“We Need More Voting, Not Less”: Republicans Are Gaming The Electoral System By Suppressing The Vote
For decades, we in America have lamented our voter turnout. There has been widespread concern about not only the 60 percent participation in presidential elections, but the drop-off to about 40 percent in off years and the miserable turnout for local elections and primaries that often doesn’t reach 20 percent. So why do Republicans in key states seem intent on preventing certain citizens from voting?
The critics of our system cite European countries that continuously have turnout numbers between 70 percent and 80 percent. (Austria, Sweden and Italy usually hit the 80 percent mark.) They point to how hard we make it for citizens to register, the problem with requiring additional documents at polling places and the recent passage of laws to combat so-called “voter fraud.”
We can go one of two directions in this country: We can make voting easier or we can make it harder. It is difficult to understand why some Republicans desire to make it harder. It is even more difficult to understand their desire to stop African-Americans, Hispanics and young people from voting, unless, of course, you take the view that Republicans have cynically decided to suppress the vote of these more Democratic-leaning groups.
The New York Times editorial board today pointed to those who are trying to make voting easier and those who are trying to make it harder. It cited six states that have recently created online registration systems and four that have either allowed voters under 18 to pre-register or put in place election day registration or expanded early voting.
Sadly, the Times also pointed to the 15 states that have passed new restrictions on voting that are mostly controlled by Republicans. 11 states have put in place restrictive voter ID laws, reduced time for early voting was passed in eight states, and some students are being prevented from voting where they reside for college.
According to he Times, 10 states have made it more difficult to even register to vote. A total of 34 states now have restrictive voter ID laws.
One of the most outrageous aspects of this movement by Republican operatives is that it is combating a problem that doesn’t exist. Voter fraud is not a serious problem in our elections, but preventing key groups of minorities, poor people and the young from exercising their constitutional rights certainly is becoming one.
We need to open up our electoral system, not close it. We need to have universal voter registration at 18. We need to have more early voting, not less, more vote by mail, not less, more consolidation of voting days, not less, and more use of technology to provide online registration. We need to explore weekend voting and also new ways to clean up voter lists and keep them current.
At the end of the day, it is time for Republicans to stop trying to game the system and win elections by denying citizens the right to vote. It will only come back to bite them – and bite them hard.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, August 12, 2014
“No Man Can Serve Two Masters”: The GOP Made A Deliberate Choice To Position Itself As The Party Of Reactionary Xenophobes
The current crisis of Central American children flowing across the border has empowered conservatives, whose more restrictionist views on the issue have taken precedence in the party. House Republicans are pushing for more deportations, and several of the party’s prospective 2016 White House contenders are moving to align themselves with the GOP’s pro-enforcement wing.
The tough rhetoric can help Republicans appeal to their core voters. But the strategy runs counter to the party’s announcement — after losing the presidential race two years ago — that its future depends largely on broadening its appeal to minority groups and that its viability as a national force in 2016 and beyond depends on making inroads with Latinos, one of the fastest-growing voting blocs.
“This is a short-term political gain for Republicans,” said Charles Spies, a former Mitt Romney campaign aide who is part of a coalition of Republicans advocating for immigration reform. “The problem, of course, comes on the national scale. Without a friendly posture towards [Hispanics], we still face a massive demographic problem.”
A demographic problem of their own making. A demographic problem worsened every day by the hostile rhetoric spewed about immigration on right-wing talk radio. A demographic problem that Republicans simply cannot solve–and they know it:
Obama won more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2012 reelection, after which the Republican National Committee wrote in a blunt self-assessment: “It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”
The problem is, the GOP made a deliberate choice to position itself as the party of reactionary xenophobes. When you sell your soul, all sales are final.
In Hiawatha, Iowa, Jeri Thompson, 50, attended an event featuring Paul and other GOP candidates and pronounced herself “very worried about the illegals coming in.”
Asked about the children and families apprehended at the southern border, Thompson said that “it’s not just street urchins from Central America carrying diseases in, but also criminals, thugs, gang members. No other country is dumb enough to have their borders wide open like us.”
Some in the GOP said they hope that if the party wins control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans could pass a comprehensive immigration bill with conservative principles that would be hard for Obama to veto. But those prospects remain uncertain.
In Colorado, Cheryl Bartlett, a registered nurse from Pueblo, said she agreed with Republicans on the need for tougher border controls.
“I think we should build a wall, just like they had in Berlin and Russia,” she said. “Build that wall and keep people out.”
