One Party Country
Copyright © 2006 by Stephen W. Potts. All rights reserved.
In a book published this summer, One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century, Los Angeles Times reporters Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten lay out the Republican agenda for preserving power indefinitely, an agenda that began taking form during the rise of Ronald Reagan, and that threatened juggernaut status in the age of Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, and Faux News. Hamburger and Wallsten consider a handful of practices designed to establish the Thousand-Year Reich: redistricting at the state level to lock in Republican majorities, cornering lobbyist money as campaign contributions, commandeering the religious right, packing the courts with judges sympathetic to Republican causes and politicians, and engineering massive databases to target-market issues and voter turnout.
As the authors hammer out the history of this putsch, their moderately liberal alarm at the Republican game plan is tempered by the straight face of the reporter and the head-wagging respect with which Americans conventionally acknowledge the con men who have conned them. Having come out in a summer, however, when the Neo-Confederate Party seemed to be losing its mojo, the book also offers a few “buts” before it ends. After all, if one thing has become increasingly clear in this political flu season, it is that even the best laid plans of mice, rats, and well-funded rightwing think tanks can go astray. While the Republicans have proved adept at taking power, they cannot govern, and the voters are restless.
Let us turn individually to the tactics identified by Hamburger and Wallsten. Redrawing congressional precincts is not, of course, exclusive to Republicans. Historically, Democrats have taken full advantage of this practice too, especially where powerful machines existed, as in the heyday of the party in the Deep South. But even in true blue states like California, Republicans get tossed their piece of the jigaw puzzle; try unseating the party of Randy “Top Dollar” Cunningham in his 50th District, for example. Republicans in red territory, however, upped the ante during the Bush II regime.
The best known abuse of redistricting took place in Texas, where the GOP majority that came into power with W. immediately redrew precinct lines, defying the normal practice of waiting for the next census. This hijacking was spearheaded by Tom “The Fugitive” DeLay, who had helped make his majority possible by breaking the Lone Star State’s laws on spending campaign money. As most readers know, DeLay left office under indictment, although his name will appear on the ballot in his district. GOP fans must cast their votes for DeLay to elect his successor — unless, of course, they are using Diebold machines, which could automatically cast the Republican vote for them. But I anticipate.
DeLay was also point man in the effort to corner the lobbyists. The purpose of “K Street Project,” begun under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, was to deprive Democrats of the corporate money pouring into the Capitol in the form of campaign contributions and other means for bribing politicians. These are legally “free speech” under our constitutional form of government, though calling anything that costs millions of dollars “free” is a crime against the English language.
Fueled by mutual greed and lust, the K Street Project soon turned into a “pay to play” quid pro quo, in which corporate lobbyists crawled under the covers with Republican politicians, cash changed hands, and unseemly acts ensued that could not stand the light of day. When the light of day showed up anyway, the outcome proved disastrous for many a Republican fortune and fortune hunter: Jack Abramoff, more mud on the already caked DeLay, and many a congressional colleague following him down the storm drain. Indeed, as of this writing, mere days have passed since the resignation of Ohio Representative Bob Ney, a buddy of Abramoff and DeLay. Investigative journalist Matthew Continetti lays out the whole ugly story in another book from this summer: The K Street Gang: The Rise and Fall of the Republican Machine.
Speaking of sordid bedfellows, the much-touted marriage of the GOP and the so-called Religious Right has fallen on rocky times. It was once regarded as the surest evidence of Karl Rove’s genius that the “values vote,” as it was called in 2004, went to the Republicans, giving them their majority in the Waistland and its encircling Bible Belt. (Note: “values voters” with liberal values risk federal prosecution for violating tax exemption regulations; cf. the case of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.) Now, however, evangelicals are now divided over the vows they made; it turns out this may not be a marriage unto death. In his recent testament Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, evangelical activist and onetime White House insider David Kuo has pounded the wedge deeper by alleging that the Rovelings openly refer to the Faithful as “nuts” — which could be acknowledged, I suppose, as more evidence of Rove’s “genius.” Although some of God’s sheep, like Focus on Family’s James Dobson, still see a halo over the Devil’s fevered dome, others are openly disillusioned by the Party’s wicked and sinful ways. Some are threatening to sue for breach of promise. The Mark Foley scandal has not helped the Republican cause, regardless of the Party’s protests that they have turned over a new Page. Then again, that Dobson’s evangelical brother-in-arms in Colorado Springs, Rev. Ted Haggard, has just been accused of frequenting a gay prostitute, which suggests that the GOP and the Religious Right do belong in bed together.
Court-packing also has had mixed results. The Supreme Court’s vote for George W. boded well, but the top courts of Georgia and Ohio have so far refused Republican efforts to discourage Democratic voting by requiring photo ID at the polls. Of the massive databases that target potential GOP voters — more evidence of Rove’s “genius” — there is no doubt that these have given Republicans an edge. The tactic has worked especially well in a time when the nation’s voters could be almost evenly split along blue/red lines. In a 49% to 49% race, it only takes a handful of votes to claim an absolute majority and a victory. Hell, since 2000 it hasn’t even required an absolute majority.
This leads us to one other majoritarian tactic that can be ascribed to Rove’s “genius,” one overlooked not only by Hamburger and Wallsten but until recently by all save the daring few. Namely, cheating.
There is no need here to recount all the ways that the elections of 2000 and 2004 hollowed out our nominal democracy; a full recount isn’t even possible at this point. Everyone knows that Bush originally took the White House after coming in second, a travesty made possible by the machinations of Kathryn Harris and a Supreme Court majority that decided a Fourteenth Amendment passed to give freed slaves access to constitutional guarantees applied only to George W. Bush. Many were suspicious in 2004 when precincts, especially in Ohio, that were going to Kerry in exit polls devolved to Bush before the tally was finished, but the media and the Democrats decided that they themselves were wrong and the final numbers fair. After all, there were no tanks in the streets.
Mark Crispin Miller’s 2005 book Fooled Again lays out detailed evidence to the contrary. More recently, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., picked up the charge in his Rolling Stone cover article “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?“, now available online. It examines how “Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted,” mostly by making voting difficult or impossible in heavily Democratic precincts, challenging the residency status of many who did get to the polls, and simply dumping many resultant “provisional” and absentee ballots. It was also in Ohio where electronic voting machines tallied more Republican votes in some districts than there were Republicans or even voters. In New Mexico, which went for Bush by a miniscule margin, machines in heavily Democratic Native and Latino districts tallied an unbelievable number of “no votes”; as the online Yes Magazine observes, we are supposed to believe that such voters would travel miles across the high desert just to make no decision.
Some suggest that Karl Rove is not only masterminding this national policy of stealing elections but “smiling at every report of voter fraud and machine breakdown, thinking it will make Democratic voters more paranoid” and thus cynical about voting at all. Interviews suggest such pessimism already exists in minority districts, those which Democrats most need. Indeed, the best method for guaranteeing a Republican majority is to convince non-Republicans that their vote doesn’t count. Nothing succeeds like defeatism.
Fortunately, enough activists are aware of the fraud problem and have spread out across precincts this November. After all, almost all polls show that Democrats should make significant gains and take at least one house of Congress. An Associated Press-AOL News Poll released the week before the election showed only 37% of all likely voters likely to vote Republican, 56% of same likely to vote for Democrats, and not even because they necessarily like the latter but because they are desperate for a change.
The GOP cannot pull out another victory in 2006 without cheating, and doing so broadly and openly. Regardless of the outcome on November 7, we can only hope for a Rodney King moment that catches the perps red-handed — cheating so blatant that even the media and the Democratic leadership have to admit they’ve been punked the last six years.