George Weigel below and my friends at the Ancient and Noble Order of Gormogons are having fun with E.J. Dionne’s column today. But there’s a simple point being obscured here. Dionne writes of efforts to tighten-up voting requirements around the country:
These statutes are not neutral. Their greatest impact will be to reduce turnout among African Americans, Latinos and the young. It is no accident that these groups were key to Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 — or that the laws in question are being enacted in states where Republicans control state governments.
Again, think of what this would look like to a dispassionate observer. A party wins an election, as the GOP did in 2010. Then it changes the election laws in ways that benefit itself. In a democracy, the electorate is supposed to pick the politicians. With these laws, politicians are shaping their electorates.
Paradoxically, the rank partisanship of these measures is discouraging the media from reporting plainly on what’s going on. Voter suppression so clearly benefits the Republicans that the media typically report this through a partisan lens, knowing that accounts making clear whom these laws disenfranchise would be labeled as biased by the right. But the media should not fear telling the truth or standing up for the rights of the poor or the young.
Obviously, I think this is all overdone. But here’s what EJ leaves out. Many of these voting laws were loosened up in the first place in order to make it easier to vote because liberals knew it would help Democrats. Since before the Motor Voter law was signed by Clinton in 1992, Democrats have understood that the easier it is to vote, the better it is for Democrats. The same dispassionate observer Dionne invokes would just as likely see a long history of Democrats crafting policies (immigration non-enforcement anyone?) that help them at the polls.
I’m not condoning tit-for-tat. When it comes to congressional districting, I’d be for getting rid of the whole corrupt process. I’d like to see competitive, rationally designed, districts everywhere. As for voting itself, I’ve been on record for years that I think it should be harder to vote. I think you should have to pass the same test immigrants have to pass to vote (that’s legal immigrants. I don’t think you should have to climb a fence or cross a desert to vote). Would that help Republicans? I don’t know, maybe. But I think it would help the republic. The value of a thing — in this case voting — often increases when you raise the price. I’d rather fewer people vote, but take it seriously, than many more people vote, who really don’t care or know much.
Oh, I also love Dionne’s claim that it is precisely because this is such a racist, partisan, evil thing the Republicans are doing that the mainstream press won’t report on it adequately. It’s an interesting world Dionne lives in where the New York Times and the Washington Post are terrified to call Republicans racists. I would love to visit it sometime.
Regardless, Dionne takes it as a given that laws passed that benefit Democrats are wholly good and worthwhile, but laws passed that benefit Republicans must be part of some racist, dastardly, plot. Meh. Why can’t it all simply be politics, with the usual mix of principle and partisanship? Besides, I agree with George Weigel. It’s awfully early to be complaining about a stolen election.