STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As is well-known, since their triumph in the 2010 elections, not only at the Federal but also at the level of the states, a number one priority for the Republican Party has been limiting the numbers of those voting, especially those who might vote Democratic. Further, they have also focused on limiting the significance of the votes of potential Democratic voters. The first step in this direction was the post-2010 re-districting for both Congressional and state legislative seats.
In those states where they had gained both a majority in both Houses of the legislature and the Governor's mansion, they very creatively re-drew both Congressional and state legislative district lines to, wherever possible concentrating potential Democratic votes while expanding the electoral impact of potential Republican votes. Indeed, they had succeeded Karl Rove's early-2000's goal of a "Permanent Republican Majority, which had proved illusory," with the goal-in-fact of creating a Permanent Republican Elected Government, without the bother of having to gain electoral majorities to do that.
Of course they did not put it that way. They used other terminology, like "dealing with voting fraud." Fox"News"Channel and Savagely Levin-itatingO'Rhannibaugh, laid on that one every day to a fare-thee-well. Never mind that voter fraud almost never occurs. It just had to be prevented, using such means as requiring photo ID for registration and then voting. Now if the GOP were really interested in preventing voter fraud, they would, for example, have set up systems in the states in which they were requiring this for registration and voting making acquiring one easy and cheap. They could, for example, have set up numerous photo ID-acquisition centers, at taxpayer expense. Funny. That just didn't happen.
Soon, however, the GOP wasn't satisfied with these tactics. They have now moved on to straight voter suppression, especially in the swing states like Ohio and Wisconsin where they can do this. The strategy, for which they give few excuses, is aimed at suppressing the vote in those population segments that are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican, like African-Americans, the poor, Latinos, the young, and so on and so forth. Well, you might ask, "is this a new idea?" Well, I would reply, "no it isn't. It goes back at least as far as an electoral strategy designed by a now-defunct organization called the "Christian Coalition," in the late 1980s. It was called "The 15% Solution." The balance of this column is based on an excerpt, in quotes, from chapter two of my book by that name.
The text below has been slightly edited from the original. It is fully referenced and the references can be found in the book:
" 'The 15% Solution' was an electoral strategy developed by the lead¬ing political organ of the Re¬ligious Right, the so called 'Christian Coali¬tion." The 'Christian Coalition' was an unabashed, un¬apolo¬get¬ic, and out spoken repre¬sentative of that kind of authoritarian think¬ing which under their influence was so prominently repre¬sented in the poli¬tics of the Re¬publican Party, begin¬ning at their 1992 National Con¬ven¬tion. The strategy was designed to win elections even when the Coalition's supporters com¬prised a distinct minority of the eligi¬ble elec¬torate. As an early Christian Coalition Ex¬ecutive Direc¬tor, Ralph Reed [yes that's the same Ralph Reed who has cleaned up his act a bit], once said: 'I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag.'
"The 15% Solution was formulated in the following way.
" 'In a Presidential election, when more voters turn out than [in] any other election you normally see, only 15% of eligible vot¬ers can determine the out¬comes of that election (if things are done right) . . . . Of all adults 18 and over, eligible to vote, only about 60 or 65% are actually reg¬istered to vote. It might even be less than that, and it is less than that in many states. . . .'
" 'Of those registered to vote, in a good turnout only 50% actu¬al¬ly vote. [Thus,] only 30% of those eligible actually vote. . . . 15% of adults eligi¬ble to vote determine the out¬come in a high turn¬out elec¬tion. That hap¬pens once every four years. . . . In low turn¬out elec¬tions, city council, state legislature, county com¬mis¬sions, the per¬cent¬age who (sic) determines who wins can be as low as 6 or 7%. We don't have to worry about con¬vinc¬ing a majority of Ameri¬cans to agree with us (emphases added).
"As one of the most influential leaders of the Religious Right, Paul Weyrich, succinctly put it in the early 1990s: 'We don't want everyone to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the vot¬ing popu¬lation goes down.' By the national election of 1994, the Republicans were well on their way to achieving their goal. Only about 37% of eligible voters voted. The 'incredible Gingrich Landslide' that the media talked incessantly about (and periodically has done ever since)? The total GOP vote in those Congressional races was 19% of the eligibles, with Democrats getting the balance. Yet the GOP had already managed to concentrate their votes and get out their voters (as they did in 2010 and are likely to do once again in 2014).
"Many of the new representatives in 1994 were supported by the Christian Co¬alition and its allies. In an odd representation of reality, most media and political figures represented that victory as one reflecting the views of the 'American people' as a whole. In fact, the Republican victory was achieved by garnering the support of less than 20% of the eligible voters. 'The 15% Solution' was well within sight."
Returning to the present, the implementation of the original "15% Solution" now proceeds apace. I am simply noting here that voter suppression has been a GOP goal for many years. It is just becoming more intense and more wide-spread. And for most of those years, the Democratic Party has simply ignored it and them. If it continues to proceed, and one wonders just what might be done at this late date to stop the ever-building momentum, the contemporary Ralph Reeds will be painting their faces, but not even travelling by night. And indeed, most of us will not know that it's over and they have placed the nation in a body bag.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for [email protected] he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy. Dr. Jonas' latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.