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Wed Jan 30, 2013, 11:58 AM

The Anti-Democratic Party: An Overview of the Modern Republican Party

Changing the Rules:

Ultimately there are three reasons why anyone might propose changing how Americans elect our government(s); to make the process more or less fair, to make the process more or less inclusive, and/or to make the process more or less likely to deliver specific outcomes. Firm believers in the concept of democracy consistently seek elections that are as fair as possible, and as inclusive as possible, believing that is the best way to ensure results that best reflect the will of the American people. That goal after all reflects the heart and soul of democracy, and is what distinguishes it from other less egalitarian forms of government. That goal is not embraced by the Republican Party.

Republican’s newest election ploy involves changing how electoral votes are awarded to Presidential candidates, to be based largely on results inside of Congressional Districts, but it is only the most recent addition to their arsenal of initiatives to make elections less fair, less inclusive, and more likely to result in a specific result. That result of course is the election of more Republicans. The trial balloons Republicans have floated for their proposed changes have taken some hits but by no means have they all been shot down. While this “reform” effort needs more exposing for exactly what it is, a way to game election results, it can’t be viewed in a vacuum. It is part of a bigger picture that stretches back at least 50 years. Part Two will focus on a short historical review.

Though Republicans claim their current electoral vote reallocation scheme is meant to increase fairness that quickly fails the quack test. If it looks like rigging an election, if it sounds like rigging an election; Quack Quack, none should duck the logical conclusion. There are 24 States with Republican Governors and functional Republican control of the State legislatures. Prominent Republicans in six of them either called for considering or actually introduced legislation changing how those States reward their electoral votes. By some fluke coincidence those six are the only States controlled by Republicans where Barack Obama won the election in 2012, Under the “reform” plans Republicans want considered Mitt Romney would have reaped the majority of electoral votes awarded by those six states, instead of zero under the system actually used.

There is no such push for that type of reform in North Carolina though, which Republicans also control but where Mitt Romney eked out a small popular vote victory. Democrats won a majority of the Congressional Districts inside North Carolina. Of the States Republicans now control fully, eleven include Districts that elected Democrats to Congress 2012. Suffice it to say there is no new movement afoot within any State won by Romney to change how electoral votes are divided.

Even if in one fell swoop every state simultaneously changed how they allocate electorate votes to the manner endorsed by the Republican National Chairman that change would still deliver a decidedly partisan advantage to Republicans. Under such a system Mitt Romney would have defeated Barack Obama for President despite losing the popular vote by over 5 million voters. So much for respecting the will of the majority, if “reforms” are advanced that would knowingly and blatantly fly in the face of it.

Despite Democrats cumulatively winning over a million more votes for Congress than did Republicans, Republicans emerged from the 2012 elections with a clear majority in the House of Representatives because of how skillfully Republican controlled legislatures gerrymandered Congressional Districts to thwart overall majority rule. That is how, if Republican advocated changes had been in effect last November, Mitt Romney would ascended to the Presidency. That is why Republicans are advocating for those changes now, democracy be damned. This is not an isolated Republican outbreak of anti-democratic sentiments though; history bears witness to that.

The Wrong Road Taken:

What is it about today’s Republicans not recognizing “the will of the people”? Hell, what is it about them hedging on recognizing all of “the people” to begin with? Abraham Lincoln indeed helped end slavery, but ever since Republicans drifted toward becoming the main “conservative” party in American politics, they have tilted toward government for the people, by some of the people more than others. Though they still hail democracy as an elixir for most of the worlds problems, here in the good old U.S.A. Republicans of late have been luke warm at best about core democratic concepts such as “one man one vote” and majority rule. So their latest shenanigans over how Americans elect our President should come as a surprise to no one. It clearly fits their recent pattern.

