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Football? I thought we were playing badminton.

While the Senate Democrats had to pull out the smelling salts over the thought of challenging Republican abuse of the filibuster (you have to love this quote from Carl Levin: ""Look, we just can't have a situation in the Senate where the majority can decide what the rules are at any time," Levin told reporters. "Those aren't rules. ...That just becomes like the House of Representatives." Perish forbid!), because they must preserve Senate tradition, harumph harumph!, Republicans will of course continue to use the filibuster at historically unprecedented levels.

Ah, tradition.

More importantly, Republicans have already used their wins at the statehouse level in 2010 to re-write congressional districts, ensuring Republican control of the House even when Dems win the popular vote. And they're continuing to do so. You've probably heard by this point about what happened in Virginia, where Republicans took advantage of the fact that a black civil rights veteran went to see the second inauguration of our first black president on Martin Luther King day to push through a redistricting on a 20-19 vote.

And they're continuing that on a national level, including changing the way electoral votes are distributed - only in states where Dems usually win - so that they are proportional instead of winner takes all.

To review, here's how it works. The US electoral college system is based on winner take all delegate allocation in all but two states. If you get just one more vote than the other candidate you get all the electoral votes. One way to change the system is go to proportional allocation. That would still give some advantage to the overall winner. But not much. The key to the Republican plan is to do this but only in Democratic leaning swing states -- not in any of the states where Republicans win. That means you take away all the advantage Dems win by winning states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so forth.

But the Republican plan goes a step further.

Rather than going by the overall vote in a state, they'd allocate by congressional district. And this is where it gets real good, or bad, depending on your point of view. Democrats are now increasingly concentrated in urban areas and Republicans did an extremely successful round of gerrymandering in 2010, enough to enable them to hold on to a substantial House majority even though they got fewer votes in House races than Democrats.

In other words, the new plan is to make the electoral college as wired for Republicans as the House currently is. But only in Dem leaning states. In Republican states just keep it winner take all. So Dems get no electoral votes at all.

I don't fault Republicans for any of this (well, except the Virginia thing). They're using all their powers within the rules and aggressively pushing forward for their agenda. The Democrats, however, don't seem to understand the rules, or even what game they're playing. So they get sacked every time (i'm really out of my element using sports metaphors here but i think a Halo/Mario Party comparison wouldn't work as well).

If you want to get a sense of the outrage over this, here's a letter a Senate staffer sent to TPM trying to spin the filibuster "reform" as a win. And here's two pages of reader reactions to the letter. As some of the writers point out, the letter is semi-incoherent, combining "we could never get those reforms but we did the best we could and you should see this as a step in the right direction" with "those reforms would be bad for the Senate and we didn't want them anyway". And here's more commentary from TPM writer Brian Beutler, with the key sentence for me: "Weakening the filibuster would make the Senate a more democratic institution, and give Democrats more power -- and that's precisely why filibuster reform is so problematic for individual senators."

If you're a conservative you might not believe it, but TPM is actually more of a center-left, partisan Democrat website than a liberal one. That's why i'm focusing on the reaction there instead of, say, Digby (who has actually been more sanguine about this, thanks to lower expectations (not unlike someone else who blogs here)).

One of the arguments the anonymous staffer throws out is that we wouldn't like filibuster reform if the Republicans controlled the Senate. First, that ignores the fact that Republicans have threatened to use the "nuclear option" in the past and could do so again (and managed to initiate two wars and pass the Patriot Act and the Bush tax cuts with little resistance when they were in control), and that Republicans planned on getting around the filibuster using reconciliation if Romney had won and Republicans took back the Senate. They've already got this covered. But more importantly, i think that if Republicans took over the Senate, they should be allowed to pursue their agenda. That's what the country voted for, so that's what they should get.

Actually, this is why now was a good time to pass real filibuster reform. Republicans control the House, so nothing was getting through Congress for the next two years (at least) anyway. Reforming the filibuster now does it in a neutral way where no party gains anything.

Ok, that's the Friday morning political rant. Let's just hope the outrage over this leads to primary challenges for Reid, Levin, and the other saps who torpedoed this.

By fnord12 | January 25, 2013, 9:39 AM | Liberal Outrage

Reference from SuperMegaMonkey

Via Kevin Drum, regarding the electoral vote distribution schemes i mentioned earlier...    Read More: Quote of the day