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The GOP's Electoral Strategy: Gimmicks and Exclusion

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GOP ELECTORAL COLLEGE
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In the run up to the 2012 election, Republicans, understanding the changing demographics working against them, devised a desperate solution to bolster their chances of winning: tactical ploys to skew who showed up to the polling place and stayed to cast a ballot. Scaling back early voting reduces opportunities to vote and lengthens the amount of time those who do show to vote early have to wait in line. Of course, people have different thresholds for how much time they are willing to wait, and, inevitably many faced with hours of waiting will decide that voting is not worth their while. Voter ID laws increase the barriers to voting. Anyone who has obtained a driver's license knows that this can be an ordeal, entailing hours of waiting. These types of measures both disproportionately suppress votes among youth, racial minorities and those lower on the socio-economic continuum -- in other words, demographic groups that tend to vote for Democrats.

After President Obama won reelection and Democrats gained seats in both Houses of Congress, a state of panic ensued. Republicans proposed ways of reapportioning the electoral votes in certain states. This would allow the majority of the voters in a state to vote for one candidate, but some -- or even most -- of a state's electoral votes to go to another. This parallels the gerrymandered congressional districts that have enabled Republicans to maintain majorities in the House while losing the popular vote for the presidency in five of the past six elections (note that Republicans are decidedly not calling to abolish the electoral college altogether).

Now, a week after President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators endorsed comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in our country, several House Republicans have vocally dissented. On Thursday, Rep. Raul Labrador said, " The people that came here illegally, knowingly, I don't think they should have a path to citizenship. If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status, but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship." Labrador is not alone -- many of his counterparts are echoing this call for legalization, without conferring citizenship on the over 11 million undocumented immigrants currently estimated to be in the country. The subtext here is crystal clear: House Republicans are deeply fearful of minting 11 million new likely Democratic voters.

But, Republicans fail to see that gimmickry and exclusionary tactics are not the solution to their demographic problems. After all, Democrats still won in 2012, despite all the efforts to suppress the vote, and the children of "legalized" undocumented immigrants will one day be citizens with the right to vote. Instead, Republicans would do well to consider why the fact remains that when more people can vote and more people do vote, Democrats win. It's their policies, stupid.

Republicans hurt their chances with women when they oppose legislation like the Violence Against Women Act, oppose increasing access to birth control and when their leader in the House declares ending abortion "one of our fundamental goals this year." They turn off Latinos not just because of their traditionally nativist stances, but because of their positions on issues like education and creating opportunities for social mobility. The GOP writes off the LGBT community -- an estimated 3.4 percent of the population -- when they oppose equality at every turn, from the military to marriage. They isolate countless others when they deny the science of climate change, support a tax code that favors a sliver of the country at the expense of everyone else, and obstruct the president at every juncture.

Winning elections is a matter of basic arithmetic: candidates require the majority of votes in a district or state, or in the case of presidential elections, majorities in enough states to earn 270 electoral votes. If the Republican Party meaningfully introspects and finds a way to broaden its appeal, it might emerge reinvigorated, able to attract support from Americans of all stripes and contribute to a vibrant discourse in Washington. But if it continues down its current path, all the tricks in the book won't be able to save it from itself.