PA GOP builds brilliant GOTV plan — for Democrats

Attacking ‘Pre-Wal-Mart’ majors and abortion rights could lead Nov. disaster

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

TimesPoliticsUnusualThere’s dumb and then there’s pour gasoline on yourself and dive into the barbecue dumb.

And it seems like Republicans in your beloved state legislature have stocked up on the Kingsford and are wearing loads of Eau de Sunoco in a brilliant attempt to pander to a small minority while angering a much larger segment of the voting population.

First, internal GOP house emails on how to battle Gov. Tom Wolf over the budget again leaked — apparently state house Republicans are way worse at email than Hillary Clinton — with a number of disjointed proposals, including yet another tax cut to close the $1.5 billion deficit.

But the winner was from State Rep. Brad Roae from Crawford County who suggested closing state-owned residential facilities for those with mental disabilities (it’s unclear whether he was talking about the State House, too), reversing the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which would cut folks off from health insurance and ending higher education grants for, as he so artfully put it in the memo, students majoring in “poetry or some other pre Wal-Mart major.”

Aside from playing into the growing narrative that Republicans are both heartless and clueless — that last bit is likely to further antagonize the media, both largely made up of those “pre-Wal-Mart” majors, although most likely as poorly paid as said Wal-Mart associates, frankly for no good reason. Based on the email string circulated by the Republicans, it appears a number of them majored in underwater basketweaving, as there is grammar in it one generally associates with ransom notes.

And while that’s pretty dumb — it still probably doesn’t make the top position of elephantine recto-cranial inversion syndrome for the week.

That prize goes to both State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) and the House Health Committee, which sped through approval of legislation that could become arguably the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the nation.

Regardless of your stance on abortion — and yes, it’s obviously not an easy subject for most folks — this is mind-bogglingly dumb politics.

While this panders to a small minority — which to be honest votes pretty much all of the time — it angers and activates Democrats and independent women who don’t always show up on election day. Worse, it plays into the ongoing narrative of a “GOP war on women.”

Like the recent “let’s discriminate against transgender and gay folks to pander to our base” laws in North Carolina and Mississippi, it highlights a failure to grasp basic math (and, oddly, makes a great argument for Common Core education — “if Johnny angers 10,000 voters by pandering to 1,000, how soon will he need to find a new job?”). In short, while pandering to a few, it angers and activates many, many more. Increasingly enraged Republicans seem to be working out of this self-destructive playbook nationally.

Lets do the math: Pennsylvania has about 990,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. The vast majority of them favor maintaining abortion rights. Republicans win because of A: gerrymandering, and B: Democrats don’t show up on election day with any regularity.

While the gerrymandering issue isn’t going to change (although court challenges in other states make it likely to before the next redistricting festival), the folks like Roae and Rapp have done what few Democrats have been able to do: build a winning statewide Get Out The Vote (GOTV) program for the Democrats.

Things were tough enough already — with the looming disaster that is Donald Trump at the top of the ticket — this sort of stuff has to have U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey wondering what sort of lobbying job he’ll get in 2017, while a number of state representatives in Chester County have to furious at their colleagues for making races that should have been easy a real battle.

Over the last 20 or so years, one could usually depend upon the state’s Democrats to embrace infighting, power plays and self-destructive behavior (not that they still don’t engage in such things, see McGinty, Katie), but the once stable, calm and well-managed Republican Party seems hell bent on trying to out do Democrats when it comes to chaos and stupidity.

And that may be the only place they win this year.

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