A “Poisonous Initiative” to Maintain Power

The greatest threat to American democracy in the early part of the 21st century is not posed by ruthless ideologues from afar who hijack airplanes. The greatest threat is posed by ruthless ideologues who are homegrown and seek to hijack the entire nation. Here is further evidence of how far they are willing to go to maintain their stranglehold on power, as detailed by Bob Herbert in the New York Times:

In 2008, Bush v. Gore Redux?

Right now it’s just a petition drive on its way to becoming a ballot initiative in California. But you should think of it as a tropical depression that could develop into a major storm that blows away the Democrats’ chances of winning the White House next year.

And it could become a constitutional crisis.

It’s panic time in Republican circles. The G.O.P. could go into next year’s election burdened by the twin demons of an unpopular war and an economic downturn. The party that took the White House in 2000 while losing the popular vote figures it may have to do it again.

The Presidential Election Reform Act is the name of a devious proposal that Republican operatives have dreamed up to siphon off 20 or more of the 55 electoral votes that the Democrats would get if, as expected, they win California in 2008.

That’s a lot of electoral votes, the equivalent of winning the state of Ohio. If this proposed change makes it onto the ballot and becomes law, those 20 or so electoral votes could well be enough to hand the White House to a Republican candidate who loses the popular vote nationwide.

Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has suggested that the initiative is a form of dirty pool. While not explicitly opposing it, Mr. Schwarzenegger said it smacks of changing the rules “in the middle of the game.�

Democrats are saying it’s unconstitutional.

The proposal would rewrite the rules for the distribution of electoral votes in California. Under current law, all of California’s 55 electoral votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote statewide. That “winner-take-all� system is the norm in the U.S.

Under the proposed change, electoral votes would be apportioned according to the winner of the popular vote in each of California’s Congressional districts. That would likely throw 20 or more electoral votes to the Republican candidate, even if the Democrat carries the state.

A sign of the bad faith in this proposal is the fact that there is no similar effort by the G.O.P. to apportion electoral votes by Congressional districts in, for example, Texas, a state with 34 electoral votes that is likely to go Republican next year. [full text]

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4 responses

  1. Good to see you back writing, David. It’s been awhile since I dropped in here – hope all is well with you…

    Great post – I agree – these people are after usurping the constitution a little at a time, treating the population like a frog dropped in cold water and slowly boiled to death, never jumping out because it happens so gradually.

    The Reichstag fire

    The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to issue a decree entitled, “For the Protection of the People and the State.” Justified as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state,” the decree suspended the constitutional guarantees pertaining to civil liberties:

    Two weeks after the Reichstag fire, Hitler requested the Reichstag to temporarily delegate its powers to him so that he could adequately deal with the crisis. Denouncing opponents to his request, Hitler shouted, “Germany will be free, but not through you!” When the vote was taken, the result was 441 for and 84 against, giving Hitler the two-thirds majority he needed to suspend the German constitution. On March 23, 1933, what has gone down in German history as the “Enabling Act” made Hitler dictator of Germany, freed of all legislative and constitutional constraints.

    Oddly enough, even though his dictatorship very quickly became complete, Hitler returned to the Reichstag every four years to renew the “temporary� delegation of emergency powers that it had given him to deal with the Reichstag-arson crisis. Needless to say, the Reichstag rubber-stamped each of his requests.

    For their part, the German people quickly accepted the new order of things. Keep in mind that the average non-Jewish German was pretty much unaffected by the new laws and decrees. As long as a German citizen kept his head down, worked hard, took care of his family, sent his children to the public schools and the Hitler Youth organization, and, most important, didn’t involve himself in political dissent against the government, a visit by the Gestapo was very unlikely.

  2. in my more depressed moments i think that what happened in 2000 was a coup and our democracy has been hijacked.

  3. In my more depressed moments I try to figure what we can do about it.

  4. Yeah, no crap. This is why I hate our initiatives process. The Pollyanna in me still holds out hope that this would overstep the state’s role in a federal election, but the current administration would certainly look the other way.

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