph.
Same Sirota article is on TruthDig and my answers to you (username "kohler"), and others are there.
Condensing my remarks:
In only 4 Presidential elections has the popular vote winner failed to be elected.
4 out of 55.
All of the winners in those elections got way-y-y-y-y over the 26% vote you fear.
The Electoral College is a safeguard to our Presidential selection process.
Removing it could have consequences similar to those the removal of Glass-Steagall had on our banking system.
Bottom Line:
It may hurt to admit this, but the Founders were wiser 224 years ago than we are today.
Comment: #4
Posted by: oddsox
Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:04 PM
Dear Mr. Sirota,

My aging grandfather needs a heart transplant to survive. 98% of all eligible voters decided that you are to be the donor (I'm assuming that you are the non-consenting 2%). Welcome to democracy. Mob rule doesn't work for everyone.

Just because the system has been in place for over 200 years doesn't mean it needs to be fixed. Of course, 'fixed' doesn't mean the same thing to everyone, does it?

And speaking of the inequality of requiring a valid ID to vote; why are the progressives not complaining about the onslaught against African-Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, the elderly and the young when it comes to buying a beer or OTC medication, renting a car, signing a lease/mortgage, driving a car, buying insurance, cashing a check, or any one of the hundreds of things that we are required to have a valid ID for? It's only a problem when it comes time to vote? Really?
Comment: #5
Posted by: Crash
Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:25 PM
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