During MSNBC’s coverage of President Obama’s second inauguration, Chris Matthews made a bold prophecy:
“There’s so much willingness to rig the elections by the Republicans. They know they’re heading into demographic trouble. They know they’re going to be a minority in this country. It’s almost like Lebanon — we’ve got to fake the census now, y’know? And what I see them doing is saying, ‘Okay, we know we’re never going to be popular again, so we’re going to have to rig it.’”
The GOP of Virginia has proved him absolutely correct in his prognostication abilities. Pulling a fast one while one of their most prominent members, civil rights leader and State Senator Henry Marsh, was away in Washington DC to attend President Obama’s inauguration, the Senate Republicans took advantage of their temporary ‘majority’ and rammed through a legislative redistricting bill that would redraw Virginia districts overwhelmingly in their favor:
The state Senate is split 20-20 between Republicans and Democrats. On Monday, while state Sen. Henry Marsh (D) — a 79-year-old civil rights veteran — was reportedly in Washington to attend President Obama’s second inaugural, GOP senators forced through a mid-term redistricting plan that Democrats say will make it easier for Republicans to gain a majority.
With Marsh’s absence, Senate Republicans in Richmond had one more vote than Senate Democrats and could push the measure through. The new redistricting map revises the districts created under the 2011 map and would take effect before the next state Senate elections in Virginia and would redraw district lines to maximize the number of safe GOP seats.
The move was a surprise to just about everyone, including Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell who has not yet pledged to endorse the new district lines, which must now go through the GOP-controlled House of Delegates and finally across McDonnell’s desk before final approval.
Who knew that Chris Matthews was a fortune teller, eh?
Senator Marsh issued a statement after the underhanded move:
“I was outraged and I was saddened yesterday afternoon to learn that the Senate Republicans had used my absence to force through radical changes to all 40 Senate districts.”
“I wanted to attend the historic second inauguration of President Obama in person. For Senate Republicans to use my absence to push through a partisan redistricting plan that hurts voters across the state is shameful.
“I’ve been a lawyer for over 50 years, and I’m certain these changes are unconstitutional. Also, allowing this to stand would mean that the people of Virginia could be subjected to ten different redistricting plans in a decade.”
After getting their butts handed to them on a platter in the general election, it’s not overly shocking to see this type of power-grab, because it’s the only weapon that remains in their arsenal. They can no longer win elections based on their policies – such as they are – because most of the country thinks their policies stink, and their politicians, for the most part, have pushed the crazy envelope to the limit to render them unelectable, so they really have no other choice than to resort to cheating to win.
The question now remains: if the measure passes the Republican-controlled House, will Gov. Bob ‘Ultrasound’ McDonnell sign it? Well, after feigning shock — shock, I say! — that his party would pass something so dastardly, he’s pretty noncommittal:
Obviously, the tactics that were used yesterday was a surprise, and I don’t think that’s the way that business should be done. But I haven’t looked at the bill. I’m not happy about the things that have happened. Look, some people said they were against my transportation bill long before yesterday, so this has got a long way to go. I don’t know whether I’m going to get a bill or not. But I’m going to wait and see at this point what happens. I have not looked at the bill. At this point, though, I want people to focus on the things that are important. What I said the session should be about is education, transportation — not redistricting and other things. That’s my focus.
Hmmm…let me see if I can read between the lines here…
Of course he’ll sign it! His nickname isn’t Governor Ultrasound for nothing, you know. Remember the forced transvaginal ultrasound bill that McDonnell was also supposedly shocked by? He signed that bill with nary a stutter – although, Republicans did soften the blow by making state-sponsored penetration optional. How nice of them.
Unfortunately, I think the country had better get used to seeing these types of moves from Republicans, because they are a party experiencing the first throes of irrelevancy as the brutal truth starts to sink in: America is moving away from the fundamentalist, “center-right” position that has maintained Republican power over the last thirty years, and the base that has buoyed them to victory is quickly disappearing into the ether; however, this may just be the beginning of a collective freak-out that I fear will be a long, drawn-out affair with plenty of damage in its wake.
Hopefully, I’m wrong.
Rachel Maddow interviewed a member of Virginia’s State Senate on Tuesday during her recap of this issue – it’s worth a look.