Tea Party opens door to election reform, will Democrats walk through?

Anger Over Fiscal-Cliff Deal Fires Up Tea Party

Until last night, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that the Tea Party was on the wane… But after 85 House Republicans joined Boehner in raising taxes without spending reductions during the end game of Monday night’s fiscal-cliff negotiations, Tea Party leaders and conservative activists from around the country are dusting off their tri-corner hats and “Don’t Tread On Me” signs, and now say that their members are as energized as they have ever been since the first Tax Day protests in 2009. And the Republican Party, they add, had better beware.
“We now have 85 members of the House who have shunned their noses at us,” said Dustin Stockton, a Texas- and Nevada-based operative and the chief strategist of The Tea Party.net. “Our job now is to recruit and inspire and motivate people to run against those Republicans who did it.”

Now there is a very simple way for those 85 Republican congressmen to strengthen their position in the 2014 primaries… Change the rules in 2013!
What the GOP really needs is to move away from single party primaries. In Washington State (and California), nonpartisan primaries pick the two top candidates– regardless of party– to go onto the general. A system like this allows moderate Republican candidates— RINOS scared of being primaried by the right– to make it to the general with the support of moderate Democratic voters.

Since Democrats want to make registration and voting easier, there’s a simple grand bargain available. Congress could adopt Washington State’s election system for all federal races. 1. Nonpartisan primaries (good for those 85 walking dead Republicans), 2. Postal voting for all federal races plus local races in states that opt in (simple registration— online or by mail, everyone votes absentee so no more waiting in line on election day, good for Democrats), 3. Nonpartisan congressional redistricting commissions to eliminate gerrymandered districts. Long-term this last reform is good for everyone but since the Republicans have the short-term gerrymandering advantage, Republican congressmen could justify voting for election reform to GOP voters back home by asserting that, in exchange for their vote, they personally made the Democrats back down on immediate redistricting and made them wait until after the 2020 Census. Throw in North Carolina’s system of voluntary public campaign financing (like the bill NC Republican Rep. Walter Jones co-sponsored last Congress) and the DISCLOSE Act requiring, among other things, instant disclosure of SUPERPAC funding(also co-sponsored by Walter Jones)), this would be a pretty solid election reform plan that virtually all the Democrats in Congress and, say, 85 Republicans could support (curiously, the reform-minded Jones isn’t in that cohort, he voted against the fiscal cliff bill).

The Democrats would be doing a good deed (while quickly strengthening President Obama’s ability to get bipartisan deals passed in the House) if they threw a life preserver to these 85 Republicans by pitching them on a bipartisan “the Other Washington” election reform bill. That will be a hell of a better deal for these Republicans than waiting until the Tea Party blasts them in the 2014 primaries, with the Democrats sure to egg on GOP primary voters— Claire MacCaskill-style– to pick the most extreme candidate.

Comments
  • Tom Hickey January 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Somehow I suspect that the Dems, being the political animals they are, would rather sit on the sidelines and watch as their rivals set up a circular firing squad. :)

    • beowulf January 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      That’s self-defeating in the short term because those 85 RINOS will spend the next two years running to the right unless the Democrats give them a reason to run to the center. Its self-defeating in the long-term because the GOP is still going to control the House after the 2014 midterms. Republicans did such a bang-up job gerrymandering the House after the 2010 Census that they still have a commanding majority in the new Congress even though Democratic House candidates won 1.4 million more votes nationwide than Republican House candidates. The only way the Democrats are going to get anything through Congress is to divide and conquer the Republicans by splitting moderate (or rather, moderately conservative) congressmen from their crazy train conservative base.

      If the White House and Hill Democrats sit and do nothing they can watch every House Republican sprint ever further right in hopes of avoiding a primary challenge… and they’ll be stuck negotiating penny-ante budget deals every 3 months for the rest of Obama’s term. A circular firing squad doesn’t end well for the firing squad, but it doesn’t end any better for the guys tied to the stake in the middle.

      • Tom Hickey January 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm

        Again, I suspect that they think that while it may be messy for the country, if they play their cards right strategically and tactically, the GOP is washed up as a political party, given the the way the demographics are going.

        • Nathanael January 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm

          However, the blatant corruption of the Democratic Party — repeatedly selling out to Republican policies when they don’t need to (for instance, retaining the “filibuster” so that Republicans can stop Democratic policies) — means that this strategy is a big loser in the long term. The Republican Party isn’t the only one which can implode. The percentage of the population itching to vote for a left-wing third party keeps increasing.

  • Tom Hickey January 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    beowulf, Randy just posted this, quoting an acquaintance that seems to see things the way I do on this:

    A friend of mine who does not normally go all Ga-ga for Obama thinks the President has decided to exterminate the Republican party—and he’s going to use the debt limit debate to do it. Here’s my friend’s argument:

    “I think he is luring the republican right into a trap. Please proceed, representatives, he is saying. Show us how you want to gut entitlements. Open your big mouths and show that you are willing to also close down the government and default on the debt. Then after they self assasinate he will move to the fourteenth amendment and the platinum coin. From the day he was elected in 2007 he began the ground game to win the next election. They were setting up the offices in the key districts in the swing states. I think he is engaged in a similar long range plan now. It is to character assassinate the republican right with their own words and by their own hand. The average life expectancy is 80. That means that every year 1.25% of the population exits through death and 1.25% comprised of the young enter. Over four years that is a shift equal to five percent of the electorate. He figures that shift adds maybe two percent to the democratic edge in an election. So he figures that with enough character assassination of the republican right and this demographic shift the republican right will be defeated by the end of his term and enough will have been done to prevent the GOP from picking up seats in the midterms.”

    http://www.economonitor.com/lrwray/2013/01/04/does-obama-have-a-platinum-coin-up-his-sleeve/