The current Republican Party infatuation with rigging the Electoral College, as discussed earlier, smacks heavily of pure partisan politics, but historically many conservatives were more focused on the theoretical underpinnings of American democracy. Arguably that was true during the struggle for Civil Rights for black Americans, extending well into the 1960’s. A 1956 editorial by William F. Buckley in the National Review, for example, made the almost clinical assertion that:

“Support for the Southern position rests not at all on the question whether Negro and White children should, in fact, study geography side by side; but on whether a central or a local authority should make that decision. “
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The landmark 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts would never have become law without strong Republican support. Senate Minority leader Everett Dirksen in particular played a critical role in the passage of both bills. Even Senator Barry Goldwater who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act (he was not a member of the Senate in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was considered) supported 9 out of its 11 provisions. Though Goldwater did vote for the less sweeping Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, he ultimately came down against the 1964 bill because he was reluctant to support significant federal interference in what he viewed to be state affairs. In addition Goldwater opposed legislating who a private person could or could not do business with.

Whatever his reasons, Goldwater’s vote contributed to profound electoral changes. When he went on to become the 1964 Republican Presidential nominee Goldwater won less than 5% of the black vote on the heels of Richard Nixon receiving a third of that vote in 1960. On the other hand the Deep South opened up for the Republican Party in that election for the first time in a century. Suddenly the southern white vote was available for Republicans to court, and although Barry Goldwater had no say on the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Ronald Reagan, the man who replaced him as the torch bearer for the conservative movement, opposed it. As late as 1980 Reagan characterized the Voting Rights Act as having been “humiliating to the South”, though as President he did sign off on extending it again in 1982.

It seems at times that other concerns, less rooted in debates over the relative powers of the Federal and State governments, factored into the resistance some conservatives had to the use of federal powers to eliminate Jim Crow laws and segregation in the South. In a 1957 National Review editorial titled “Why the South must prevail?” William Buckley wrote:

“If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority.”


His opinion in this instance at least was buttressed by what most now would view as racism when he answered what he saw as the central question “…whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race."

In fairness to William Buckley his views continued to evolve after 1957. Buckley later became an active opponent of racism and admitted that he was mistaken to have opposed both the 1964 and 1065 Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. Still his earlier comments help to illustrate why the “Southern Strategy” that Richard Nixon later advanced to win the Presidency was a natural fit for the Republican Party by the time Nixon ran aaain in 1968. And Buckley’s proclamation “It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority” still resonates in some Conservative circles today.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy was a major turning point for the modern Republican Party, one that severed it from a critical historic mooring. In the name of defending “States Rights” Republicans knowingly began aligning with Southerners opposed to integration, and with players intent on disenfranchising African American voters in order to maintain their political control. It is nothing that Democrats hadn’t done before them, in the South especially, but as the national Democratic Party began backing away from that sordid legacy Republicans stepped into the breech.

It was a fateful move for a Party once defined by its strong stance against Slavery. The same Party that once led the fight to expand the voting franchise to America’s newly recognized black citizens sought support from those intent on disenfranchising their descendents in the South. All done for principled reasons conservatives said at the time, while the political tacticians they employed focused on fashioning what they hoped would become a permanent Republican lock on an Electoral College majority. And they established the mindset of the modern Anti-Democratic Party.

Where That Road Has Led

It’s the age old argument of means and ends. Is democracy just a means toward an end or is it more of an end itself? If democracy in all its nitty gritty nuts and bolts glory is simply a means to secure an end, like for example the establishment of a certain set of policies, then its nuts and bolts will likely get stripped and bent if they stand in the way of achieving that end, with little in the way of any real remorse on the part of those who strip and bend them. The ideals of our country though say otherwise. We not only glory in our accomplishments as a nation, we glory in how we accomplished them; we the people, our common will manifest and measured through democracy.

Increasingly though the Republican Party is less enamored with democracy as an end itself, increasingly it views democracy as a means that must be mastered to achieve a desired goal; government by Republicans. No political party is monolithic and no vice is reserved for one side only, but the Republican Party has not been subtle of late about sacrificing democratic imperatives for the sake of political expediency. Their current nakedly partisan attempt to alter how electoral votes are allocated is just the most recent Exhibit A documenting the transformation of the Republican Party into the Anti-Democratic Party.

