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Est. April 5, 2002
March 01, 2018 - Issue 731

Will Democrats Preempt
Political ‘Skullduggery’
2018 Races?

"Despite growing public concerns about Russian meddling,
the real threats are hidden in plain sight—purging of
voter rolls, the relocation and downsizing of voting
precincts, gerrymandering of state legislative and
Congressional political districts, and the under
utilization of key constituencies of the Democratic base."

The most significant challenges facing Democrats in the upcoming 2018 elections are currently not at the top of their political agenda. In addition to the continuing Russian interference in our electoral process, Republicans and the Trump administration are also conducting a campaign to undermine Democratic possibilities for victories in state and national elections. Despite growing public concerns about Russian meddling, the real threats are hidden in plain sight—purging of voter rolls, the relocation and downsizing of voting precincts, gerrymandering of state legislative and Congressional political districts, and the under utilization of key constituencies of the Democratic base.

As revealed in the contentious 2000 election between Gov. George W. Bush (R) and Vice President Al Gore (D), the purging of voter rolls was central to Bush carrying the state of Florida by 537 votes, out of almost six million cast, enabling him to win in the Electoral College and the Presidency by five votes, 271 to 266, exceeding the minimum number needed by one. To achieve this outcome, Florida’s state government, headed by Gov. Jeb Bush (the President’s brother), hundreds of thousands of African American and Hispanic voters were disenfranchised by either classifying them as felons, making them ineligible to vote, or simply cancelling their voter registrations. Similar voter removal practices have been replicated in Ohio and Kansas by their former Secretaries of State. Moreover, Trump designated Kansas’ Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, to chair his Advisory Commission on Election Integrity after Trump alleged that the popular vote disparity between him and Hillary Clinton was a result of voter fraud. After several states refused to participate in this charade by providing private data on their registered voters, the Commission was quietly disbanded.

Even more insidious is the relocation and downsizing of voting precincts in states where Democrats have prevailed in close statewide and presidential elections and in areas predominated by members of the Democratic base: minorities, millennials, women, and citizens of a different sexual orientation. Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin are key states where these events have occurred. Precincts have been moved out of majority-minority areas, reduced in number, removed from college campuses, and voting machines have had suspicious breakdowns in the aforementioned sites. These actions have generated intermittent controversy, but have been consistently implemented.

The gerrymandering of state legislative and Congressional districts has been the cornerstone of the Republican scheme to take control of government at every level. As explained by David Daley in his 2016 book, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, the Republicans began distorting the nation’s political process in earnest in 2009 via … a dirty deed done on the cheap.” With an initial political campaign budget of $30 million, the Republican Cartel of the private-sector elite was able to gain a majority in more than two dozen state legislatures in 2010 by funding the election of their preferred candidates to office. This allowed them to control the redistricting process which permitted Republicans to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives and to gain seats in the U.S. Senate, culminating in control of all three branches of government with the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016.

Only after the fact did Democrats spring into action by launching a number of lawsuits against states that had intentionally drawn legislative districts to disadvantage Democratic voters. To date, they have been successful in Delaware, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina in having the courts overturn these political manipulations. Republicans have prevailed in some instances by delaying their applications while dragging their feet in the revision process, appealing to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) for relief, and rallying their base in opposition, often by appealing to racial hatred. However, most disconcerting is the fact that this has kept the Democrats dispersing their financial resources while the Republican Cartel seemingly has a bottomless pit of money from which it can draw.

Nevertheless, the Democrats’ underutilization of their key constituencies persists in being a significant barrier to their political success. Teachers, women, minorities, and millennials, with notable recent exceptions in Alabama, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, have not been fully incorporated as peers in Democratic messaging and strategy for the 2018 midterms despite their demonstrated successes in the above-mentioned states. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and national Democratic leaders remain aloof to the realities on the ground and are often out of sync with the candidates that they purport to back.

For example, Connor Lamb (D), who is running for Congress in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, that Trump won by twenty points, has designed his campaign to appeal to teachers, unions, blue-collar workers and progressives. And he has made it clear that he will not support the House’s Democratic Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, if he is elected. Long considered a safe Republican seat, the Cook Political Report, after initially placing the election in the Republican column, has now labeled the race a toss-up. This is another illustration of the Democrats’ internal conflicts and contradictions. Unless they can reconcile these issues, Democrats will not be able to make the necessary gains to re-take the House or Senate. They are at political as well as a philosophical crossroads as to a way forward. But Democrats will not be able to succeed unless they get on the same political page.

Meanwhile, the Republicans ‘political skullduggery’ goes on because they are united in their positions. Will Democrats be able to finally preempt it?

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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Executive Editor:
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