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Charlie Vignola: If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em

Posted: January 29, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 29, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Imagine a football team that’s made it to the Super Bowl six times in a row but has only won it once.

There are a number of ways the team could address this problem and try to win more Super Bowls: recruit better players, strategize smarter, outwork the rival team, etc.

Instead, they decide to lobby sympathetic officials in the NFL and fundamentally change the rules of how points are scored in the game to give their team an advantage.

Now they don’t have to do anything different than they were doing before, but because points are tabulated in a way that’s more favorable to them, they can win more Super Bowls even though technically they scored fewer touchdowns than their rival team.

Now imagine that the football team is the Republican Party and the Super Bowl is the presidential election.

That is the latest scheme for how desperate Republicans are trying the rig the system to give their party an unfair advantage and fight the inevitability of their party’s demographic obsolescence.

The rational Republicans — the ones who don’t believe that Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim, who accept that climate change is real and who know that Sandy Hook wasn’t a psy-op staged by the government as a pretext to take away America’s guns — can see the writing on the wall: Republicans’ ideas aren’t selling in the marketplace anymore, the brand is fatally damaged and something drastic needs to be done to stop the bleeding.

These Republican elders have already started taking organized, national action to slow down the electoral losses for their party by employing certain questionable gambits. Perhaps you’re even familiar with some of them.

The first gambit was the 2008 "Citizens United" decision in which the Supreme Court — in a 5-4 conservative decision — overturned nearly a century of precedent and decided that corporate money counted as free speech, which removed limits on campaign contributions by wealthy donors and big business, created the Super-PACs and allowed the 2012 presidential campaign to be the first billion-dollar election.

The second gambit was a wave of new voter ID laws across dozens of states driven exclusively by Republican legislatures. The stated purpose of these new laws was to reduce the possibility of voter fraud, a virtually non-existent crime.

The practical effect of the laws was to make voting much more inconvenient by creating more obstacles, cutting down on early voting days and thereby suppressing voting by constituencies more historically inclined to vote Democratic, like students, blacks and the elderly.

The third gambit was the gerrymandering of congressional districts that was engineered by the Republicans after the mid-term election of 2010, which allowed them to redraw the lines and make sure Republican congressional candidates had a much safer path to re-election.

This ploy was so successful that despite Democrats casting a million more votes for their candidates in the House of Representatives, Republicans still managed to retain the majority.

The great irony is that despite this triumvirate of cunning strategies to game the system, the Republicans not only lost the 2012 election across the board, but lost it huge: they lost House seats, failed to take back the Senate despite Democrats having nearly two dozen seats to defend, and of course President Obama creamed Mitt Romney — 332-206 in the Electoral College and by 5 million more popular votes.

What scares the hell out of Republicans who can actually do the math is that the 2012 election was much worse for the GOP than it seemed on the surface because they actually employed those three strategies and the result was still humiliating.

Just imagine what the blow-out would’ve been if Republicans didn’t have those advantages working in their favor.

And so, even with all of those things skewing the curve for the Republicans, they realize it’s still not enough to allow them to win back influence at the national level.

They could search their souls for the deeper reasons why a plurality of Americans are rejecting their ideology — or they could simply cheat by overturning hundreds of years of precedent and changing the rules of the game to their advantage.

The vote-rigging plan currently being considered by Republican legislatures in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin and championed by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus would radically change the Electoral College system by allocating electoral votes by congressional districts, thereby altering the way states translate individual votes into electors.

If this new Republican-endorsed system were adopted by every state and employed in the 2012 presidential campaign, it would’ve allowed Mitt Romney to beat President Obama electorally 273-262, even though President Obama would’ve received 5 million more votes than Romney.

What this means is that fundamentally, Republicans are perfectly comfortable with the idea of ignoring the will of the people to get their way, and they’ll do whatever it takes to win.

Or, in sports terms, why train harder and play better to win the Super Bowl if you can just change the rules of the game and win with fewer touchdowns?

Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion-picture industry and loves his wife and kids.


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