Last year Exhibit A was their nationally coordinated campaign for voter suppression. With their greatest efforts centered on presidential swing states Republicans went to work, not to Rock the Vote, but to block it instead. All of their initiatives had a common theme, to make it more difficult for some people to register and vote. The tactics varied but the impact was remarkably consistent. You can call it another fluke coincidence, but the demographics of those who found themselves facing added burdens to exercise their right to vote in States controlled by Republicans skewed heavily toward Democratic voters.

Whether it was the all of a sudden need immediately before a Presidential election to fight non existent voter fraud with new State mandated voter photo ID’s, or the hasty and often illegal massive last minute purges of voter rolls that inexplicably disproportionately targeted minorities, the goal was always the same; to shrink the overall electorate and to do so through surgical strikes against Democratic leaning constituencies. We’ve held elections in America for centuries now. It’s not like we can’t see them coming ahead of time in order to get prepared, but when Presidential elections happen under Republican control in the pivotal swing states of Florida and Ohio, they reliably have voting difficulties on election day, problems that result in huge hours long waiting lines in precincts that normally vote Democratic.

The Anti-Democratic bent of today’s Republican Party surfaces in less obvious ways also, often at the State level. In States like Michigan and Wisconsin far reaching initiatives that threaten to change the social fabric of those societies while upsetting the political balance get railroaded through Republican controlled State legislatures in record time, though they were never raised as campaign issues by those who suddenly propose them. It gets accomplished through backroom meetings, using questionable parliamentary gimmicks designed to both curtail public debate and the public’s ability to overturn the legislative vote through long established and accepted referendum processes.

In Congress of course, there is the glaringly obvious example of the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate. Traditionally it was defended as a rare and dramatic measure invoked to protect the rights of the minority on important matters from being arbitrarily steamrolled by a runaway majority without due consideration or a sincere effort made to find common ground. Most Americans of good will find at least some merit in that understanding. Our political system developed with checks and balances for several reasons. Protecting the rights of the minority was one of them. The filibuster isn’t being used for that purpose by Republicans today. It is invoked routinely on even minor issues that Republicans object to. It is now used to provide the Republican minority with an almost effortless veto against the will of the majority

Can all of the lofty ideals, the Anti-Democratic Party is in this to win, and the rules of the game are secondary to the final score. Maybe a cadre of current Conservatives still believes, as William Buckley once did, that “It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority” with them of course as sole judges for what counts as being civilized. Maybe it’s not even Conservatives who ultimately are calling those shots; maybe it is just their ideology being used for political cover by those for whom their own chosen ends justify their own chosen means.

Whatever it is we are no longer witnessing the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, or even of Everett Dirkson, or of Barry Goldwater either for that matter. We are viewing something far less pure than that, something more pedestrian in its pursuit of power, something that can better be described as the Anti-Democratic Party.

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:03 PM

1. This OP combines the three parts of this essay that I posted in the Politic 2013 forum last night

I made a slight addition to what had been the third part (called "Conclusion" in the other forum). In some ways it made sense to make three threads initially because the three parts each have a different focus, but I figured it also made sens to combine them, so this is that.

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:06 PM

2. And Boehner and friends had just finished saying that

Obama wants to "destroy" the GOP. Jeez...is there not a time that there isn't a Republican offering projections? They accuse him of taking away freedoms while they make it harder for vote and have abortions. They accuse Obama of being a racist while calling him a "food stamp" president and making a "Magic Negro" song about him. They accuse him of wanting to take away "your" money and putting it in the hands of someone else, while coming up with higher sales taxes (Bobby Jindal), and proposing cuts to the safety net while lowering top tax rates. These people are nothing but professional grifters.

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Response to Jamaal510 (Reply #2)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 12:13 PM

3. Their use of Projection is a major theme in and of itself

When I was writing the second part of this OP I realized that the Republican Party used to have more genuine convictions, at least well into the 60's, even when I disagreed with them, even when they were flawed.

