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GOP's 'Virginia Coup' Escalates War on Democracy

By now, readers of TDS and other progressive websites are no longer surprised by new revelations concerning the Republican project to undermine fair political representation by gerrymandering at every opportunity. But The Nation's John Nichol's puts it particularly well in his post, "GOP Version2013: Battling Not Just Democrats but Democracy." Here's how it happened, as Nichols explains:

On a day when most Americans were focused on the stirring second inaugural address of President Barack Obama--and on the broader majesty of the transference of an election result into a governing mandate--Republican state senators in Virginia hatched an elaborate scheme to rig the electoral system against democracy.

Prevented by an even 20-20 divide in the chamber from gerrymandering Senate districts to favor one party or the other, the Republicans knew that their only opening to draw lines that favored their candidates in this fall's off-year elections would be if at least one Democrat were missing. Inauguration Day gave them an opening, as an African-American senator, a veteran of the civil rights movement, was in Washington to recognize the beginning of the new term of the nation's first African-American president.

In a matter of minutes, the Republicans introduced and approved--on a 20-19 vote--a new map that is designed to concentrate African-American and liberal white votes in a handful of districts while virtually guaranteeing that Republicans will win a majority of the new districts and control of the legislature. And if a Republican wins the governorship this fall, the GOP will, thanks to a legislative coup and the electoral map it created, have complete control of a state that was easily won by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, that has two Democratic senators and that most observers believe is trending Democratic.

Noting that "the Republican senators adjourned their Rev. Martin Luther King Day session not in honor of the civil rights icon but "in memory of General Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson." In addition, Nichols explains that the GOP war on democracy "...is part of a national strategy to allow Republicans to "win" even when they lose. And its primary focus will be on gerrymandering not just state legislatures and the US House but on rigging the Electoral College."

Nichols goes on to show that the Republicans' electoral college vote allocation schemes, if implemented last year, could well have resulted in a Romney electoral college victory, even though Obama would have had a five-million vote popular vote edge. The GOP strategy being pushed by party Chairman Reince Priebus can be boiled down to: Cheat Democrats out of congressional strategy with gerrymandering and rip off electoral votes through proportional allocation schemes. Nichols continues,

..Just as Virginia Republicans were willing to abandon any pretense of fairness in order to game the system for statewide electoral advantage, there is every reason to believe that Republican legislators in states across the country will, with encouragement from the national chairman of their party, move to rig the Electoral College so that a losing Republican might again "win" the presidency--as popular-vote loser George W. Bush did in 2000, with an assist from a Republican-dominated US Supreme Court.

Americans who presume that there are limits to the willingness of Priebus and his Republican stalwarts to rig the rules in their favor have not been paying attention. The Virginia coup should serve as their wake-up call. Reince Priebus' GOP Version2013 threatens not just Democratic victories but democracy itself.

The temptation is to hope the Priebus will bring the same level of competence to marshalling his war on democracy that he demonstrated in organizing the Republican Convention last summer. But Dems can't count on that and need to be on high alert in every state where the GOP has enough leverage to game the system.