Mo' holla fo' yo' dolla!
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: In a bunker in an undisclosed location
How the Republicans are threatening American democracy
In 2008, when Norm Coleman was said to have won the Senate election by 215 votes, Sean Hannity of Fox News slammed the Democratic nominee, Al Franken, for pursuing a recount. Never mind that the recount was required by law; Coleman, Hannity intoned, had won fair and square. That set in motion the conservative meme – Coleman won, and Franken was trying to steal the election.
Franken was slammed as a crybaby who should now to the wishes of the electorate, concede and stop wasting the state’s money. Then, whoops – the recount showed that Franken had won by 312 votes and the conservative storyline changed dramatically. Fraud! The Wall Street Journal said it, Hannity said it, Rush Limbaugh and even Coleman. It was, one Republican commentator (I think it was David Frum) said a symptom of the party: When they won it was the choice of the people, when they lost, it was fraud. Put simply, the GOP had trouble accepting when it loses.
That arrogance underscores the vast willingness of the modern GOP to cripple American democracy. The crusade against “voting fraud” has its base in the utter disbelief on the part of the Republicans that they can lose any elections. Never mind that there is no evidence that any fraud of any importance takes place in elections. This, they intoned, required emergency actions to insure that elections were protected.
And so, the assault began. The boogeyman-ization of Acorn – the organization that served to register voters among the poor – was just stage one. With a political campaign that was as breathless as it was absurd, Republicans portrayed Acorn as this vast conspiracy to create legions of fake voters with names like Mickey Mouse. Never mind that registration is not voting, never mind that no one had ever been found who voted fraudulently as a result of an Acorn registration. This, the Republicans intoned, was a threat that had to be destroyed. And they succeeded – Acorn became the symbol for voter fraud, even though none had been committed, and the organization was put to death. Registration of the poor was hobbled.
In case anyone tried to pick up the slack, people stepped in like the governor of Florida Rick Scott – a man whom I met when he was running the criminal corporation Columbia/HCA and who is not only the creepiest person I have ever encountered, but one whose dishonesty is only exceeded by his egomania. Scott imposed rules on anyone who tried to register people to vote that were so stringent and punitive that organizations like the League of Women Voter’s announced that they could not risk registering voters in the state. (Thankfully, a Federal court has shut down the scheme for now.)
But that was just the beginning. In one Republican-controlled state after another, new rules were put in place to deal with the voting fraud “emergency.” That no Republican could cite a single instance of fraud in their state tied to an individual misrepresenting their identity was irrelevant – voter ID’s suddenly required.
The fact that millions of the elderly, the handicapped, minorities and students did not have the kind of ID now being demanded was not deemed as important. Somehow stopping the nonexistent fraudulent voters was worth disenfranchising more Americans than have been blocked from voting since the 1960s. And it is no coincidence that the people being blocked are all major Democratic blocks. As one Republican official in Pennsylvania put it, they had adopted Voter ID, and now Mitt Romney could win the state. Words that would make any banana republic dictator smile.
Conservatives fear the same democracy that they praise. They want everyone to vote – so long as it is people like them. If they retain control in state houses, next time around, the person who won’t be able to vote might be you.
Fortunately, American democracy has some checks and balances. Voter ID laws in Texas were thrown out because, the court rules, they were adopted with the intent of discriminating against minorities. The attempt to impose unequal early voting in Ohio – as well as cut directly into the periods where minorities vote in the heaviest numbers – was struck down by a court. And the dominoes just keep falling.
One thing to know, though. I am not issuing an argument against using voter ID – even if the problem is bogus, Americans have been led to believe that it is real. The problem isn’t identification, it is the requirement for identification that particular classes of voters are either unlikely to have or who would find them difficult to obtain.
Virginia has a voter ID law, but it is not designed to keep people away from the polls. The forms of ID that are accepted, as well as a rule that allows for voting by mail with the ballots sent to individual registered voters – have the same effect in preventing “fraud.” They just don’t stop people from voting. You will be able to judge the intent of states going forward that adopt voter ID laws if they follow the Virginia model of inclusion, or the Texas model of exclusion.
- Kurt Eichenwald