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Thursday, 18 October 2012 08:49

Karl Rove’s Permanent Republican Presidency

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STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

By the middle of the first decade of this century, Karl Rove was dreaming of what he called “The Permanent Republican Majority.”   That is he thought that he could achieve a majority vote among the 50% or so of US eligible voters who actually vote, for the Republican candidates for the Presidency, on a permanent basis.  In the 2000 election (1) he had achieved less than a majority of the popular vote (47.9% to Gore’s 48.4%, the rest going to minor candidates [mainly the spoiler Ralph Nader]), and had managed a majority of the electoral vote only by getting, as is very known, a one vote majority on the Supreme Court.  But Karl had a big dream.  For 2004 he would construct a true majority, among those actually voting that is, by pulling “his people” to the polls in numbers out of proportion to their proportion among the eligible.

He did that that year by getting anti-gay marriage initiatives of one sort of another onto the ballots in 12 states where pulling homophobes to the polls in numbers out-of-proportion to their numbers in the general population would boost the vote total for George Bush.  The strategy did work in one sense.  Bush did get 50.7% of the popular vote (2).  But John Kerry actually won the electoral vote, except that Ohio had been rigged by the Republican Secretary of State, who just happened to also be the Ohio chair for Bush-Cheney(!) (3).

(In fact, Kerry had anticipated such a possible outcome and had prepared a $15,000,000 war chest for legal action.  For unknown reasons he chose not to use it [leaving John Edwards, to whom he had promised he would, in a rage.  Of course, Edwards was not a paragon of ethical behavior either, as it turned out, but that’s another story.]  But Rove knew which end was up.  And the full Ohio vote-count rigging story would have come out a couple of years later if the man at the technical center of it had not somehow been killed in a light plane crash on his way to testify at a hearing on the matter, for which he had indicated that he was going to tell the truth (3).  [It is interesting to note that Senators Paul Wellstone and Mel Carnahan had some years earlier died the same way.])

At any rate, Rove is anything but dumb.  Given the closeness of both the popular and electoral vote totals, following the 2004 election it became very apparent that he was no longer focusing on a Permanent Republican Majority.  It was too risky if one wanted to keep GOP control of the Federal government.  For the one thing, the proportion of eligible voters actually voting could go up, and they might go to the other side.  That was the lesson of 2008.  For another, how many times could one put homophobe-philic initiatives or similar ones on state ballots?  No, another strategy had to be developed.  And so instead of the Permanent Republican Majority, Rove and his cohorts came up with the concept of the Permanent Republican Presidency.

The strategy has six major components, built up over time.  And if one has been watching GOP actions since the middle of the last decade one can discern them fairly easily.  First is the cementing of the vote of the Religious Rightists without going to the lengths of coming up with ballot initiatives and similar.  You simply convert the GOP into what Howard Fineman of MSNBC and The Huffington Post has called “The American Faith Party” (4).  Second, you fake stories of sex and corruption which manage to take down the principal organization whose principal focus is on registering low-income voters, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) (5).  Third, following the 2008 election (which you hardly minded losing, given the economic pit into which the country was falling due to the policies enacted by your party --- let the other guy take the blame for the outcomes, which blame the GOP is shoveling on him by the truckload this year) you focus on organizing the right-wing vote at the state level through the very well-funded so-called “Tea Party” movement. 

Fourth, once having taken over both Executive and Legislative branches of a number of state governments, with the very active help of the Fox”News”Channel you make the non-existent practice of “voter fraud” the tool through which you enact a series of state laws designed to achieve wide-spread voter suppression.  Since there have been a series of successful court challenges to those laws, it remains to be seen just how successful they will be this time around.  But Rove and his people are on for the long haul.  Then (fifth) of course there is “Citizens United” and the “Super-PACs.” Thom Hartmann to the contrary notwithstanding, they have not made a qualitative difference in the owning-class control of the state apparatus in the United States which goes back to the days of the Slave Power.  But they surely have made a quantitative difference in the amount of money the Right-wing has to spend on assuring electoral outcomes to their liking.  Finally (sixth) there is the widespread cheating which began in earnest in 2004 with the substitution of electronic voting, run by GOP corporate allies, for paper or manual machine voting (3). 

It remains to be seen how this will play out in this year’s election.  Until the first Presidential debate, Romney had been far enough behind so that cheating in such states under GOP control as Ohio and Florida would have become fairly obvious.  Following the President’s miserable performance in the first debate, Romney started to catch up and gave himself a chance to win even without cheating and with limited voter suppression.  With Obama’s strong performance in the second debate, the GOP may have to fall back on cheating to secure victory.  But one can be sure, if they are within striking distance of victory for Romney, and cheating will seal the deal they will surely do what it takes, for them (3).

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1. 2000 General Election Results, http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=2000

2. 2004 General Election Results, http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=2004

3. Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, The Free Press | News Analysis, Tuesday, 16 October 2012, “Will Bain-Linked E-Voting Machines Give Romney the White House?” Republished on Truthout, Oct. 16, 2012, http://truth-out.org/news/item/12130-will-hig-owned-e-voting-machines-give-romney-the-white-house.

4. Fineman, H., "Rise of Faith within the GOP has created America's First Religious  
Party," The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/05/republican-  
party-religion-first-religious-party_n_1322132.html.

5. Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of_Community_Organizations_for_Reform_Now.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor 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 BuzzFlash/Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/), he is the Managing Editor of and a Contributing Author to TPJmagazine.net.