Republicans Want Voter Apathy. It Is Time To Crush Them Instead.
June 18, 2016

“The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine Republican soul, is 'What does a woman Republican want?'” (h/t - and apologies - to S. Freud.)

The other day, Thomas Friedman, still on his tireless Quest for The Perfect Center (a problem the National Basketball Association mooted by creating the 3-point shot), consigned the modern Republican Party to the dustbin o’ history. Expressing utter contempt for the GOP, Friedman wrote,

[I]t is just an empty shell, selling pieces of itself to the highest bidders, — policy by policy — a little to the Tea Party over here, a little to Big Oil over there, a little to the gun lobby, to anti-tax zealots, to climate-change deniers. And before you know it, the party stands for an incoherent mess of ideas unrelated to any theory of where the world is going or how America actually becomes great again in the 21st century.

It becomes instead a coalition of men and women who sell pieces of their brand to whoever can most energize their base in order for them to get re-elected in order for them to sell more pieces of their brand in order to get re-elected.

To Friedman (and, perhaps, his cab-drivers), the loop is socially pointless, damning and damnable.

In revolt against this self-serving cycle - and maybe because they haven’t gotten anything close to the prosperity promised to them from Republican leadership’s trickle-down tax policies - the GOP’s voters have opted this presidential election-cycle for Generalissimo Tangerine. He’s openly racist, nativist, and misogynistic - a New-Yawk-thumb-in-the-eye to the GOP’s operating system since Nixon implemented the Southern Strategy: using racist dog-whistles to arouse the base, serving it a steaming pile of rhetoric on social issues (“guns, gays, and God”), and even throwing it an actual bone or two like the Hyde Amendment, all the while relentlessly cutting taxes and business regulations for their wealthiest constituents.

As a result, Republican political leaders find themselves caught in an awkward bro-hug with a guy who’s trounced all their more conventional candidates. When they aren’t defending his indefensible ignorance or blaming it on each other or on Democrats, they’re mutely ignoring it, eyes hopefully averted to the presidential prize.

Progressives can and should enjoy this Keystone comedy, but a little schadenfreude goes a long way, and maybe too far. The shiny object of apparent Republican disintegration during this presidential season should not obscure the metastasizing damage still being done by Republicans to the federal government and at every level of government in many states.

At the federal level, for example, because Republicans control the U.S. Senate, 88 federal judgeships on various courts and a seat on the Supreme Court sit vacant. Republicans refuse to vote on President Obama’s pending 58 judicial nominations.

At the state level, according to Ballotpedia, “As of June 2016, there were 7 Democratic and 23 Republican trifectas. A trifecta is when one political party holds” the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house.

Republican trifectas include Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida - four states crucial to either party’s path to the White House.

Republicans have used their trifectas to their political advantage in Red, Purple, and Blue states in a variety of ways. They’ve enacted voter-suppression laws, right-to-work laws, gun-proliferation laws, and abortion restrictions. Of the 19 states that rejected Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, 16 are Republican trifecta states.

Republican-controlled state governments also have prohibited cities within their borders from pursuing more progressive policies. The North Carolina bathroom legislation arose in response to local governments enacting LGBT-friendly policies.

Left to their own devices, Republicans can and will bring back the Gilded Age, or as much of it as they can without reducing Social Security, Medicare, and tax-breaks for their oldest, richest, and whitest voters.

So, while Republicans have been imploding as a national/Presidential party, they’ve made significant and persisting gains everywhere else. For all the importance of the federal government, people's’ lives are also directly affected by the quality and policies of their state and local governments, where I worked for 22 years.

We know why Republicans are at this high-water mark as State parties: Democrats didn’t vote in 2010 and 2014 as they did in 2008 and 2012. Democratic voters ceded the 2010 and 2014 elections to Republicans - along with many state governments in swing states (WI, MI, FL, and OH among them) and associated federal and state redistricting processes.

That’s what Republicans want, and that’s what they’ve been getting in abundance - Democratic/progressive apathy in federal by-elections and state-government elections.

Viewed in this light, Republicans’ ongoing awkwardly unhappy dance with Campaign Creamiscle™ is really about preventing him from saying things that galvanize Democratic voters to actually vote this fall.

Keep the Republican policy agenda in mind as you enjoy the debacle that is the Republican march toward - but perhaps not to? - the White House. Democratic voters should not get complacent by paying too much attention to how badly Trump is polling with almost every demographic other than non-college-educated white men.

Democrats and progressives win when we vote. We lose when we don’t. It’s the Iron Law of...uh...Political Arithmetic. And of majoritarian democracies. And even majoritarian republics.

If Democratic voters give Republicans what Republicans want this fall, then Democratic voters - more specifically, Democratic non-voters - will get what they deserve. And filibusters in the Senate for progressive goals like gun control - however inspiring and heartfelt - will have little or no actual legislative effect.

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