We’ve all heard of ways in which the GOP is working to steal the election, including through voter suppression and election fraud. But as I thought about this and researched the possibilities, I concluded that the GOP may already be working on numerous plans to defeat Dems in November:
- Voter Suppression: A study by the Brennan Center for Justice has concluded that GOP voter suppression efforts could affect 5 million voters, in states that provide 63% of the electoral votes, and in 7 of 12 battleground states.
- Election Fraud: Conservatives have a long history of election fraud (as opposed to the practically non-existent “voter fraud”). In an August, 2001 election in Wisconsin, the Koch Brother’s Americans for Prosperity sent out absentee ballots with instructions to return them after election day. Their “voter caging” efforts to challenge the eligibility of minority voters go back to the 80’s, and a GOP state directive in Minnesota prevented American Indians from using their Tribal IDs to vote in some circumstances. In an earlier post for the November, 2011 election, I detailed several preventative measures to counter the radical right’s efforts to defraud an election.
- Electronic Voting Machines: Problems with the Diebold electronic voting machine and the company’s commitments to Republican candidates are well-known. Diebold machines are used by a third of the electorate. The federal Election Assistance Commission is in charge of updating and certifying electronic voting machines, but Republicans sought throughout 2011 to abolish the commission. The commission could have focused on requiring states to have a paper trail for electronic voting machines, but Republican-led states have resisted.
But a January 2012 report details a lesser-known problem; the DS200 optical ballot scanner freezes, misreads votes, and fails to log events to correct errors. This scanner is used in 29 districts in Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and New York and affects an estimated 12 million voters.
- Increased Gas Prices: As I reported earlier, oil and gas prices are forecast to reach record prices this year, the last thing this fragile economy needs. But there’s nothing stopping the Republican-led oil industry from creating a larger crisis for the nation and dealing a blow to Obama’s re-election through mischief-making, like shutting down key refineries or pipelines for “unplanned maintenance”.
- Supreme Court Ruling on Obama’s Affordable Care Act: This was to be the eagerly-awaited, nail-in-the-coffin of the Obama presidency, according to conservatives. As of Tuesday, many conservatives believe that SCOTUS has signaled it may wait until 2016 to rule on the issue. But there’s always the possibility that the radical right talks to Chief Justice Roberts on the sly and gets SCOTUS to rule before November. And don’t forget that the wife of Justice Thomas runs her own Tea Party lobbying organization.
- SuperPACs monopolizing air time: Many assume the Fairness Doctrine (equal airtime for opposing political candidates) still exists. In fact, it was abolished in the 1980’s during the anti-regulatory fervor of the Reagan era. So, lets imagine right-wing superPACs and billionaire conservatives reserving most of the airtime in major markets around the country for playing anti-Obama ads, and that it may have already been reserved. The Obama campaign and Dems would have no time to counter any false or misleading claims before the election and a badly misinformed and confused electorate votes in November.
- Neocons stage private talks with Israeli hard-liners on delaying an attack on Iran: This may seem counter-intuitive given the comments made by the GOP presidential candidates, but the last thing conservatives want is a repeat of the Bin-Laden killing and the subsequent boost in Obama’s poll numbers. Some conservatives have expressed concern that Obama will attack Iran “for fear of seeming weak before an election”. And there’s a precedent for this kind of back-channel negotiations by conservatives to manipulate the outcome of an election; the Reagan campaign (allegedly) held secret negotiations with Iran to prevent the hostages from being released before the 1980 election for fear it would improve Jimmy Carter’s chances of being re-elected.
- GOP House leaders de-funding key programs to hurt the poor: This is my greatest fear, as it would not be anything out of the ordinary and there is virtually nothing that could stop it. Imagine every government program for the poor. Then select several key programs that rely on just-in-time funding or that expect to be funded between now and the November election. Then imagine the House pulling the funding for these programs and causing significant hardship for the poor. Republicans have already been fighting or campaigning against programs for the poor, including food stamps, medicaid, free lunch programs and more, so it wouldn’t be breaking news to the middle-class. But Republicans are very good at denying and redirection, and they just may convince voters to blame Obama or some vague governmental agency, or convince the middle-class that these programs were bloated, required cuts anyway, yada-yada. So, would a demoralized block of desperately poor voters, who are already expected to overcome the radical right’s voter suppression efforts, be persuaded to go to the polls and vote for a government that has done nothing to help them through their latest time of need?
- The Nuclear Option: Who knows what this could be. But think of the unimaginable things Republicans have done at the state level; voter suppression laws aimed at minorities, eliminating union bargaining rights and passing RTW bills, cutting essential programs for the poor, wiping-out entire city governments in Michigan, and the wholesale assault on women’s reproductive rights in state after state. What’s next? Declaring Occupy protests illegal in GOP governed states?
Some may find these plans alarming, expected, unlikely, or borderline conspiracy theories, but what scares me is that they are all possible. And if I’ve learned anything about today’s radical, Republican Tea Party, its that they are capable of virtually anything.