If you have any Latino friends who happen to be members of the GOP, ask them just what the hell is keeping them in that party. Even the most anti-tax or anti-abortion Latino voter has to question their political preferences in the wake of this wrath. Why vote in a party whose base wants to kick you out?
By: D. R. Tucker, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 8, 2014
North Carolina State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) fairly easily won his party’s U.S. Senate nomination this year, after presenting himself as the most electable center-right candidate to take on Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in November.
He may have oversold his electoral qualities a bit.
We learned a month ago about remarks, first aired by msnbc’s Chris Matthews, in which Tillis argued in 2011, “What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance.” The Republican lawmaker described a vision in which policymakers pit those in need against one another, in order to cut off benefits for those on the losing end of the fight.
This morning, TPM reports on another striking quote from Tillis’ recent past.
State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC), the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in North Carolina, said that the “traditional” voting bloc of his home state wasn’t growing like minority populations in an interview he did in 2012.
In context, the host of the Carolina Business Review television program asked why the Republican Party was struggling with minority voters, most notably Hispanics. Tillis responded that he believes the GOP’s message is “appealing to everybody.” As for his party’s demographic challenges, he added, “The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African-American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population and the other immigrant populations are growing in significant numbers.”
It sounded an awful lot like Tillis sees the “traditional population” as the white population.
The Republican’s campaign manager said this morning that Tillis was referring to “North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations” when he used the word “traditional.”
That’s one way of looking at it. But the words themselves are hard to ignore.
Tillis wasn’t talking about migration or new populations that have recently arrived in North Carolina. Rather, he described three demographic groups by name: the African-American population, the Hispanic population, and the “traditional population.”
NBC News’ First Read added, “It appears North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis stepped into it,” which seems more than fair under the circumstances.
Tillis was already likely to struggle with minority-voter outreach, especially given his support for some of the nation’s harshest voting restrictions. It’s safe to say his “traditional population” comment won’t help.
The next question, of course, is whether remarks like these also alienate a broader voting base. In 2006, for example, then-Sen. George Allen’s (R-Va.) “macaca” comments were offensive not just to minority voters, but also to anyone concerned with racism. It’s not hard to imagine Tillis running into a similar problem, alienating anyone uncomfortable with the notion of white people being some kind of “traditional” default.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2014
“Ultimately Responsible For Republican Inaction”: Whether He Likes It Or Not, Boehner Controls Immigration Bill’s Fate
For months, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to blame President Obama for House Republicans’ refusal to consider immigration reform: GOP lawmakers don’t trust the White House, the argument went, so the administration’s responsible for Republican intransigence. A few weeks ago, however, Boehner accidentally told the truth: House Republicans, afraid of hard work and tough choices, are ultimately responsible for inaction on the issue.
So which is it? As a matter of substance, the Speaker’s accidental honesty gave away the game, but as a matter of politics, it’s awkward when the House Republican leader blames his own members for a colossal failure – so now Boehner seems to be pushing both arguments simultaneously.
The Ohio Republican, speaking at a luncheon sponsored by several San Antonio business groups, acknowledged that there are some in his conference who do not want to take on the issue, but he was measured in speaking about his colleagues’ resistance.
“There are some members of our party who just do not want to deal with this. It’s no secret,” he said. “I do believe the vast majority of our members do want to deal with this, they want to deal with it openly, honestly and fairly.”
Boehner then added, “I put the ball back in the president’s court. He’s going to have to do something to demonstrate his trustworthiness.”
There are hints of good news here for reform proponents, but for the most part, the Speaker’s position is simply incoherent. If the “vast majority” of House Republicans want to tackle immigration reform, Boehner and his leadership team can … wait for it … tackle immigration reform. There’s nothing stopping them – they’re the House majority; they can do as they please; the Senate has already acted; and the White House is eager to sign something into law.
As for President Obama demonstrating his “trustworthiness,” the administration has already shown its commitment on this issue by increasing deportations and boosting border security to heights without modern precedent. What’s more, leading Democratic lawmakers have offered to delay implementation of the law until 2017, at which time there will be a new president.
Boehner has never been a policy guy, per se, but it’s implausible to think the Speaker of the House isn’t aware of these basic details. It’s what makes his odd rhetoric somewhat baffling – Boehner says Republicans are and aren’t interested in reform, while the president is and isn’t to blame for GOP intransigence.
The Speaker added, in reference to immigration reform in general, “This is not about politics, not about elections. It’s about doing the right thing for the American people. It’s about doing the right thing for the country. Period.”
That’s a perfectly nice sentiment, though it naturally leads one to wonder when, exactly, Boehner might stop talking about the issue and might start governing.
