Ratf**ked reveals a broken American election system. It is one that is far from the ideal of a well-functioning democracy in which leaders promote policies they assert will broadly and wisely benefit our entire citizenry with the goal of persuading as many citizens as possible to vote for them.
Author David Daley is the former editor of Salon.com, an investigative journalist and academic. Daley’s assiduously researched, engagingly presented, book “Ratf**ked” shows us how partisan operatives launched a plan called REDMAP to systematically change the United States election system to permanently exercise power through gerrymandering and voter suppression. (More on the title in a bit). Daley says that both parties play the game of manipulating district lines to their advantage when they control the state legislature, but Republicans had a master plan that allowed them to dominate the 2010 elections.
Not true, you say? Consider this fact revealed by Daley’s analysis: 45% of state and Congressional elections are essentially uncontested because one party knows they cannot win. Daley documents how there was a strategy to create Republican “safe” districts, where there would be no contest from other parties. He also connects the dots from these districts to control of the state legislatures and then passage of voter suppression laws. Daley shows that the lower election turnout rates in 2016 are largely accounted for not by voter apathy but by “legal” exclusion.
Excuse me? Rat f**king? Yes. This is what political operatives of another generation used to describe their tactics to manipulate election outcomes in the past.
Daley examines several states – including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin - deftly explaining the complex statistical analysis of “big data” that Republicans are using. Daley exposes shockingly candid Republican confessions (through their own memos, emails, and conversations) of how they pumped money into strategic races to control certain state legislatures, to then be able to gerrymander districts to control elections for the rest of the decade.
With REDMAP, Republicans “create[d] supermajorities for conservative policies in otherwise blue and purple states.” Daley says, “the actual redrawing of the American political map and of our democracy itself… into legislative majorities [in states and in Congress is] so unbreakable, so impregnable, that none of the outcomes are in doubt until after the 2020 census.” This decade-long control by one party opens our country to disregard for the rule of law because there are no checks and balances in the electoral system.
Daley describes how Republicans have implemented “mapping technologies so exact that they’ve re-sorted and re-segregated Americans… into Congressional districts where the only competition comes from someone more extreme.” Daley reveals that this is how Republicans are already winning statewide and federal elections with a minority of voters.
Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” But in a corrupted system, what does a successful “going high” strategy look like? Daley says that the courts are the best option at this point; cases coming out of Wisconsin, North Carolina and Maryland may persuade judges to protect our country’s rule of law from politicians who manipulate elections. Also, grassroots groups in states that have a ballot initiative process have gone around their entrenched political leaders and established independent citizen commissions to draw election district lines. California did this and positive changes can be seen already. Lastly, public outcry and local activism in response to abuses of power are a key to change. I am excited about the efforts of groups like Common Cause to pursue the “high road”.
Rat F**ked: Daley’s crude fire alarm of a title is meant to awaken us because our country is burning and only we the people can douse the flames with, as MLK said, “justice [that] rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections