Why it is not “both parties” ruining Washington

3. Republican tactics are undemocratic: They are attempting to make it harder for people to vote (voter ID laws, fewer voting locations, etc.); they are redrawing election districts in their favor (as a result, they kept control of congress in spite of receiving fewer votes nationwide); they have used the filibuster at record levels (i.e., as a minority party, they have blocked much of the legislation of the democratically elected majority party); and they push policies that will benefit the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Republicans Make it Hard for People to Vote

In recent years, there has been “a well-coordinated effort by Republican state legislators across the country to disenfranchise voters who tend to support Democrats, particularly minorities and young people” (source). This effort has focused on the following measures:

  • Reducing or eliminating early-voting periods
  • Imposing cumbersome requirements that voters have a government ID; Republicans say is a response to voter fraud, which is essentially a nonexistent problem.

There is more:

Since the 2010 mid-terms, states have introduced and passed laws requiring proof of citizenship, ending election day voter registration, restricting voter registration efforts, limiting early voting, and making it harder for the formerly incarcerated to regain their voting rights post-release. The most common of the new restrictions, however, are photo ID laws that require voters to show particular forms of government ID in order to cast a ballot. According to the Brennan Center report, nearly 11 percent of Americans, or 21 million people, lack a government issued photo ID (source).

Here are some of the states where this has been pushed over the past several years (notice that important swing states are included in this list): Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas.

“Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia now allow some form of early voting, a relic from the days when everyone seemed to agree that more voters were better for democracy. Republicans have recently decided that a larger electorate can hurt them” (source).

Republicans Redraw the Election Boundaries

While Republicans hung onto control of the House of Representatives after November’s election (2012), Democratic candidates across the U.S. received more total votes than Republican candidates did. Gerrymandering—redrawing the election boundaries—is a major reason for this undemocratic outcome (Source). While some Democrats also attempted this strategy, Republicans made a nation-wide effort that had two important outcomes: (1) Gave them the congressional majority, in spite of receiving fewer votes, and (2) allows their representative to be more extreme in more homogenous (newly drawn) districts, making comprise less likely.

PolicyMic explains:

Republican gerrymandering of electoral districts isn’t as sexy to kick up a fuss about, nor does it make for as good memes, but it’s safe to say that elaborate redistricting helped the party to win their current House majority. And to win by redistricting, looks an awful lot like cheating. Professor Geoffrey Stone emphasized that:

 “Although the Republicans won 55% of the House seats, they received less than half of the votes for members of the House of Representatives. Indeed, more than half-a-million more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans House candidates. There was no split-decision. The Democrats won both the presidential election and the House election. But the Republicans won 55% of the seats in the House.

This seems crazy. How could this be? This answer lies in the 2010 election, in which Republicans won control of a substantial majority of state governments. They then used that power to re-draw congressional district lines in such a way as to maximize the Republican outcome in the 2012 House election.”

From The New York TImes:

In the nation as a whole, Democratic candidates for Congress won 1.1 million more votes than Republicans, according to a tally of the popular vote kept by David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report. But Republicans maintained their control of the House — making this one of a handful of elections in the last century where the party that won the popular vote for Congress did not win control of the House.”

Since redistricting gives many members of Congress less competitive, more politically homogeneous districts, it is often cited as one of the factors exacerbating political polarization — a tension can be seen in the current fiscal debate.”

An analysis by the Brennan Center found that the new lines that took effect this year may have changed which party won in at least 25 House districts this year, and that they helped Republicans win a net gain of six more seats than they would have won under the old maps.

Dr. McDonald, of George Mason University, said redistricting could have ramifications for the country, because as members of Congress are drawn into less-competitive districts, they may have less incentive to compromise. “They’re safe in their districts in the House of Representatives,” he said. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/politics/redistricting-helped-republicans-hold-onto-congress.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0


Republicans have used the Filibuster at Record Levels

See previous section for information about this issue.


Republicans Work for the Wealthy at the Expense of Everyone Else

Some examples:




Excerpts from a 2012 op-Ed by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein:

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/liberals-and-conservatives-dont-just-vote-differently-they-think-differently/2012/04/12/gIQAzb1kDT_story.html).

“When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“’Both sides do it’ or ‘There is plenty of blame to go around’ are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/turned-off-from-politics-thats-exactly-what-the-politicians-want/2012/04/20/gIQAffxKWT_story.html). Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

“Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented.

“In the third and now fourth years of the Obama presidency, divided government has produced something closer to complete gridlock than we have ever seen in our time in Washington, with partisan divides even leading last year to America’s first credit downgrade….Republicans have been the force behind the widening ideological gaps and the strategic use of partisanship.

“Republicans often dismiss nonpartisan analyses of the nature of problems and the impact of policies when those assessments don’t fit their ideology. In the face of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, the party’s leaders and their outside acolytes insisted on obeisance to a supply-side view of economic growth— thus fulfilling Norquist’s pledge — while ignoring contrary considerations.”