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Response to Jamaal510 (Reply #2)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:26 PM

4. Confusionists is what I came to call them from seeing them involved in talk about globalwarming.

And from watching what goes on on this board (I don't put anyone on Ignore), I am thinking it possible now that you can acquire employment to "ride the gain" on the confusion out there over whatever.

Some of it is authentic confusion, coming from cohorts whose backgrounds placed them at somewhat of a disadvantage in re general knowledge and skills, but who have no intention of causing harm and who will, likely, given time and opportunity, acquire more fully developed functionality.

It is possible that there are others who are harvesting the churn, on purpose, and turning it into an economic enterprise in and of itself. Having engaged certain kinds of actors here, I think it may be possible to at least hypothetically identify such by some rather consistent traits, the first of which I would call a high priority placed upon Clique-Appeal.

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Response to patrice (Reply #4)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:38 PM

6. ... or perhaps I should call that Click-Clique-Appeal. nt

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:36 PM

5. Thank you for this point; I will share it with a link:

Under such a system Mitt Romney would have defeated Barack Obama for President despite losing the popular vote by over 5 million voters. So much for respecting the will of the majority, if “reforms” are advanced that would knowingly and blatantly fly in the face of it.

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 02:06 PM

7. Excellent And Worthy Piece, Sir!

It ought to be read by everyone.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #7)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 07:40 PM

12. Thank you Sir

Your recommendation means a lot to me.

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 02:15 PM

8. I especially like how well you have posed the question of how one "stands for" a principle/ideal

relative to social realities that include diversity.

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Response to patrice (Reply #8)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 07:38 PM

11. Someone like William Buckley struggled over his principles & ideals

Someone like Sarah Palin not so much. Our two party system functions so much better when both sides embrace integrity.

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 04:47 PM

9. One addition to your excellent history

You emphasize the 1964 election as the beginning of the transformation that occurred -- the switching of roles between the two major parties on matters of race. Certainly it was of huge importance, but the story should also include 1960.

For years, blacks had strongly supported Republicans, the heirs of Lincoln. On the other side, the Democrats did not challenge white supremacy in the South, and the Democratic coalition had relied on the "solid South" with its almost exclusively white electorate. For decades after Reconstruction ended, the Democratic Presidential candidate received all the electoral votes of the South except for a handful of elections in which a nationwide Republican landslide was powerful enough to put the Republican over the top in some Southern states.

It was in 1960 that the reversal began. From the Wikipedia article on the "Solid South":

In the 1960 election, the Democratic nominee, John F. Kennedy, continued his party's tradition of selecting a Southerner as the vice presidential candidate (in this case, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas). Kennedy and Johnson, however, supported civil rights. In October 1960, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested at a peaceful sit-in in Atlanta, Georgia, Kennedy placed a sympathetic phone call to King's wife, Coretta Scott King, and Robert Kennedy helped secure King's release. King expressed his appreciation for these calls. Although King himself made no endorsement, his father, who had previously endorsed Republican Richard Nixon, switched his support to Kennedy.

Because of these and other events, the Democrats lost ground with white voters in the South, as those same voters increasingly lost control over what was once a whites-only Democratic Party in much of the South. The 1960 election was the first in which a Republican presidential candidate received electoral votes in the South while losing nationally. Nixon carried Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida.


Of course, 1964 was far more dramatic. Goldwater in 1964 and Stevenson in 1956 both lost in landslides, in which (except for Goldwater carrying his home state of Arizona) each found their only electoral votes in the deep South, including many of the same states. In just eight years, those states went from being the Democratic bastion to being the Republican bastion. The obvious reason, as you note, is that, as the Democratic Party embraced civil rights, the Republicans stepped into the breach of appealing to the racists who had long supported the Democrats.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #9)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 06:25 PM

10. Thank you for filling in more context regarding 1960

Parts of that were new to me. I didn't know about King's father switching his endorcement and the timing of that for one thing. A lot was changing before 1964 but most of that was on the Democratic side as more Democrats embraced Civil Rights for Blacks. The Republican effort to exploit Souther White anger with the Democratic Party after 1964 however is what I think ultimately had the strongest transformative influence on the Republican Party

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