This Rachel Maddow story seems implausible: (A) that it happened and (B) that it happened without making a fuss in the national press. But she’s a pretty good reporter, so I’m curious.
Maddow’s claim is that the Republicans running the Michigan legislature are using false vote counts to evade the rule requiring a two-thirds majority to give a bill “immediate effect.” More than 90% of the current legislature’s laws, including the ones stripping away the powers of elected local governments and making it harder to repeal laws by referendum, have passed under “emergency” powers, although they’re passing on party-line votes and the Democrats have more than 1/3 of the seats in the legislature. The trick is that the Speaker just announces that two-thirds of the members on an unrecorded vote have voted to approve “immediate effect.” Maddow has video; the count takes less than five seconds. Apparently a court ruled against it, and the Republicans are challenging that ruling.
1. Is this true? It seems to consist entirely of matters of easily checkable fact.
2. If it’s true, why hasn’t it been national news?
3. Isn’t it time for the President, and other national Democratic leaders, to start making an issue of the systematic violations of the norms of small-d democracy by the Teahadis? Or how about OSF and People for the American Way and the League of Women Voters and Common Cause?
Not just this stuff, but the systematic efforts to make it harder for poor people to vote. (Even if you believe in voter impersonation fraud – and the Tooth Fairy – what’s the justification for making voter registration efforts harder, or reducing the number of days of early voting? This stuff isn’t really subtle.)
Last time I checked, most voters thought democracy was a pretty good idea. So how about telling them that the other guys are against it?
They lie. They cheat. And they steal. Let’s take the gloves off.
Update Here’s the story from the Detroit Free Press. Apparently the Republicans don’t even deny that they’re cheating; they just claim that the courts can’t stop the legislature from cheating; when the Michigan Constitution says “two-thirds,” two-thirds just means as many as the Speaker says it means. One detail not in the Maddow report: the practice is apparently longstanding and bipartisan, though (as usual) the Republicans have decided to make what used to be an extraordinary procedure routine.
[And no, Google News can't find a single print or broadcast source outside Michigan, other than Maddow, that has covered this story: no NYT, no AP, no network news. Feh.]
Second update Kevin Drum does some Google reporting and tentatively concludes that the cheating isn’t new, but the scale of it is unprecedented. What’s not clear is whether the Democrats, when in power, got “immediate effect” by bargaining for Republican votes, or whether they cheated the way the Republicans are, by simply declaring that two-thirds had voted for “immediate effect” when that wasn’t the case. It also seems pretty clear that the Dems in the Michigan Legislature have been culpably passive in the face of outrageous tactics by the other side.
This story still needs an actual national political reporter to take the next step and Pick Up the Damned Phone, so (1) the questions get answered and (2) this gets to be a story past the Blogosphere.
What’s really appalling is how the Fox News echo chamber allows the Republicans to invent a phony scandal a week and get it on all the talk shows, while Republican abuse of power remains a topic of political-junkie conversation but forms no part of the mass discourse.