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By Tom Cushing

Kudos to the GOP on New Voting Initiatives

Uploaded: Mar 31, 2014

Fair-is-fair: at times, I have been critical of positions and tactics used by the Republicans ? but when they do something that is an unconditionally Good Thing for the country, I want to acknowledge it. Their new election and voter registration initiative is a major departure, an expression of confidence in their message, and I'll say it ? an incredibly meaningful shot in the arm for true democracy in America.

Over the weekend, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced the new initiative. He was flanked by Congressional leaders Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell ? both of whom face tough re-election bids this fall. Gov. Scott Walker of WI joined the group by video feed. It was the talk of the Sunday network news talkies.

"We took our lumps in 2012, and that led to a lot of soul-searching among the broad spectrum of Americans who inhabit our big tent," Priebus announced. "From log cabin Republicans to evangelicals, from the inner-cities and barrios to Wall Street, farmers, doctors and lawyers, middle class 'soccer moms' and the fortunate few ? they all came together to craft a message of New Inclusiveness. And what better way to demonstrate that our message resonates with all Americans than to launch a voter registration initiative that we're calling the Republican Party's 'Citizen Opportunities Now.'"

Remarkably, the new voter outreach program will commence operations in swing states of Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Colorado ? all sites of important mid-term elections battles in 2014. Cantor picked-up the narrative: "We are so confident that our message of personal responsibility, gumption and Kevlar bootstraps resonates with hard-working Americans that we're unconcerned about demographics ? the more the merrier as we paint this whole great nation red."

Specifically, Republican-controlled legislatures in those states are poised to pass new funding for more polling stations, voting booths and poll workers, and so all locations can be open longer. It also expands the availability of early voting opportunities. More generally, the Party has endorsed the recommendations and 'tool-kit' of the bi-partisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration as to modernization, efficient management, greater access to exercise the franchise, and use of technology in the voting process. Apparently past emphasis on voter ID requirements will become a thing of the past, as well.

In a statement, the RNC downplayed its past emphasis on preventing fraud in the election process. "We believe there are sufficient safeguards in-place to overcome any isolated incidents of misconduct, and we call on our Democratic colleagues across-the-aisle to work with us to ensure free and fair elections" the statement concluded. The Koch brothers and Karl Rove's powerful American Crossroads SuperPAC separately signaled their concurrence in a well-orchestrated demonstration of Party unity. They will underwrite significant parts of the programs.

The voter registration initiative also brings together diverse elements of the GOP, from the Tea Party on the right to the more moderate, hipper Ripon Society. Those two groups have often been at-odds, but this new direction gives them something heartfelt that they can rally around, together. Each will start by plying its own natural constituencies ? the TeaPers, we're told, will be given strategic space for sign-up booths near casino slots rooms, in hospitals, bingo parlors and all-you-can-eat buffets. The bolder Ripons are venturing into soup kitchens and college quadrangles, union halls, and this summer plan to target outdoor rock festivals, salsa dance contests and rap concerts.

"There is nothing ? Nothing ? more basic to a functioning democracy than the right of its citizens to be heard in the election of their public officials," Walker stated. "As Ronald Reagan said, 'it is morning in America,' and that includes the dawning realization that our message of rugged individualism and fiscal responsibility is for everyone. It's how we roll in the Badger state ? and Go Badgers!" he added in reference to University of Wisconsin's recent success in the March Madness college basketball tournament.

I will be the first to admit that I didn't see this one coming. I'm not even sure I can absorb it all. I had come to believe that the GOP would use any potential tool at its disposal to seek advantage and squelch opposition. I disliked that the Koch Brothers, with their newly-won freedom from limited campaign contributions, bankrolled predominantly negative, patently misleading ads about candidates and issues like climate change, health care and food stamps. I now see that those funds can be used for constructive, salutary purposes that promote the general well-being.

I suspect that these programs will have a ripple effect through Independents and the Democratic rank-and-file. The GOP has certainly seized the good governance initiative ? it'll be fascinating how the President chooses to play this one ? will he welcome these moves and get on-board, or try to obstruct them for fear that someone else will get the well-deserved credit? As the Administration reels from Russia's Putin out-maneuvering the Prez in Europe, will his leadership take yet another hit? Stay tuned.

In summary, I obviously owe the GOP and local Republican readers an apology ? that Republican Party CON is the real deal, at least for a day.

Further reading here.