In the meantime, some of the Speaker’s allies are offering his party some not-so-subtle advice. Benjy Sarlin noted yesterday:
Republican-leaning immigration supporters, which include a variety of business leaders and trade associations, have been lobbying Republicans for a year to pass a reform bill. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue warned Republicans on Monday that failure to pass a bill this year would be fatal to the party’s presidential hopes given the rising power of Hispanic and Asian voters who are largely opposed to the GOP’s current immigration stance.
“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” he said in a panel discussion. “I mean, think about that. Think about who the voters are.”
To borrow a metaphor, the ball is in Boehner’s court.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 13, 2014
We seem to be having one of those moments when a series of controversies come in rapid succession and make everyone newly aware of the relationship between language, ideas, and actions. And naturally, it revolves around our eternal national wound of race.
Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that in a few of these controversies, we aren’t actually arguing about what words mean. This is often a focus of disagreement when somebody says something that other people take offense at; for instance, when Paul Ryan said a few weeks ago that “[w]e have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value of the culture of work,” conservatives believed he was being unfairly tagged as racist for using a common phrase, while liberals objected to the connection between the word and the idea that followed. There’s nothing racist about the term “inner city” in and of itself, but when people say it they are usually referring to urban areas where black people are concentrated, and when you then describe a pathological laziness that is supposedly prevalent there, then you’ve said something problematic.
But when Cliven Bundy offered his fascinating thoughts on the state of black America, people weren’t appalled because of his use of the outdated term “Negro” in “Let me tell you another thing about the Negro.” It was what came afterward. He could have said “Let me tell you another thing about the African-American,” and it would have been just as bad, and not only because he was about to paint all members of a race with the same ugly brush. (Cliven, it’s safe to surmise, would never say “Let me tell you another thing about the white,” because the idea that all white people are the same in some fundamental way would be ridiculous to him.) To conservatives’ credit, they got this immediately and ran away from Bundy as fast as they could, even if there was still plenty to criticize about the fact that they embraced him in the first place.
And then there’s Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who has apparently been caught on tape telling his “girlfriend” (I put that in quotes because there’s just no way to even think of a relationship between an 81-year-old billionaire and a 31-year-old model type without being seriously repulsed) that he doesn’t want her publicly associating with black people, putting pictures of her with black people, or bringing black people to his games, despite the fact that we’re talking about an NBA team here. Even weirder is that the black person in question is Magic Johnson, one of the most revered and beloved sports heroes of the last half-century or so.
A statement released by the Clippers said: “Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.” Which is the kind of thing you say when there’s a dispute over the interpretation of a word or phrase. We all say things we don’t exactly mean sometimes, or say something in a way that can be misinterpreted. But when you go on and on about how you don’t want people to know that your “girlfriend” hangs out with black people, that’s hard to misinterpret. And so, no one is defending Sterling. Some ridiculous conservatives have tried to make the case that since he donated money to a couple of Democrats a couple of decades ago that this is yet more evidence that Democrats are The Real Racists (Michael Tomasky vivisects that here), but not even many of their compatriots are going to bother with that.
As Jay Smooth points out, it’s interesting that Sterling’s longstanding and widely known record of racist actions, like trying to keep blacks and Hispanics out of rental buildings he owns, weren’t enough to generate calls for him to get booted from the NBA, but some racists words were. Despite all our arguments about the ambiguities of language, it’s his language—or, more properly, his ideas expressed through language—that everyone can agree on. And there wasn’t a racial slur in his conversation, as though he knows which words are OK to use and which ones aren’t, but he still thinks it’s OK to express racism toward black people, so long as you just call them “black people.”
Which brings us back to Paul Ryan. McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed has a piece out today about Ryan that features this exchange:
At one point, as he tells me about his efforts during the presidential race to get the Romney campaign to spend more time in urban areas, he says, “I wanted to do these inner-city tours—” then he stops abruptly and corrects himself. “I guess we’re not supposed to use that.”
His eyes dart back and forth for a moment as he searches for words that won’t rain down more charges of racism. “These…these…”
I suggest that the term is appropriate in this context, since it is obviously intended as an innocuous description of place. He’s unconvinced, and eventually settles on a retreat to imprecision: “I mean, I wanted to take our ideas and principles everywhere, and try for everybody’s vote. I just thought, morally speaking, it was important to ask everyone for their support.”
Ryan is laboring under the misimpression that all he did wrong before was use the term “inner city,” and if he banishes that term and any other dangerous ones from his vocabulary, then everything will be cool. Sorry, Congressman—it’s not so easy.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 28, 2014