NOW with Alex Wagner | January 29, 2013
>>> their winning strategy . a plan that would have delivered a romney victory in 2012 without having to change their party's stance on the 47%, forcible rape, or self-deportation. it works like this. if you can't win the game, change the rules. at present michigan republicans are trying to change election laws so that a presidential candidate would receive electoral votes based on each district won instead of based on the overall popular vote in the state. the strategy? large pockets of typically democratic voters, including minorities in urban areas would therefore have weakened influence. they would only help democrats win electoral votes in specific districts. how would such electoral rigging have changed the outcome last november? instead of an obama victory of 332 to 206, mitt romney would be president with 273 votes to obama's 262. even though president obama won more than three million more votes than mitt romney under this proposed system he would have lost the election. virginia governor bob mcdonald shot down a similar proposal in his state last week, but michigan governor rick snyder says he is open to the idea. in republican statehouses, a new motto perhaps. if at first you don't succeed, cheat. joining the panel now is president of the brennan center for justice , michael waldman. every time are you on this program there's a new outrage. this may be the most outrageous.
>> i deny any connection to making that happen. this is the kind of thing that gives tunism a bad name.
>> yes. yes. to say the least.
>> i'm no fan of the electoral college wrish think we should have a national popular vote where everybody's vote counts equally, but there is so much worse than what we have now. as you say, this would make it so that whoever wins a congressional district gets that electoral vote , but the fact is democrats, liberals, especially racial minorities , tend to be in cities or near cities, and this would wind up meaning that their votes count less. it would certainly violent, i think, the voting rights act by diluting the votes of racial minorities , and it would lock in to place the jerrymanderring which the republicans did it this time. the democrats do it some other time. if you could find a way to make the electoral system more unfair, just based on who lost an election --
>> would disenfranchise minority voters even more.
>> i read about this, and it was sort of inevitable that it would get to this point, right? this is already happening in congressional districts . in fact, democrats in house races won more than half a million more votes than republicans in 2012 . republicans own the house. it was only a matter of time before that kind of jerry manderring made its way to the presidential stage. they're saying not over here while they're saying, okay, but how do we make sure we dilute the power of those votes just in case this stuff doesn't work?
>> what's interesting -- michael , we talked about this briefly before we started this segment. when you have something like the voter id laws, which were also outrageous on the scale of outrage theshgs probably tally somewhere around this. that ended up snent iizing, i think, a lot of voters to come out to the polls because they felt like their right to vote was being threatened. something like this could actually work in the opposite -- have an opposite effect.
>> with the voter id and other laws, first of all, courts stepped in to block them.
>> voters especially minority voters, especially african-american voters, they noticed. they got really mad, and they turned out in larger numbers than they might have otherwise. one of the interesting things is in pennsylvania four years ago one of the republican legislators tried to do this then, and it was blocked by other republican lawmakers because they realized that this might cause their districts to be targeted for voter turnout efforts, and you could see -- if this -- in the unlikely event that this were to happen, this would be the election issue for the next governorship race, for the next legislative race. it would be seen as a really inappropriate, illegitimate effort to rig the rules and i think that they'll back down probably for that very reason.
>> this does seem to be, again, dividing the republican side into the yahoo caucus and the non-yahoo caucus. those are highly technical terms, mind you. right away there were a couple of state senators in virginia, republicans , who came out and said we're not going to go for for that.
>> bob mcdonald .
>> and if --
>> he is -- maybe that math wouldn't work.
>> he is trying to move. and so i think it is so outrageous, even more so than voter id ishdz. it just seems wrong. when they tried to do it this last summer for this current election, the last election, in pennsylvania , one state senator proposed, it and a lot of republicans came out and said no. they still have a ways to go to get a head of steam behind this effort.
>> the politics are horrible.
>> or state legislators who have awful state budgets. i mean, a lot of their state budgets are under water. governors in some of the states are up for re-election. not bob mcdonald . but in pennsylvania the governor is up for re-election. in florida the governor is up for re-election. the more that governors and state legislatures and state lawmakers are focussing on things like this and not the economy and jobs, the worse off it is for them.
>> you are starting to see, interestingly, a bit of a pullback by some of the republicans even on these democracy issues, even on voting. governor rick scott in florida who was behind the laws that made it impossible for that well known radical sect, the league of women voters of florida .
>> voter registration .
>> they are behind those laws which were blocked by the courts. now rick scott has come in and said, you know what, we need to expand early voting . we need to go a different way because he knows that the voters actually will vote based on this, and, you know, this is what i hope is a potential glimmer of possibility for something to move forward. president obama in his inaugural address and on election night said we need to do something about the way we run elections.
>> indeed we do.
>> that's a chance the country ought to try to take because not to rig the game, but to take kind of commonsense steps to modernize voter registration .
>> gerrmanderring happens on both sides of the aisle. there could be a democratic governor that takes it over and flips the script.
>> i think part of what needs to happen is that on the left we need to reframe this argument on our constitutional rights , right? we're having this conversation about gun rights as a constitutional right and all the reasons why we shouldn't make it harder to own a gun or give somebody a gun. yet, we're accepting all kinds of new restrictions to make it harder for people to vote, and, again, i think if we couch this in the constitution and the constitutional rights that we're talking about and erring on the side of protecting the individual, i hope we can reframe the conversation.
>> what helps your effort in that way is as the republicans go, more yahoo, more outrageous, it delegitimatizes them. if they try to make any more nuance or subtle runs at voter id or registration issues, it shows that they're out to cheat, and it also -- i don't think these governors, particularly those that are up for re-election in off years, want to bring national attention to them. they would do better with a smaller electorate a lot of these republicans running for re-election. they go into this could deep, and it will be a national issue and it will hurt their own chances.
>> it's an interesting thing. for all the cynicism that people have and the skepticism and even the fear of voter fraud that ordinary sit sfwlenz and voters have, they still deep in their hearts believe in this american creed. you know, the preamble to the declaration of independence that we're all created equal and that that kind of cynic equality is what makes us americans. you do often run up ultimately against that basic set of beliefs if you try to rig the game this way. you know, i am not sure that it's going to happen precisely for these reasons. people kind of tend to pull back if it's too crazy.
>> michael we began this in a cloud of outrage, and it ended marching us optimistly under a patriotic manner.
>> away from craziness.
>> away from the yahoo caucus.
>> michael waldman, thank you, as always.
>> my pleasure.
>> coming up, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis , the treasury department created guidelines limiting compensation for executives at bailed out companies. but what good is a rule if you can't break it? we'll talk pay and financial deregulation