In the bagDespite obvious shifts leftward in national voter political sentiments, Wisconsin remains almost entirely in the firm grip of the uber-conservative Republican Party. It's true that progressives did well in this on Nov. 6, at least on a national level. Barack Obama won easily while Tammy Baldwin crushed Tommy the T.
Nevertheless, Wisconsin Republicans held on to all their congressional seats, recaptured the state Senate, and maintained control of the Assembly. All those GOP victories were totally predictable, because the state GOP controlled redistricting when, in 2010, it won the majority in both chambers, just in time for the required ten-year redrawing of legislative districts to adjust for population changes.
Unfortunately, in an infamous secret process that a three-judge panel called "shameful," the GOP engaged in heavy gerrymandering to ensure that virtually all its party's existing legislative seats would be protectively red in terms of voter tendencies, a scheme the judicial panel found partially illegal. Still, the vast bulk of GOP tinkering pertained; the result has been legislative districts that are super-safe for Republicans, and that might remain safe even if the party and its well-heeled supporters didn't continue vastly outspending Democratic Party challengers.
Fun fact: Voters across the state cast a total of 193,000 more votes for Democrats than Republicans in combined state Assembly contests. Nevertheless, Republicans ended up with more than 60 percent of those seats. "Wisconsin Held Hostage" -- has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
Famous safecracker Willie Sutton once was asked why he robbed banks. He replied: "Because that's where the money is." Well, if you're going to analyze Republican electoral strategy, you might ask why the GOP is so intent on gaming elections and changing the way we vote, where we vote, for whom we get to vote, and who's most likely to represent us, regardless of majority views. The answer is: Those are the main ways the party has left to accumulate enough votes to stay in power.
Gerrymandering is where the votes are. Vote suppression is where the votes are. Voter ID is where the votes are. But only if you're GOP.
What can conscientious voters do about this travesty? Not much, and our next best hope is when districts are again reapportioned after the 2020 Census. Of course, the GOP's gerrymandering may mean that it will also control that redistricting process.
But in a perfect world, we'd have this thing licked. Just imagine if even a plurality of voters accounting for those 193,00 surplus votes for Democrats were economically capable of moving themselves to new addresses at will. Then it would be a simple matter of encouraging as many of them as possible to leave the small group of hugely Democratic districts and take up residence in some of those gerrymandered GOP districts. Voila! The real intent of the majority would be more closely expressed.
This could also work on a national scale, and even has been attempted on modest levels in the past. Progressive voters in hopelessly red states have, rather than waste their votes in a certain lost cause, moved across borders to a blue state or purple state where their views are better represented.
Of course that can't happen in the real world on a mass scale. Most of us simply aren't -- for economic or other reasons -- that mobile, and many of us like where we live, even if we hate our elected reps (I certainly dislike mine, who have never once voted for a position I believe in). But it's a great thought experiment, because it shows just how much the GOP is running on fumes these days.
You see, the GOP can't win majorities simply by expressing its views on the issues, because its ideology doesn't favor the great majority of citizens. So it manages to cling to power in three ways: One, by turning molehills into attack ads, two, by expending incomprehensible sums of money on campaign ads, courtesy of the US Supreme Court, and, three by rigging elections through vote suppression, gerrymandering and, the evidence shows, even sometimes by tinkering with the vote count itself.
But if we can't get Democratically inclined voters to carpetbag themselves into Republican districts to undo the GOP's cynical gerrymandering, then it will happen naturally in another fashion: Voters in those GOP districts who now consider themselves red are going to increasingly turn blue. Why? The national polls tell us why.
GOP tea-party policies are now so antithetical to most citizens (especially women, minorities and lower income citizens of all backgrounds) that it's only a matter of time before significant numbers of low-information voters and even an increasing number of non-voters figure that out and react by shifting their allegiances or by starting to have allegiances. It's already happening in the nation's so-called "solid south," breaking a GOP hegemony that's lasted decades. Texas turning blue? Yup, and pretty soon, too. Florida and Virigina? Already there.
That's why Obama and Democratic legislative candidates gained so much ground in the south this time around. There is every reason for progressives to expect that trend eventually will reassert itself in Wisconsin as well. In fact, where the GOP can't easily manipulate its chances at the polls, it already has happened. But eventually it also will happen even in legislative districts mapped by Republicans to be safe for Republicans. They are safe. But they won't be safe forever. Bet on it, but also keep on working towards it.
In politics, there simply is no such thing as forever, even in a highly capitalistic, autocratic society where elitest, out-of-touch politicians are propped up by big institutions, cynical media and beaucoup bucks. So, courage, everyone. This, too, shall pass.